Peer Support and Mentorship

By Julia Duggs
UCSD REAL Collective, Student Coordinator & Mentor

SAY San Diego is pleased to partner with the R.E.A.L. Collective at O’Farrell Charter School’s Family Support Services (FSS). The R.E.A.L. Collective—which stands for Relationships, Education, Agency, and Leadership—aims to support O’Farrell youth with the help of UC San Diego mentors in an after-school peer support group. O’Farrell and UCSD students meet as a group once a week to participate in fun, yet challenging community-building and social-emotional learning activities. The R.E.A.L. Collective is a space for students to express themselves, find community, grow as critical thinkers, and transform into active members of their communities.

As a new program to O’Farrell, the first semester of activities placed emphasis on cultivating positive mentor-mentee relationships to allow youth self-expression to flourish. Some of the students’ favorite activities were playing basketball with their mentors, creating experimental slime, and designing ugly Christmas sweaters. In December, the R.E.A.L. Collective had the opportunity to take a field trip to the Birch Aquarium. The students explored the world of marine biology by trying on cold water immersion suits from scientific expeditions. With the guidance of Birch volunteers, the students were able to closely discover marine life, like sea anemones and sea cucumbers, in the aquarium’s tide pools.

As the R.E.A.L. Collective transitions into the New Year, UCSD mentors will begin to implement strategies for advancing O’Farrell students’ academic performance, volunteer experiences, and college/career interests. The R.E.A.L. Collective also looks forward to fostering a stronger support network among the students’ families.

A Note from a SAY Youth

“You’ve made these hard times easier for me and my family.”

Every holiday season, SAY receives countless notes from families thanking our Holiday Hopes program supporters. Some of the messages are a mix of drawings and simple words from children just learning to write. Some are from parents struggling to put into words how the kindness of strangers has made a difference. Some are like the note below, written last week by David, a youth who is old enough to understand that his family lives in poverty and wise enough to understand what SAY support means to his family.

SAY helps thousands of youth like David every day. Whether it’s a gift for the holidays or support for our work throughout the year, your donations make a difference. Beyond the financial impact of your contribution, your gift is also a reminder to kids like David that they are not alone.

If you have already contributed to help people like David and his family, thank you very much for your support. If you are considering an end-of-year gift, please donate to SAY through our Champions for Youth campaign. Farmers Insurance and The Century Club of San Diego will automatically add to your donation. It’s the best way to give to SAY now through January 27, 2019.

CLICK HERE to donate to SAY through Champions for Youth.

Shoes for Jessica

Bringing Joy to the Holiday Season


These shoes belong to a wonderful 5-year-old girl named Jessica, who loves to draw and dance. These shoes are the only pair she has worn since school started this fall. Jessica lives with her recently divorced father, who arrives diligently after work every day to pick her up from the SAY after school program. When SAY staff noticed Jessica taking leftover snack-time food home, they began working with the school to offer the father support. They continually tried to open the door for a conversation, but the father is a man of few words and desperate to provide for his daughter on his own. Last week, the father realized he could not do everything by himself. “I need help,” he said very quietly and simply to the SAY school site leader. He asked for food, shoes, and winter clothing for his daughter.

Thanks to the generous supporters of SAY’s Holiday Hopes program, our staff was able to respond immediately. This holiday season, Jessica will have food, clothing, and a new pair of shoes. Although Jessica’s father never asked for toys, SAY’s donors enabled us to give him gift cards to make the holiday season extra special for Jessica this year. He was overcome with emotion when he realized that he would have this opportunity to bring comfort and joy to his daughter.

So, as you celebrate the holidays with your loved ones this year, please take a moment to imagine the squeals of joy from little Jessica when her father surprises her with gifts she never expected. Imagine her pulling on her new socks and shoes, donning her new jacket, and dancing outside for everyone to see. And if you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ll be able to picture the tears in her quiet dad’s eyes, too.

Thank you very much for making a difference for Jessica and hundreds more just like her.

Warm wishes and Happy Holidays from all of us at SAY San Diego!

P.S. A gift of $10 can change a person’s world. It provided little Jessica with a new pair of shoes! If you are considering a gift to SAY San Diego to help people like Jessica over the holidays and beyond, please donate through our Champions for Youth campaign. Farmers Insurance will add to any gift of $10 or more through this campaign now through January 27, 2019! It’s the best way to donate to SAY and 100% of your charitable gift goes to SAY!

CLICK HERE to donate to SAY through Champions for Youth.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Your Support Changes Lives


By the time he was 16, Jeff was on probation, struggling with a cocaine addiction, and failing at home and school. He was quickly on the path to becoming a statistic – another youth in the San Diego justice system, or worse. His family felt helpless and spent many worrisome nights wondering what bad news they would get next.

