The Grand STEM Challenge Camp was a huge success!

By SAY San Diego Board Member, LaDreda Lewis.  

SAY San Diego was thrilled to receive a grant from Northrop Grumman to host the second annual Grand STEM Challenge Camp, in partnership with Sylvan Learning of La Mesa.  The STEM Camp – focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — was held at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation for two weeks, July 10-14 and July 17-21. The focus of this year’s STEM Camp was to engage groups that are underrepresented in STEM education and careers throughout every aspect of the program.

The Grand STEM Challenge Camp uses a project-based learning approach in which students are taught engineering skills through examining a problem which needs to be solved. The week-long camp was set up so that on days 1-2, students were taught the engineering process through “mini-design challenges.” On day 3, a main challenge was introduced: “Build a machine out of K’NEX and other materials that can move a ping pong ball from a six-inch space at one end of a table to a six-inch space at the other end of the table. The ball cannot be touched, must be started with an outside force and cannot fall off the table or bounce back.” Students spent days 3-4 designing, testing and redesigning their machines. Day 5 was the final build and competition day. Participants included 60 students entering grades 3-8. Week one included a group of African American youth from The Links to STEM program and an all girls’ group formed with the support of BeWise (Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering). Week two included 7th and 8th graders from O’Farrell Charter Middle School linked to SAY San Diego’s program there, as well as participants were selected by Sylvan from students whose families previously worked with Sylvan through the San Diego Unified School District’s Supplemental Education Services (SES) and students from the Jacobs Center’s programs.

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Freedom Isn’t Free

By Cindy C. Butler, Public Affairs Director, VA San Diego Healthcare System


As Independence Day approaches, we think about the iconic saying, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” As we commemorate the holiday, let’s think about the brave men and women who are currently serving and those who have served our nation around the world to protect the American way of life. They are often away from their families for long periods of time while deployed to distant lands, which creates immense hardships for service members and their families. Many service members in combat zones are at incredible risk and often come back from service with both physical and psychological wounds that may impact them for the rest of their lives. Yet, others pay the ultimate sacrifice and never came home.

These sacrifices are what is meant by the saying, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” Each of them “at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount up to and including their life.” But, when asked, these American heroes will say they are proud to have served and that they would gladly do it again. We owe these service members, veterans and their families a priceless debt – our very way of life, our freedom, and we should never take for granted the sacrifices they’ve made for every American. This Fourth of July, take a moment to honor all service members and veterans for their contributions to our freedom and American way of life.  They paid the price for our freedom.

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Cause for celebration!

As we close the books on the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, and enter our 47th year of operations, all of us at SAY San Diego – including our Board of Directors, 480+ staff members and 700+ volunteers and interns – join me to express our deep gratitude for your phenomenal support that truly fuels our work. Especially during these uncertain times for nonprofit funding, our many program participants, community partners, and key investors across all sectors of human services help us to ensure that we continue to have life-changing impacts. This is indeed a cause for celebration! 

New pathways to independence and freedom from stress and fear

For thousands of youth and families each year, SAY San Diego’s extensive case management services create new pathways to independence, and to freedom from stress and fear. We recognize that no one wants their situation to be known as a “case” – yet, excellence in case management is core to our approach and our mission to partner with youth, adults, and families and enable them to reach their full potential. It is a collaborative process of assessing, planning, facilitating, coordinating and advocating for options and services, in and outside of SAY San Diego, which meets an individual’s and family’s comprehensive needs and enables them to achieve sustainable opportunity, equity, and well-being.

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A History of Father’s Day— Past and Present

By Marian Edelbrock, PhD, San Digo Miramar College

Father’s Day dates back to the middle ages when on March 19 it was celebrated as the feast day of Saint Joseph. It is celebrated worldwide on various dates but in Latin America was adopted from the March date celebrated by the founding Spanish and Portuguese explorers. However, it was not celebrated in the United States until the 20th Century.

In the US, Father’s Day, which we will be celebrating this Sunday, originally evolved as a memorial. Back in 1907, Grace Clayton proposed a day in remembrance of 360 men lost in a mine explosion in Fairmont, West Virginia, which left many children fatherless. In 1909, a year after Mother’s Day became officially accepted, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at her church. She admired her father for raising his six children alone so she decided she wanted to honor her father and all others in a similar way. She promoted her idea to local clergymen who agreed that a day would be chosen to honor all fathers and on June 19, 1910, sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city.

Although the event lost momentum for a decade, in the 1930s, Dodd re-promoted the celebration, with other cities across the country copying this event. Merchants encouraged the commercial aspect of the holiday, introducing a bill in Congress in 1913 to recognize Father’s Day. However, Congress resisted due to a concern for the risk of excessive commercialism. In 1924, President Coolidge recommended that the day be observed throughout the entire nation but Congress defeated several attempts to formally recognize the holiday.  In 1966, President Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers and designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. The day became a permanent national holiday when it was signed into law by President Nixon in 1972, formally recognizing the role that fathers have played in our lives.

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Celebrating the Season of the Family

May brings Mother’s Day. June brings Father’s Day. Both months are filled with abundant family activities – weddings, graduations, the end of the school year, the beginning of summer. Among national recognitions at this time of year is National Foster Care Month in May. Here at SAY San Diego, we celebrate the essential value and importance of family every day, and affirm family as self-defined, composed of members who are significant to one another whether related by blood, legal bonds, or bonds of caring. It is, therefore joyful for us to step back at this time to celebrate the season of the family.

