Parents join movement to create better future for their children

An immigrant and a grandmother of three children who attend schools in City Heights, Seng Vo has served for many years as a volunteer at the Parent Center at Rosa Parks Elementary. She knows about sacrifice and dreams for the future:  “We as immigrants, we suffered and sacrificed a lot to come to this country.  Some of us even gave up our life to find freedom, to come to this U.S. of A., and it’s all because of the future of our children.”

Vo and her family, along with other parents and children in City Heights, now have a new partner to help them achieve success. The City Heights Partnership for Children, a new grassroots movement, brings together many community organizations to support parents, children and young adults in City Heights. The California Endowment, United Way of San Diego County, Neighborhood House Association, the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, San Diego State University and Price Charities have joined hands with parents, businesses, schools and others. The San Diego Unified School District endorsed the City Heights Partnership for Children at its Oct. 11 meeting.

Like Vo, Rosi Rangel, a mother of two children who lives in City Heights, is excited to about what the Partnership can do for her community. She is a parent representative for the Hoover High School cluster and has been a strong participant in the planning meetings for the initiative. Her feelings about the Partnership reflect those of many people in community.

“The whole Partnership is working from the bottom of our hearts with commitment and as a team,” she said. “We keep the faith and believe that everything achieved with this group will be a legacy to our children, our grandchildren and families, for them to value their community, to work on their community and to work for their community.”

The City Heights Partnership for Children comes at just the right time as all schools are dealing with cutbacks in funding.  The Partnership was set up with the belief that teachers and school leaders need the community to be involved in order to achieve the goals that parents want for their children.

“Schools are the heart of a community,” Donna Potter, a first-grade teacher at Adams Elementary School, said. “Parents, students and residents look at us for guidance and support.  With money shrinking, our resources are limited.  We do what we can, but it is getting harder to meet the individual needs of our children.”

Community organizations have supported City Heights schools for many years.  Price Charities, San Diego State University, The California Endowment, community health clinics and social service agencies, all have given generously to provide resources to assist families in City Heights. What is different about the City Heights Partnership for Children is the approach:  a commitment by more organizations to help out, more coordination of efforts, and more research to identify the best solutions.

The Partnership has five goals:

  • Preparing children under the age of five to enter kindergarten ready to learn
  • Having all children able to read by the end of third grade
  • Achieving algebra proficiency by the end of eighth grade
  • Guaranteeing that all young adults graduate from high school
  • Preparing young adults to be successful after leaving high school in college or their careers

The Partnership will begin with goal No.1: preparing children for success in kindergarten. Many children in City Heights are not attending preschool or are placed in daycare facilities that are not equipped to give them adequate preparation for kindergarten.

There are high hopes that the Partnership will become a model for the region. “We believe it will win and be successful because of the ownership of the teachers, and the students, and the parents, and everybody else who is involved in the Partnership,” said Doug Sawyer, president and CEO of the local United Way.

The initiative is off to a great start. “The City Heights Partnership for Children is just beginning, and there is much hard work ahead, but we believe that the combined effort of the community and the partners will put youth on a path toward successful adulthood,” said Price Charities’ Tad Parzen, who helped bring all the partners together.

At the Oct. 11 San Diego School Board meeting, more than a dozen speakers testified in support of the City Heights Partnership for Children. Here are excerpts from their testimonies.

“We have this great saying in Vietnamese: one tree won’t make a hill; with three, we will make a beautiful mountain high,” Seng Vo, grandmother, school volunteer, and leader of the Vietnamese parent-teacher association in City Heights.

We have not seen anything like this before you tonight. It is an unprecedented, extraordinary partnership, a coming together of the public and private sector, of various institutions, as you heard, driven by the authentic voice and power of parents and community leaders, and the hopes and dreams they represent for young people. Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment

The choice of schools as a focal point is a good one. Not only are our schools the one place where all of our children go, school outcomes are highly associated with social outcomes. For children to become successful in school, they must have adequate support in areas of family, safety, financial security and social connections. Paula Ingrum, associate director of The Children’s Initiative

There is no way that a single site would be able to generate this kind of support and the principals are excited to see what kind of resources this partnership can bring to bear.  Joe Austin, principal of Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School

In my 28 years as a police officer in this great city, I have never seen the type of collaboration, the type of heart to get things done, that I have seen demonstrated in City Heights. We have today an example of that in this initiative. Capt. Lawrence McKinney, San Diego Police Department’s Mid City Division

This is a fantastic collaboration of partners coming together, each bringing their skills and energy. How can it not work? Zara Marselian, CEO of La Maestra Community Health Centers

Tagline: Staff report