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Building Healthy Communities: City Heights
January 2012
School Attendance Momentum Team focuses on truancy at Crawford
Push-out policies can limit children's opportunities in school and life
Eastern Coachella Valley wants youth input on school wellness
Healthy environment is a prerequisite for learning
New Coordinating Council members say why they want to serve
Teen Sexual Health's Core event seeking organizations, artists
Mid-City CAN is looking for young people to create video diaries
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School Attendance Momentum Team focuses on truancy at Crawford

Eh Eh Wha is a Karen Senior at Crawford. Gwen Osgard was her teacher at the school's New Arrival Center
Eh Eh Wha is a Karen Senior at Crawford. Gwen Osgard was her teacher at the school's New Arrival Center.

Imagine trying to study for a test after having witnessed the torture and killing of a parent or other close relative.

 

Many Karen students at Crawford High Educational Complex have to do just that. These students and their families escaped a brutal military regime in Burma, a country also known as Myanmar. They are an ethnic group that makes up a small percentage of the country. As recently as 2010, news organizations like the BBC reported that the Burmese military engaged in ethnic cleansing.

 

After experiencing that, studying for Algebra might seem, well, insignificant.

 

The Mid-City CAN School Attendance Momentum Team is working to help about 10 of these Karen students with truancy issues adjust and complete their high school education. They are a small part of about 100 Karen students at the school.

 

Carolyn Smyth, co-chair of the School Attendance Momentum Team and youth department program manager at International Rescue Committee, and representatives from several other groups have led the efforts. The other groups include the Karen Organization of San Diego, SAY San Diego's Dad's Club, The Union of Pan Asian Communities and Building Healthy Communities AmeriCorps members. The groups' focus on truancy at Crawford started in October.

 

For Karen teenagers, school can be daunting.

"At the New Arrival Center we get kids who are at zero," said Gwen Osgard, English-as-a-second-language teacher at Crawford's New Arrival Center. "They don't have any English, but maybe they haven't even been to school."

 

She often witnesses a frustrating pattern where students leave the New Arrival Center and struggle in regular classes.

 

On Jan. 14, Crawford students celebrated Karen New Year.
On Jan. 14, Crawford students celebrated Karen New Year on campus.

"They begin to feel very unsuccessful very quickly," she said.

 

That is what she believes happened to the group of Karen boys who haven't been coming to school.

 

"The first week of school [one of them] came to me and said, 'I feel really sad. I just want to sleep all the time,' " Osgard said. "He didn't have the word for depressed, but the first week of school he was depressed because he felt like such a failure."

 

As with most high school students, the idea of working hard for four years to graduate and eventually land a job can be a tough sell, Smyth said. Sometimes the temptation to do something illegal and earn a quick buck is difficult to resist.

 

"They are hungry now," she said. "They need money, now, to feed their families."

 

Not having parents to model how getting a degree pays off in the long run is also a challenge, Smyth said.

 

"Their parents come from preliterate society," she said. "Their English skills are progressing even slower than their kids are."

 

Earlier in the year fighting on campus was also a problem, Osgard said. Other students singled the Karen boys out for fights.

That Karen group of boys "just feels unsafe and out of place in so many ways," she said.

 

Despite these challenges, the School Attendance Momentum Team reports that two of the Karen boys with truancy issues have started attending school again.

 

And Eh Eh Wha, a Karen senior, is about to achieve a milestone.

 

Despite coming to the U.S. and enrolling in Crawford as a freshman, where "it was hard to make new friends and talk to teachers," she said.

 

Wha will be the first Karen student to get her diploma from Crawford this year, according to Osgard.

These young children, shown modeling traditional Karen clothing at the Crawford Karen New Year celebration, will likely have an easier time adapting than their older siblings.
These young children, shown modeling traditional Karen clothing at the Karen New Year celebration Jan. 14 at Crawford, will likely have an easier time adapting to the U.S. than their older siblings.

 

Push-out policies can limit children's opportunities in school and life

 

Kern County may be the victim of zero-tolerance gone wild.

 

Nationally, administrators sometimes apply zero-tolerance, which started out as a reaction to horrible gun violence at school, to student infractions like insubordination.

 

Kern expels nearly 15 students for every 1,000 pupils last year, iWatch News found through analysis of 2010-2011 California data (read more here). San Diego expelled 2.2 for every 1,000.

 

A less visible problem is how policies like the No Child Left Behind Act creates incentives for schools to get rid of low performing students, so they don't negatively affect the schools' test scores.

 

Read the Education Law Center and the Juvenile Law Center position paper here.

 

These policies that push students of color, English-as-a-second-language learners and disabled students out of the education system are often called the "School to Prison Pipeline." They reduce children's chances of getting a degree and increase the likelihood they will end up in juvenile detention and the criminal justice system.

 

Eastern Coachella Valley wants youth input on school wellness

 

Eastern Coachella Valley is looking to youth to lead the way to healthy schools.