In our everyday work, family resilience, family well-being, and supporting families in the many complicated tasks of raising the next generation are a central focus. Several SAY San Diego programs are premised on the evidence and science of family strengthening, including Community Services for Families, Family Self Sufficiency, First 5 First Steps, Project KEEP, and multi-solution/multi-agency work conducted by SAY San Diego’s Crawford Community Connection, Military Family Resource Center, O’Farrell Family Support Services, and Serra Real Connections.  All of these programs take into account that children do well when families do well, and families do well when they are connected to supportive communities and systems.

Why conduct family strengthening interventions? Recently someone asked me, “How can you teach parenting? Why would families listen? Do parents really change their approach…after all don’t we all just do what our parents did?” There’s a saying, often credited to an anonymous source, which fits here: “the problem with being a parent is that by the time you are experienced, you are usually unemployed!” Until the art of parenting comes with a full-proof operating manual that forecasts everything, family strengthening work helps to take the place of that operating manual. The practice honors the family, however defined, in the herculean mission of raising children – providing coaching, educational resources, counseling, services, connections and networks to enable each and every parent to be the best they can be.

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Connection and Support are Keys to Mental Health

SAY San Diego has the important and sensitive role of serving as a mental health (and behavioral health) resource and provider for children, youth, and families across the County. During May, Mental Health Awareness Month, we wish to highlight some of our mental health and behavioral health treatment resources for the community.

Our school-based mental health program connects youth and their families to assessment and therapy to overcome mental health challenges and empowers them to live up to their full potential in school and at home. Appointment times are flexible, and services are culturally and linguistically appropriate. Client- and family-driven services are provided at home, work, or at designated school sites.

Reflections, another of the many SAY San Diego programs which promote mental well-being, focuses on treatment and recovery for court-involved youth. Reflections offers a collaborative approach with County Probation and the County Office of Education for youth ages 12–17 and their families. Participants receive support from a highly skilled team of probation officers, therapists, a psychiatrist, substance abuse counselors, and teachers. At Reflections, we have emphasized the unique value of therapeutic writing which enables teens to express their own realities including isolation, fear, and anxiety, as well as their hopes for connection and change.

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Supporting Military Mommas This Mother’s Day

By Kat Brown
Community Engagement Specialist at SAY San Diego Military Family Collaborative

Mother’s Day is coming soon. As a military spouse, my husband has missed more holidays and birthdays than I count. But somehow his missing Mother’s Day seems like an especially cruel slap in the face. This is supposed to be my day—a day dedicated to pampering and breakfast in bed and maybe a couple hours of quiet time to myself. Not a day to again be the sole caregiver; holding tight to my daughter as we both wish for Daddy to come home.

Mother’s Day is bittersweet for so many military spouses like me who are missing the other half of their parenting team. Or on the flip side, there’s the mom who’s stuck out to sea or half a world away wishing like anything that she could hold her beautiful babies in her arms. And then there are the moms who have lost their children to these wars. This day is painful for them in a way that not many of us can understand. I weep at the thought of it.

Oftentimes I hear from non-military friends that they want to support, but they just don’t know how. That makes sense. This life is so difficult to understand for those who have never served. The military community in itself is extremely supportive, and they “get it” in a way that my civilian friends just don’t.  But, this Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how you can help the military mommas in your life:

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Prom Season Is Here! What Can Parents Do?

By SAY San Diego Community Assessment Team Plus (CAT+)

Start the Conversation:
 Teens talk to their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners, and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.

Alcohol and Sex: Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to have unplanned and unprotected sexual activity. Talking about these issues can help teens make healthier decisions.

Peer Pressure: Some teenagers decide to have sexual relationships because their friends think sex is cool and everyone is doing it. The truth is only about 47% of teenagers reported ever having sex. Talking about the facts including why more than half of all teenagers decide to wait can help them to determine their own values.

Educate Yourself: Some parents worry that they won’t know the answers to their teen’s questions. The best way to teach kids about sexuality is to find the answers together and discuss the research together.

How do I talk to my teen? Check out these resources and videos from Planned Parenthood.

Volunteers lift the lives of children, youth, and families

Each and every day, here at SAY San Diego, our volunteers and interns give the abundant gifts of their talent and time to caring for their neighbors and lifting the lives of the children, youth, and families that we serve. Volunteers and interns form the heart of our community at SAY San Diego—and each year, they outnumber paid staff by about 150%. Among their many contributions to our clients and community, volunteers provide tutoring, tax assistance, counseling, lead youth development activities, organize and run events, conduct research, and much more.

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Teen Court: Good for Adults, Too

By Chelsea Stephens
SAY San Diego Case Assistant/Interpreter| Teen Court

ChelseaStephensIt’s been a part of my life for over five years now; longer than many of my friendships, longer than my time as an undergraduate, longer than any other volunteer or work position I’ve held. Teen Court has become a part of my life that, to my benefit, has also become a key part of my identity. This is a program that has taught me patience, empathy, and has helped shape me into the person I am proud to be today. Although I’m a volunteer for the program, Teen Court has paid me in countless ways for which I will always be grateful.

What is it that brought me to Teen Court in the first place? It was a combination of two things: a desire to be involved in my community and also an interest in becoming an attorney. I was a college freshman trying to figure out life and was fortunate enough to come across a volunteer posting as a Case Assistant with SAY’s Teen Court program. After applying and being accepted, I began attending the biweekly hearings and quickly found myself falling in love with the ability to help others. Working with the clients and their families opened my eyes to the struggles so many families in San Diego face—poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse, to name a few. It helped give me a more well-rounded worldview that I know I will be able to apply wherever life’s journey takes me.

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