Fortunately, the court mandated Jeff’s participation in SAY’s Reflections program, where he received the right help and changed the negative course of his life in less than a year. Reflections provided both Jeff and his family with intensive counseling, and private funding from SAY supporters helped Jeff’s family with emergency food and essentials. Individual donations of as little as $10 provided Jeff with shoes and clothing so that he could participate in a confidence-building running club for Reflections youth.

About halfway through his enrollment at Reflections, Jeff started to see hope in his future. He started asking his counselors how to start the process toward a life of sobriety, and as Jeff committed to additional counseling, other areas of his life started to improve as well. His grades improved and he is on track to receive his high school diploma in June. He was even approved for a school internship, which led to a job.

This holiday season, Jeff and his family are filled with hope and focused on the future. Reflections serves an average of 125 youth ages 12-17 annually, with 90% staying out of trouble while in the program.

Your gifts to SAY San Diego make a difference. Reflections is one of 30 programs SAY provides to youth, families, and communities every day. Thank you for your support. If you are considering a donation to SAY this holiday season, Farmers Insurance will add to your gift through our Champions for Youth campaign.

CLICK HERE to donate to SAY through Champions for Youth.

SAY San Diego’s Main Office is Moving!

As part of our ongoing commitment to respond to community needs, SAY San Diego is excited to announce that our main office is moving to a new, expanded space in Kearny Mesa. The new site will incorporate a larger community meeting room, more counseling and client spaces, improved work spaces, and a workplace early childhood center for our employees and the community. The early childhood center, which will open in 2019, will serve families with children ages 6 weeks to 5 years.

SAY San Diego’s new community, client, and office spaces will open December 3, 2018 at 4775 Viewridge Avenue. We will move all meetings, appointments, and operations from our Aero Drive site to Viewridge Avenue.

We look forward to greatly continuing and expanding our mission to partner with youth, families, and communities reach their full potential.

NEW ADDRESS – Starting December 3, 2018
SAY San Diego Main Office
4775 Viewridge Avenue
San Diego, CA 92123

Service Enterprise

SAY San Diego is a Service Enterprise, a National Leader in Volunteer Management


SAY San Diego is pleased to announce that we have been certified as a “Service Enterprise” by Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. With this certification, SAY joins a prestigious group of nonprofits committed to effectively delivering on their missions by strategically engaging volunteer time and talent. SAY is one of 300 service enterprises nationwide that fundamentally leverage volunteers and their skills throughout their organizations.

SAY San Diego’s President and CEO, Nancy Gannon Hornberger remarked, “SAY San Diego is thrilled to be among leading nonprofits, nationwide, that have embraced the Points of Light Service Enterprise Initiative. Our community and clients truly benefit, as we are building even more momentum and helpful resources for our volunteer program, thereby increasing the range and impact of our services beyond our core funding and staffing!”

Through the Service Enterprise Initiative, SAY San Diego participated in a comprehensive research-based assessment, training, consulting and certification program. SAY completed the wide-ranging assessment, over 20 hours of training and consulting, and extensive internal planning to better integrate volunteers in our day-to-day operations. By achieving this level of excellence and certification, SAY San Diego is now better equipped to leverage the skills of volunteers. Now SAY is in the top 11 percent of organizations in the country in the area of volunteer management and organizational performance.

Research conducted by the TCC Group, a national program and evaluation firm, found that organizations operating as Service Enterprises outperform peer organizations on all aspects of organizational effectiveness and are more adaptable, sustainable, and capable of scaling their work.

SAY San Diego is proud to be a Service Enterprise. We are committed to deeply integrating volunteers into our work. As a certified Service Enterprise we are well positioned and equipped to engage volunteers and their skills to more effectively and efficiently to deliver on our mission: “to partner with youth, adults, families, and communities to reach their full potential.”

To learn more about the Service Enterprise Initiative visit

A Survivor’s Letter

To My Son – A San Diego Survivor’s Letter

You are only months away from entering this wonderful world as I write this, and I am already imagining what you will look like as a grown man and how you will feel reading the stacks of letters I am writing to you now. One day you will be old enough to understand that this wonderful world can also be brutal, and that will be when I hand you the letters because I want you to know the cycle from which I have worked so hard to free you. It is my hope that I have done a good job raising you and that your uncle and other good men in your life have shown you how to let kindness and goodness guide your life and relationships. Every bit of good in you as a grown man will help me to forget a bit of pain from the beatings I endured from a man I once loved, your father.

In the beginning, it was only my heart that saw your father. I missed the little signs early on, and like a slow boil, the excitement of true love had become a grotesque union of an abuser and a victim. To the outside world, your father was a respectable, charming person. No one knew the dark universe of our marriage and what happened inside the apartment that I came to see as my prison. I had become a shell of a person after more than two years of mind-blowing cycles of bloody fights, being dragged along the floor like a felled tree, and the maceration of my dignity each time my spirit shined too bright. When the attacks would come, I would typically be frozen with fear, knowing I could not escape them. I remember clearly the one time I did run. Your father had thrust my face so hard into a wall that he fractured my nose, and an animal-like sense of impending death took my legs toward the door and I found myself running faster than light and into the arms of my mother, who called the police yet another time. And yes, the flowers and the chocolates came and worked on my heart again. . . and again.