Elizabeth Toledo, manager of the Building Healthy Communities Initiative Eastern Coachella Valley and a member of the Riverside County board of education
Elizabeth Toledo is manager of the Building Healthy Communities Initiative Eastern Coachella Valley and a member of the Riverside County board of education

 

Elizabeth Toledo, manager of the Building Healthy Communities Initiative Eastern Coachella Valley and a member of the Riverside County board of education, is excited to be working with forward-thinking leaders at Coachella Valley Unified School District in this process.

 

One of the issues they are examining is school wellness policies. These are local guidelines that "include goals for nutrition education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that are designed to promote student wellness in a manner that the district determines is appropriate" according to "Student Wellness: A Healthy Food and Physical Activity Policy Resource Guide."

 

Superintendent Darryl Adams and Maria Estrada, director of Nutrition Services, are implementing a school wellness council to revise school wellness policies, Toledo said. The Building Healthy Communities Initiative made a grant to support this work.

 

"One of the exciting things that was mentioned to me by the food services director is that she is looking at also potentially integrating youth in that process to ensure that a youth voice is at the table," Toledo said.

 

The district has already made headway in making lunches healthier by including things like salad bars, but it still has room to improve, Toledo said.

 

"There are definitely models out there that the district is interested in potentially exploring, which include seeing how we can further farm-to-school, farm-to-fork practices and looking at how to integrate more exercise -- especially in some of the after-school programs," she said.

 

Healthy environment is
a prerequisite for learning

 

Schools' impacts on children's lives go far beyond what makes it into tests.

 

"California schools serve 900 million meals a year, each one a chance to fight childhood obesity," wrote Robert K. Ross, M.D., President and CEO of The California Endowment, and Dean E. Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association, in a letter.

 

The two released the joint statement from the California Teachers Association and The California

Dean Vogel
Dean Vogel / photo courtesy KPCC

Endowment around the beginning of December about creating a healthy environment for California Students.

 

"Every school day also offers the opportunity to improve the physical fitness of California's children, not only through physical education classes but by weaving physical activity throughout the learning day," they wrote.

 

Read the entire statement here.

New Coordinating Council members say why they want to serve

Teen Sexual Health's Core event seeking organizations, artists

A message from Carolyn Pinces and Tara Beeston, co-chairs of Teen Sexual Health Momentum Team:

 

We would like to invite you to be a part of the fourth biannual Core 1:30-4 p.m. Feb. 8 at Herbert Hoover High School. Core is an empowering afternoon organized by Mid-City CAN's Teen Sexual Health Momentum Team. It bridges the dialogue between youth and health professionals using arts and culture to ask the question: "What is the Core of teen sexual health?" Throughout Core, local experts, community organizations, artists, and youth create an empowering, positive, safe, and facts-based environment that engages participants in conversations around sexual health.

We are looking for community organizations and artists to participate in the following ways:

  • Skill building workshops - Students who attend Core will be incentivized to attend two workshops that will provide them with the knowledge and skills to make healthy decisions regarding their sexual health. We are looking for engaging presentations that promote healthy relationships, communication, and attitudes. You may submit a workshop proposal by clicking here.
  • Interactive Resource Booths - At Core, students will learn about resources in their community that will empower them to make healthy decisions regarding their sexual, mental, physical, and spiritual health. The more interactive, innovative, and engaging your booth is, the more students will remember how they can utilize your organization's services. Table, chairs, and a shaded space will be provided at no cost. Register to host a resource booth by clicking here.
  • Arts and Culture activities, performances, and displays - Core is all about changing the way we talk about sexual health. Sexual health isn't just about sexually transmitted infections and risky sexual behaviors. It's about self-esteem, cultural attitudes, expression, relationships, and communication. We are seeking a variety of artistic and cultural activities that address sexual health and self-empowerment in a positive and engaging way. Please submit your arts and culture proposal by clicking here.

For more information about Core, click here

Core2012

Mid-City CAN is looking for young people to create video diaries


Mid-City can is looking for four individuals or groups who are

  • Residents of City Heights.
  • 15 to 22 years old.
  • Mid-City CAN momentum team or Mid-City CAN Youth Council members or willing to become a member.
  • Representative of the racial, cultural and linguistic diversity of City Heights.
  • Able to speak and understand English fluently.

Youth filmmakers who meet these requirements and submit a required number of films per month will get a $250 stipend every 3 months for one year -- a total of $1,000.

 

Those interesting in participating should write a one-page essay or record a short (five minutes or less) video about themselves. The subject: "Why I would be a good youth filmmaker." Youth filmmakers also should include full name, age, name of City Heights neighborhood where they live, contact information (including daytime phone number and email) and name of school that they attend as well as relevant extracurricular activities.

 

Submissions should be sent to Mid-City CAN Media Specialist Adam Ward no later than Jan. 31 at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . No phone calls at this time. Those who are selected will be contacted for follow-up interviews.

 

For more information, click here.

 

 

The California Endowment

 

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