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August 23, 2016

Over the summer, the United Way’s City Heights Partnership for Children convened with the City Heights Community Development Corporation to coordinate a summer reading program in City Heights. The pilot program is based on a collective impact framework including many partners: the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP), San Diego Police Department, San Diego County Office of Education, City Heights Public Library, Community Housing Works, San Diego Council on Literacy, Words Alive and Kitchens for Good.

The Readers in the Heights program organized staff and volunteers to meet 3rd and 4th graders living in an affordable housing complex in City Heights to engage in reading activities with a goal of combatting the loss of reading skills often seen in children during the summer. The children also participated in the San Diego Public Library’s Summer Reading Program and toured the San Diego Police Department Mid-City Division. Nutritious meals were provided by Kitchens for Good and served by Heaven’s Window.

SDWP facilitated hiring two Readers in the Heights summer program assistants through SDWP-funded partner, Access, Inc., to support the work. SDWP coordinated the application, hiring and selection process and served as liaison between Access, Inc. and the collaborative.

“Not only were the interns great and ready to work, their case manager and the SDWP staff checked in to ensure we were all having a positive experience,” says Leticia Leal, City Heights Community Development Corporation Resident Services Manager. “The interns were a huge help with the children and overall success of the program. We value their participation and look forward to hosting other interns in the future to support our other programs.”

Job duties included things like checking children in and out, greeting partners and volunteers, prepping supplies, setting up activities, leading outdoor games and accompanying participants to off-site activities.

“The Readers in the Heights Program gave me the opportunity to work and help the community of City Heights,” says Andreinas Lizarraga, Readers in the Heights intern. “I give a special thanks to my supervisor Leticia for giving me the opportunity not many people would have. My first week I was so scared. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know how children would react towards me, but with the help of all of them, including the children, I learned how to interact with them…I would definitely love to go to school and learn the different types of programs I could take towards helping children.”

By the end of the summer, nearly 50 elementary school students were served through the program — a feat made possible only by the joint effort of all the program partners. “Collective impact is a great framework to leverage existing resources and organizations in our community to make a significant impact,” says Amanda Cheyney, SDWP Lead Program Specialist. “It was a pleasure to see how, through collaboration, we came together to implement a successful program and assist young children in City Heights to improve their reading skills over the summer and be ready for the new school year. At the same time, we provided entry-level job opportunities to young adults in City Heights to improve their employability and get them engaged in their own community. This was definitely a worthwhile labor of love.”

Participants enjoyed more than 400 combined hours of reading time with adults and the program increased the number of children who said reading was something they like to do often by 19%.

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