Diploma Bound seeks to address dropout issue collaboratively
By Cynthia Mendoza

According to numbers provided to the State of California by the San Bernardino City Unified School District, the total number of students who have dropped out of high school in the District is 8,159 over a 10 year period. According to research conducted by San Bernardino City Councilmember Tobin Brinker, a teacher at Frisbie Middle School in Rialto and former Colton Joint Unified School District Board member, the number is actually higher, and scarier, at 28,372.

The accuracy of both sets of numbers could be argued but even a decrease in either number still represents a very high rate of drop outs.

"That's still [several hundred]," Brinker said. "Are you comfortable with [that many] kids dropping out? The harsh numbers are bad, the generous numbers are bad."

Thus was born the idea of Diploma Bound, a program spearheaded locally by Brinker and modeled after the Fast Forward program which originated at Sinclair Community College (SCC) in Dayton, Ohio.

According to a brochure produced by SCC, in 1998, the Montgomery County (Ohio) Commissioners established the Out of School Youth Task Force to look into an alarming trend; nearly 5,600 youth had dropped out. Based on their findings, which revealed that 69% of Montgomery County's total budget was being spent on human services and criminal justice and that 14 of the 16 districts in the county had drop out rates of 10 percent or higher, the task force recommended that a "new model be developed to effectively engage and serve out school youth" and thus was born Fast Forward.

On Saturday, May 17, elected officials, educators and community members came together at San Bernardino Valley College to learn about Diploma Bound and how to address the drop out problem regionally, rather than district by district.

"As Mayor I'm desperately concerned that the future of this city is these kids," San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris said.
Diploma Bound targets youth 15-21 who are not attending school on a regular basis by providing resources and alternatives to complete their education successfully.

The economic impact tied to having a high school diploma or not appears to be quite strong.

According to information provided at the Summit, a study conducted by UC Santa Barbara, Californians between the ages of 21-64, only 50 percent of dropouts were employed in 2003-2004 as opposed to 68 percent of those who graduated from high school and 73 percent who had some college. A high school graduate is also 68 percent less likely to be on a welfare program and more than two-thirds of all high school dropouts will use food stamps during their working life.

So rather than arguing over numbers, Brinker hopes that the community will simply come together to address the drop out issue from a united regional approach.

"The regional approach is most important," said Rialto Unified School District Board Vice-President Walter Hawkins, who attended the Summit. "Our families move and we need a way to keep students in sync with services for them and we can do this when we're working together."

Concluded D'Ann Lanning, Assistant to Mayor Pat Morris, "We see this summit as a starting point for a regional effort to address the dropout issue," she said. "Right now every one is working alone. We can make a bigger impact working together regionally."
'Grown-ups in Sacramento, it's time to clean YOUR room!'
By Cynthia Mendoza

"Grown-ups in Sacramento… it's time to clean YOUR room!"

That was the very clear cut, straightforward message that Olivia Cichocki-Bartlett had for California lawmakers and the Governor. The 4th grader at Pachappa Elementary School in Riverside was just one of hundreds of teachers, students, board members, classified employees, administrators and community leaders that came together at the corner of Hospitality Lane and Waterman Avenue on Wednesday, May 14, to protest the Governor's proposed budget cuts which, if approved, could cut nearly $5 billion from public schools and colleges.

Schools from throughout Riverside and San Bernardino counties were well represented. Locally, a few familiar faces were spotted in the sea of faces such as (in no particular order), San Bernardino City Unified School District Board President Teresa Parra, former Colton Joint Unified School District Board President Ray Abril Jr., CJUSD Superintendent James Downs, CJUSD Board member and SBCUSD Superintendent of Human Resources Mel Albiso, Rialto Unified School District Superintendent Edna Davis Herring, along with Director of Literacy Kent Taylor also from the RUSD, and Linda Miranda from SB County Schools.

