The Live Oak Cradle To Career Initiative Supports Families
By John Leopold, Santa Cruz County Supervisor
Live Oak is home to multi-million dollar homes but also pockets of real poverty just a few blocks away. At Live Oak Elementary, 85% of the children are on free or reduced lunch, and Shoreline Middle School has over 100 kids that have lived at more than two homes over the past year.
To address these challenges the Live Oak Cradle to Career Initiative was formed by parents, educators, health, and social service leaders working together to ensure that all children can reach their full potential. We do this through responsive programming, policy change, community engagement and leadership development.
After assembling the agencies and institutions that are active in the community, we needed to blend a special sauce with ingredients including building on the community hopes and dreams; ensuring authentic inclusion and working to create systems change naturally by listening to each other.
Even though we had incredible program directors around the table, we sought the leadership of parents to guide this effort from Day One. We asked parents what their hopes and dreams were for their children and they told us they wanted them to have a good education, good health, and good character.
Rather than starting from deficits or problems, we channel the power of love to build community. We work to link parents’ hopes and dreams with evidence-based practices such as ESL classes, Raising a Reader workshops, primary care, and even Zumba classes
To engage all the parents we added our next ingredient – authentic inclusion in all that we do. By shifting from a service model to organizing model, our C2C initiative sees all our parents as partners. We don’t wait for people to come to us; we meet them where they are; through personal connections at school or in the community.
This includes prioritizing language justice and investing in simultaneous interpretation and translation in all our meetings and events. C2C proactively invites parent participation and we have created a parent leadership organization to shape the direction of the entire initiative.
And next we added listening to each other to naturally create systems change. C2C creates forums for community members to speak directly with program directors and elected officials as equal stakeholders. When there are gaps in our policies and systems, we respond because families knows what will work best in their community. Earlier this year, mothers in the initiative identified the many hurdles accessing healthcare for their families. Our Steering Committee worked to address the issues and then held a workshop with parents so they could receive the healthcare they need for themselves and their family.
We have heated up these ingredients by cultivating solidarity between parents. C2C works to reduce isolation, and build community through creating new networks to help with everything from transportation to help with a new job.
This solidarity extends to agency leaders who leverage their resources (instead of competing for them) to serve the community better. So when the parents requested ESL classes, the County paid to deliver a free weekly class, while Live Oak Community Resources provided childcare and facilities, and parent leaders managed recruitment. The class was so successful, that the Adult School instituted a second class and has taken over funding.
So even though our Cradle to Career Initiative is young, we have already seen some great success. We have been successful because we mixed our ingredients to create a special sauce that has nourished the families and agencies that are participating. Through this special effort, test scores at Live Oak Elementary where we started C2C have shown great increases, parent participation in school efforts are way up and we are sharing the special sauce with Del Mar Elementary. Our recipe is getting great reviews and we encourage you to check us out at https://liveoakc2c.com.
John Leopold is the County Supervisor representing Live Oak, Soquel, and the Summit area. He served as the convener to for the community to build the C2C Initiative.