Collective Impact: Thriving from Birth to Adulthood

October 9, 2018
by Tati Simonian

Collective Impact: Thriving from Birth to Adulthood

This article originally appeared in the October edition of Seascape

In 2011, after a series of tragic incidents involving Santa Monica youth, a group came together that included concerned community members, service providers, the School District, Santa Monica College, and the City with the goal of better understanding issues impacting Santa Monica youth. What started as an effort to address youth violence and mental health quickly transitioned into Santa Monica Cradle to Career (SMC2C), a collective impact initiative focused on ensuring that every child in Santa Monica has the ability to succeed in school and beyond. SMC2C first sought to gain an objective, shared understanding of the challenges that children and their families were facing in Santa Monica through consistent data collection and analysis.

Recognizing that no one entity or individual can successfully tackle these complex issues alone, SMC2C adopted action strategies based on the principles of collective impact and started to measure what washappening in our community through a Youth Wellbeing Report Card. The Youth Wellbeing Report Card organizes data into four key areas:

  • Learning & Academic Achievement
  • Physical Health & Development
  • Social Skills & Confidence
  • Emotional Maturity & Mental Health

The Youth Wellbeing Report Card revealed findings related to our youths’ ability to learn and thrive:

  • Not all children are ready for kindergarten.
  • SMMUSD has a very high graduation rate, but there are significant mental health and substance use concerns among teens.

Working together, the SMC2C coordinates support services, evaluates relevant policies and programming, collects and evaluates data, coordinates crisis interventions, and works to increase the overall wellbeing of our children. Central to our efforts is identifying and addressing the multiple interconnected barriers that create disparities for youth and families in our community. By building connections for all Santa Monicans to play a role in the success of young people and their families, SMC2C increases our capacity to support our youth in their educational growth and transition to become successful adults.

City Council’s Strategic Goal “Learn + Thrive” focuses on ensuring everyone in our community has an opportunity to “Learn + Thrive” with kindergarten readiness being an initial performance metric. By increasing the number of children who are on track for kindergarten, we will ensure that these children do not fall behind over the course of their academic career. The Cradle to Career Initiative is working to impact these 4 goal areas: Improving Kindergarten Readiness, Supporting Behavioral Health, Improving College and Career Readiness, and Supporting Vulnerable Youth and Families

Kindergarten Readiness/Early Childhood - The SMC2C Kindergarten Readiness Workgroup convenes regularly to move the Building Blocks Campaign forward, a key component of the Learn + Thrive initiative. This group focuses on the wellbeing of children from prenatal to five years old and incorporates digital engagement strategies to expand awareness. The campaign helps parents, educators, early child care providers and other community partners to work together to make sure all Santa Monica children start Kindergarten ready to learn, inside and outside the classroom.

Behavioral Health - In partnership with SMMUSD’s PTA Council, members of SMC2C’s behavioral health workgroup recently conducted a series of substance use informational sessions for parents and students across school sites. The content of the workshops ranged from learning the signs and symptoms of adolescent substance use, to teaching practical harm reduction techniques, and offered parents and students a list of local resources. In addition, St. Joseph Center’s Youth Resource Team case managers partnered with Olympic High School and the Off Campus Learning Center to provide weekly peer support groups for any student interested in participating. This partnership created a safe space for youth to hang out, eat, engage in community building activities and have open dialogues and conversations around relevant themes on campus and in the community. One contributor to the behavioral health of her peers is Eliana. She graduated from Santa Monica High School in 2018 and is now attending University of California Irvine. Because of her own experiences as a student trying to access appropriate wellness support on campus, she co-founded Samohi’s Student Wellness Advisory Group (SWAG). Since 2016-17, SWAG has spearheaded several health and wellness campaigns on campus and continues to advocate for student wellness at Samohi and in the district.

College and Career Readiness -  In an effort to improve dual and concurrent enrollment rates for SMMUSD students, SMC2C launched a Summer Pilot Program bringing the college to the community. High school participants from Santa Monica’s Out of School Time Enrichment programs at Virginia Avenue Park (VAP), Police Activities League (PAL), and the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica had the college come to them with an introductory personal finance business course offered at the VAP Teen Center. For many of the students, it was their first time taking a college course, and they learned practical financial literacy skills. This opportunity helped create additional post-secondary pathways for a diverse group of students. Another program benefitting our high school youth is the Youth Resource Team (YRT). Kasai is a senior at Santa Monica High School, and he has thrived under the program. Not only is Kasai college-bound, he is a passionate activist and has taken on a leadership role amongst his peers, both at school and in the community.

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