What is the Building Healthy Communities AmeriCorps program?
Under a grant administered by California Volunteers and sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS) established a program through which AmeriCorps members provide high-quality mentorships to disadvantaged youths in Kern County schools. The mentorship program leverages the resources of TCE’s 10-year groundbreaking initiative, Building Healthy Communities, in which TCE will invest $1 billion over the next 10 years in 14 underserved, geographically and ethnically diverse communities. The program is implemented in schools.
What is Building Healthy Communities about?
Building Healthy Communities (BHC) begins from the fundamental starting point that place matters: where we live has a significant impact on our health. Being able to breathe clean air, to send our kids to school without fear of violence, to have a convenient place to buy fresh foods, to live near a park where we can walk and play, all have an enormous impact on our health. Confronting harmful environments that compromise our community’s health such as poverty, toxins, or economic disinvestment, requires interrelated solutions and systemic change.
A year-long planning phase brought together over 20,000 stakeholders representing schools, local government, business leaders, neighborhood groups and residents. TCE asked community leaders to establish local priorities based on 10 fundamental health outcomes, ranging from health care access to economic development. The number one health priority identified by community leaders was combating the negative impact of violence in their communities, best understood through the everyday safety concerns of their youth.
What are the effects of violence in BHC communities?
Research demonstrates that violent neighborhoods have a wide range of destructive effects on youth, including significant mental health issues such as high rates of depression; stress-induced physical health problems; compromised ability to focus and complete school work leading to higher dropout rates; poor impulse control leading to disciplinary action, the inability to form close relationships, limited conflict resolutions skills, high participation in risky behaviors, lack of concern for the well-being of others, and lack of hope inhibiting the ability to establish and work toward life goals.
How will this program make a difference in our communities?
This program will fill the need for direct youth mentoring services across the state to keep youth in school and on healthy and productive paths. As the Big Brothers, Big Sisters 2000 National Evaluation reveals, mentees are (1) 33% less likely to engage in violent behavior; (2) 46% less likely to start using drugs; (3) 27% less likely to start using alcohol; (4) 52% less likely to skip a day of school; and (5) are more likely to show significant improvement in their relationships with family and peers.
TCE and KCSOS will combine forces with the BHC initiative to have AmeriCorps Members serve as mentors to youth. The heart of this program will address positive youth development and resiliency, offering youth skills and support to increase physical and emotional safety, decrease violence, and lay the foundation for healthy and productive lives.
What are the expected outcomes from this program?
The program expects to see (1) improved school attendance and a decrease in disciplinary actions among youth; (2) a corps of skilled and motivated Members who are integrated into their communities as leaders and who intend to remain committed to community service; and (3) a group of mentees and volunteers who are more committed to civic engagement and improving the conditions of their communities. Accordingly, we hope to see improved academic performance with targeted youth.
About Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS)
Established in 1866, KCSOS is the county office of education that provides fiscal and instructional leadership to educators, students and the community for the county’s 47 school districts. It administers numerous statewide and regional services and programs, including Safe Schools, California Preschool Instructional Network, Self-Insured Schools of California, Schools Legal Service, and the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team. From 1995-2010, KCSOS successfully administered the KernCorps AmeriCorps Program.
About The California Endowment
The California Endowment is a private, statewide health foundation founded in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Over the course of its history, The Endowment has invested in health broadly, ranging from investments in strengthening the safety net to disease-specific initiatives, and beyond. Led by its Board of Directors and President and CEO Robert K. Ross, M.D., The Endowment is headquartered in downtown Los Angeles with regional offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and San Diego.