Participating in the rally were SB County Superintendent Dr. Herb Fischer, Riverside County Superintendent Kenneth Young and State Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell as well Union representatives for employees, administrators and teachers.

"Our schools and students need your support," said Linda Young, Chair, San Bernardino County California Teacher's Association. "The Governor's revise, announced today, shows our voices are being heard. While the revised budget vows to maintain the Prop. 98 minimum funding guarantee, schools still lose about $4.3 billion in anticipated revenue due to no COLA being paid. It's time for our governor to get priorities straight with the voters of this state."

Fischer then introduced Superintendent Jack O'Connell, who just hours before the rally learned of the Governor's decision to uphold Proposition 98.

"I think it's clear the Governor has heard the outcry from the education community over his initial budget proposals. I fully welcome the Governor's retreat from suspending Proposition 98 but we clearly still have a long way to go in this budget before we can say education is safe," O'Connell said. "I realize the Governor has a lot of tough decisions to make, and I commend him on taking on the difficult but necessary step of realizing the obvious; we need to raise more revenues. When you shortchange education, you shortchange the future."

O'Connell said that the revised budget is better than the one proposed in January but that schools would still have to absorb about 10 percent of the cuts made to specific programs and that districts still face lay offs. He added that he is concerned about a budget which relies heavily on lottery revenues.

"I will continue to work with the legislature and Gov. Schwarzenegger to find a budget compromise that meets the needs of our students and all Californians."

Representing the National Teacher's Association was Paula Monroe.

"It is unacceptable that one of the largest economies in the world, California, does not place a higher value and importance on our children and public education, which is the future for all of us," she said. "We need your enthusiasm now more than ever. The terminator is at it again. We need to remind him that this isn't a movie script; we can't say ‘cut’ and do this over, too much is at stake. This battle isn't just about funding, it's about priorities. We must insist that public education be the priority in California."

Monroe is also a member of the Redlands Education Support Professionals Association.

And representing Riverside County Schools was Superintendent Kenneth Young.

"If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority," said Young of the Governor's approach to attempt to fix the budget.

And while the adults definitely had their say at the rally, the voices of those most affected by the potential cuts were also heard.

"It's not fair that we don't get to learn when other people who [went before] got a good education and we don't," said fourth grader Olivia Cichocki-Bartlett after a riveting, heartfelt speech from the podium in which she concluded with,
"Grown ups in Sacramento, it's time to clean your room!"

After the rally, participants, who numbered nearly 1,000 if not more, took to the streets at the four corners of Hospitality and Waterman, spreading themselves out as far as the Olive Garden to the East and the Black Angus area to the West.

Cars that passed by honked in response to signs that encouraged motorists to honk if they supported education and/or children.

The event concluded at about 6:30 p.m.
Reaching out to those who’ve served
By Naima Ford

Veterans near San Bernardino were offered an opportunity to start over at the "Honor a Hero, Hire a Vet" Job and Resource Fair at the National Orange Show Grounds on May 14.

The fair, hosted by the Employment Development Department (EDD), is part of an initiative by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to expand the opportunities, vocational and educational, to veterans. It comes in response to the high rate of unemployment of young veterans in California. In 2007, the unemployment rate for veterans 20 to 24 years old rose to 14.3%, compared to non- veterans of the same age bracket where the unemployment rate is 8.8%.

At the fair in San Bernardino there were approximately 1,140 people and 600 of those were local veterans. There were 85 companies and other resources for veterans applying for jobs and addressing other needs.

The fair was the third in a series of 11 that will be hosted across the state by the EDD. Though the EDD hosts all types of job fairs and helps many different types of people, it has joined with the Governor to make a change for veterans through this initiative.

According to the EDD many veterans are returning from Iraq or Afghanistan and are struggling not knowing how to best apply the skills they received in the military to civilian life. In addition to the fairs, at EDD one stop centers veterans can receive assistance anytime from resources there.