And then one day it was not a brush with death that finally caused me to walk away forever. It was a brush with life, new life, growing in my belly. I knew I could not have a child witness this brutality and possibly imitate it later. So, when I found out I was pregnant with you, I walked away and made this confidential shelter our temporary home. As you grow inside me, I feel your miraculous, gentle kicks as you turn in my belly. Every month until you are born, I will write letters that I plan to give you when you are ready to understand the importance of ending the cycle of violence. This is the first letter. The next one will explain how I know that your father loves you, but that it does not excuse the violence. The next one after that will explain how violence was a generational tragedy for both sides of your family. I came from a long line of broken abusers and victims, and surviving was literally the way I lived. Your father also saw violence every day, and his mother lost her life to domestic violence—the last human touch of her life was a brutal blow to the head.

You will have a stack of letters to read, and each word was written with my new-found courage and deep love for you, my son. We will end this cycle for our families, you and I together.


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month 

The number one thing that will end domestic violence is our collective power. By speaking openly about domestic violence, we can help stop the cycle of abuse. If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE), direct them to the San Diego Family Justice Center, or SAY’s domestic violence resource page.

Strengthening Families

From Nancy Gannon Hornberger

Parents and families are the first and most important adults in a child’s life. Even in the best circumstances, raising children and growing up are complicated. So, when families face personal, social and economic challenges, attending to their children’s basic needs, connecting to their children’s schools, and building a nurturing environment at home may be difficult. This is where skillful community organizations, like SAY San Diego, step up to offer help!

SAY San Diego is honored to be featured in Live Well San Diego’s October newsletter. Click here to read Nancy’s message.

A Busy Mom’s Heartfelt Thank You

Mrs. California, Andrea McClew, speaks at Play 4 SAY 2018.

Andrea McClew is a working mom of two, a military wife, and the reigning Mrs. California US America. To say she is busy is an understatement. Fortunately for Andrea, SAY’s after-school program provides her with affordable, trusted care for her children. “When my husband was deployed for seven months, I was essentially a single-parent, juggling work and appearances as Mrs. California. I really don’t know what I would’ve done without the after-school program. It’s a safe haven for my kids,” said Andrea.

Andrea’s children have been involved with SAY’s after-school programs for about three years, and she knows her kids are in good hands. “The staff have a lot of experience with military kids. Some even grew up in military families themselves, so they really understand what the kids are going through. They are able to help the kids in the program talk about deployment life.”

It’s a relief knowing that her children are in a safe place with staff who really care, but the best part is seeing how much they truly enjoy their time spent learning and participating in extracurricular activities. In fact, Andrea’s son has been known to look disappointed when it’s time to go home. “It makes me feel good knowing that when I’m working or at an event, my kids are having a great time. Every parent just wants to see their kids happy.”

“Thank you to SAY San Diego for your after-school program and for your support of military families. I hope this program continues on long after my kids are grown.”

SAY San Diego Before and After School Programs provide a welcoming, safe place for more than 4,000 elementary and middle school aged youth, every day, enabling them to experience academic enrichment and recreation during the hours before and after the regular school day. Activities include homework assistance, arts and crafts, sports, creative and performing arts, and STEM. SAY San Diego partners with San Diego Unified Schools to run PrimeTime programming at 22 schools in the district. We also offer Licensed Fee-based Extended Learning Programs at 18 additional sites throughout San Diego.

Welcome Summer!

From Nancy Gannon Hornberger, CEO

(L-R) Councilmember Georgette Gomez, Police Chief David Nisleit, and Nancy Gannon Hornberger

SAY San Diego kicked off summer with the 4th Annual San Diego Unity Games on June 23. What a fantastic day! More than 200 youth and community members participated, including local leaders, San Diego City Councilmember Georgette Gomez, San Diego Chief of Police David Nisleit, and San Diego County Probation Chief Adolfo Gonzales.

Youth, faith groups, community organizations, law enforcement, probation, and city and county elected officials, all partnered together to host the games and further goals of shared neighborhood solutions, positive activities for youth and families, and increased use of the Willie Henderson Park in Southeastern San Diego. We are very grateful to all who helped make the San Diego Unity Games possible!

Also this summer, Camp Move, our camp program promoting active and healthy living for school-age children, is in full swing; we get a fresh start, as July 1st marked the beginning of our new fiscal year; we are already preparing for our Back-to-School supply drive; and of course Play 4 SAY – our annual, signature fundraising event is later this month!

Summer can be a time of high need for children and families who rely on the school meals program, but do not have access to meals during the school break. SAY is happy to partner with organizations that ensure that all kids have access to healthy meals over the summer. For more information, see:

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