Meet Dannette

Dannette and her husband have been happily married for 43 years. With their three children now grown and having families of their own, they made a reasonable assumption that they were done parenting. That changed when their granddaughter came to live with them last April. Dannette quickly realized there was a lot she didn’t know about being a parent in today’s world. Thankfully she was introduced to SAY San Diego’s Project KEEP program through the San Diego County Foster Parent Association.

Project KEEP provides support and education for foster parents and kinship caregivers, designed to improve their children’s behavior and decrease family stress. Many caregivers are grandparents like Dannette, who are learning to raise kids again with approaches very different from when they were raising their own children.

Dannette says, “Project KEEP taught me how to speak to my granddaughter on her level, how to set boundaries, and teach her about consequences. Before she came to live with me, her life was chaotic. SAY helped me understand that I was only adding to the chaos when I would raise my voice.” These days Dannette is able to show her granddaughter that there’s a benefit to doing simple things like putting her shoes away. She has a chore chart and loves checking tasks off the list. “The tools I learned through Project KEEP are invaluable,” says Dannette.

Dannette feels that kinship families often slip through the cracks and simply don’t know about available resources. She is grateful for the skills and resources she learned from SAY and Project KEEP and always has flyers on hand so that she can share information with those who need it. She continues to seek out information that will help other foster parents and kinship families, and has been called “the Grandma with all the resources” on more than one occasion.

With summer coming to a close, Dannette is preparing for a busy fall. Not only is her granddaughter back to school, Dannette is about to become a full-time student herself. “I’m going back to law school so that I can be an advocate for other kinship families. I think everyone can benefit from parenting assistance and I just want to pay it forward.”

Bringing the Community Together

The 5th Annual Unity Games at Willie Henderson Sports Complex brought together 20 partner organizations, law enforcement, city officials, the justice department, and the community for a single-elimination softball tournament, entertainment, resources, health screenings, and more. The Unity Games strives to promote safety and well-being in Southeastern San Diego by working together with a common goal. This is just one example of SAY San Diego’s commitment to partnerships in the community.

View NBC 7 Story

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Nixon Supports Back to School Drive

A big thank you to our friends at Nixon for prepping 100 of their signature backpacks with school supplies to help youth succeed in school and help ease the burden on local families in need! We appreciate you!


Cohn Restaurant Group Donates $3000 to SAY

Tacos Libertad and the Cohn Restaurant Group presented SAY San Diego with a check for $3000! Each month the Cohn Restaurant Group donates all profits from Tacos Libertad to a local charity, and SAY was the beneficiary for June 2019! We are so grateful for this generous donation. Thank you!!

Thank you PwC!

PwC Charity Golf Tournament Raises $11,950 for SAY San Diego!

Thank you to our friends at PwC for hosting such a fun and meaningful event that supports SAY programs for San Diego children and families!

Meet Maria

Maria Cortez – pictured center

If you live or work in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego, there’s a good chance you know Maria Cortez. A 47-year resident of City Heights, Maria tirelessly advocates for her community, actively leading and participating in a number of community organizations and coalitions including the City Heights Community Development Corporation, the Teralta West Neighborhood Alliance, City Heights Town Council, City Heights Area Planning Committee, and Mid-City CAN, to name a few. She can also be found on the campus of Franklin Elementary, where she’s worked for 28 years. When asked how she finds the time to contribute to so many groups and organizations, she simply replies “because I care about my community.”

Maria first crossed paths with SAY San Diego about 20 years ago when she was helping her neighbors with a tenant rights issue. Maria was determined to take action when an apartment building in her neighborhood was in a terrible state. Residents were subjected to a long list of unacceptable conditions including broken appliances, leaking pipes, rat droppings, and more. SAY San Diego staff were well versed in tenant rights and were able to provide advice to Maria and apartment residents. Armed with knowledge of their rights, residents were empowered to work with the San Diego Police Department and Code Enforcement, ultimately leading to the landlord bringing the building up to code.

In the years since, Maria has worked with SAY on a variety of projects and issues including neighborhood clean-ups, liquor store and market compliance checks, and ensuring that local businesses are up to code and not engaging in illicit activity. Maria says that SAY’s knowledge is invaluable. “Working with SAY is wonderful. They educate residents about what to look for at the local markets. We know to check for signage indicating that they require valid ID for tobacco and alcohol, and to make sure that alcohol is not at eye level for children. They taught us how to work with an establishment for the benefit of the community and helped us feel empowered to speak up and report a violation. Because of SAY, we feel like we have a voice.”

Maria is thankful to have SAY San Diego as a partner in the community she loves so much. “SAY’s doors are always open. They do such a great job of bringing everyone together to clean up our neighborhoods and improve our community. SAY staff have become family.” SAY and the City Heights community are lucky to have a passionate advocate in Maria, whose dedication to her neighborhood is unmatched.

10 News In the Community

ABC 10 News recently highlighted Play 4 SAY 2019, coming up on July 25. SAY San Diego President & CEO, Nancy Gannon Hornberger, and Zach Millrood, Senior VP of Hughes Marino, spoke with Virginia Cha about Play 4 SAY and sampled delicious tastings from Empanada Kitchen, a featured food donor at the event.

Click here to view the segment.


Club Elevated on KUSI

Students from SAY San Diego’s Club Elevated at Serra High School joined KUSI’s Good Morning San Diego to talk about the Social Host Ordinance law which helps prevent underage drinking and drug use.

Click here to view the story.

STEAM Education Award

SAY was recognized by the San Diego County Office of Education for its dedication to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEAM) education in our after school programs. Thank you to SAY’s Donna Wilson, Hope Wolfe, Marissa Lujan, and all of the STEAM leaders for your hard work and commitment to this important initiative! Congrats!

Meet Angie

Angie works as a Case Manager at SAY San Diego’s Crawford Community Connection (CCC), a school-based family resource center located on the campus of Crawford High School in Mid City. Some of Angie’s many responsibilities include matching students and families within the Crawford community with the services they need, organizing the yearly Prom Drive and New Arrival Scholarship events, and overseeing on-campus youth leadership programs.

Though Angie is relatively new to SAY’s staff team, she’s a veteran of the organization. While attending Hoover High School in City Heights, Angie was a student leader with SAY’s Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Prevention program. She spent all four years in high school helping to educate and engage the community about drug and alcohol abuse prevention through town halls, media events, City Council meetings, and other initiatives. Angie says her experience with the youth leadership program helped prepare her for the future. “By the 10th grade I was learning public speaking skills, how to write a media release, and how to interact with people from all facets of life. Those skills helped me stand out in college applications.”

Angie was the first person from her family to attend college. While at UCSD, she remained dedicated to public service, acting as a success coach and mentor to other first-generation college students. After graduation, Angie took an office job where she had limited interaction with others. It was during this time that she recognized how much she enjoys helping others and engaging with the community – a realization that brought her back to SAY and the City Heights community.

Angie is thankful to be back living and working in the community she grew up in. “I love this area and can resonate with the population. I’ve been in their shoes. I tell students regardless of what you are going through now, you’re going to be ok.” One of her fondest moments was the time she was able to be a sounding board to a female Crawford student who just needed an adult female to talk to; a woman who would listen without judgement. “There seems to be a need for female mentors who can lend an ear, and I’m happy to be there for students who want to be heard.”

SAY San Diego is proud to have people like Angie on our team. She is a model for how SAY’s youth leadership opportunities can benefit both the student and those they engage with later on. She is just one example of the many staff members who provide critical support to clients and community members who need it most.

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