There are individuals who can guide people through the process of finding work. They will help patrons identify their job skills to make them best qualified. At many of the centers there are individuals that are also veterans that can be resource when navigating the job search world. Byron Mott is a veteran who first went to an EDD center in September of 2007. He described himself as being bummed and frustrated with the job search process, especially as the job market was becoming depressed by the economy. His first two encounters with EDD employees were with veterans.

“It helps to be in the presence of someone who is encouraging but has walked the same path professionally,” said Mott.

With a background in information technology, he was surprised by the large amount of resources EDD had both for veterans and job searchers. But what he benefitted from the most was the personal, uplifting interactions he had with his EDD case worker. For two months he stayed updated on Motts job search and encouraged him through difficult times.

The position Mott now has he found on his own but he believes the help he received at EDD helped him get there.

For more information call the San Bernardino center at at (909) 888-7881 or www.sbeta.com.
Celebrating 43 years of changing lives; a CAPSBC success story
By Cynthia Mendoza

What a better way to celebrate over years of helping to transform lives than to simply share the experience of one of those transformed lives. Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County (CAPSBC) is celebrating 43 years of outreach and advocacy in San Bernardino County as it recognizes National Community Action Month, a nationwide event held every May. Throughout the month the 1,100-member Community Action Agency network celebrates by highlighting the innovative ways Community Action helps change lives.

One of the countless stories of positive change as a result of CAPSBC is Alma Martinez.

Now 29, Alma first came to CAPSBC in 2006 as a single mother of three small children, Alejandra, Esteban, and Adrian, who are now 11, 7 and 4 respectively.

Alma faced two major challenges in her life at the time; divorce and poor credit.

Alma applied for participation in the Inland Empire Individual Development Accounts (IDA) Program. Her original goal was homeownership. Alma, who works at the Fontana Unified School District as a bookkeeper, also wanted to learn to save money. Upon entering the program she immediately opened a savings account and began to save, not realizing the full extent of what she was embarking upon. She thought the program would merely enable her to pay for a few school related expenses.

Little did she know that she would save $2,000 which the program matched for a total of $4,000, enough to pay for one quarter's tuition at UCR, where she transferred from Chaffey College.

"It's to save when you don't have a lot of money," she said. "I was a single parent, going to school paying for child care and working but I saw a light at the end of the tunnel."

One of the biggest parts of Alma's success was her sheer determination to succeed.

"She's very assertive from the standpoint of meeting workshop objectives," said Charles James, her caseworker. "She felt that by securing her education, she could increase her earning power."

Alma took this opportunity seriously and attended all of the workshops and classes offered through CAPSBC and partnering agencies, such as the Springboard Credit Correction and Education Program and Neighbor Works Homebuyer Education Seminar.

She displayed the kind of attitude that CAPSBC likes to see in their clients. She also completed the Credit Restoration Program. Additionally, in a relatively short period of time Alma had completed 12 of the 15 required workshop series.

On January 23, 2008 Alma successfully graduated from the IDA Program and has already applied for re-entry into the
IDA Program to obtain additional funds to complete her educational goals.

Alma has since remarried and expects to graduate from UCR in 2009 with a degree in accounting.
"I had never saved before and this showed me I can do it," she said.

Of course, she needed to cut out a few things like eating out but the pay off was well worth it for her.

"If I could do this as a single parent, I know I can do it again," she said. "It takes a lot of hard work to save money when you have it but it's worth it. It's a huge incentive at the end."

Alma also couldn't say enough things about her case worker, Charles James.

"He's a wonderful person," she said. "He kept me updated about activities and events and always had information."

CAPSBC is the designated Community Action Agency for San Bernardino County dedicated to assisting low-income individuals and families become stable and self-sufficient. CAPSBC is a private non-profit public benefit corporation.

Since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, declaring a War on Poverty, CAPSBC has been helping people and changing lives.

For more information on CAPSBC call (909) 723-1534.