Resident Leadership Academies

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Resident Leadership Academies (RLAs) are multi-week training programs for San Diego County residents who want to learn how to improve their local communities. Training sessions focus on topics such as community leadership, crime prevention and safety, land use and active transportation, and healthy food systems. Residents learn skills and best practices to address the issues that most affect their communities, and they work alongside their neighbors to help improve quality of life where they live. Upon graduation, attendees have new knowledge and access to a support network to help them lead community improvement projects.

RLA Updates and Opportunities

Many individuals and organizations are involved in Resident Leadership Academies across the County. The latest updates can be found on social media.

RLA Curriculum

Those who would like to facilitate a RLA can find the Facilitator/Train the Trainer and Participant materials below. The RLA Curriculum consists of a Participant Manual, modifiable PowerPoints, and various templates and handouts. The curriculum covers subjects such as Community Building Principles, Social Determinants of Health, Land Use and Community Planning, and more.

The County of San Diego currently has two approved RLA curriculums available. For groups funded for a particular RLA session or project, the version of the curriculum to be used will be determined by your funder (see links below). For all other groups, either version, or elements from both, may be used for the trainings.

  • 1st Edition Curriculum
    1st edition curriculum covers resident-driven community improvement efforts, including community building principles, neighborhood assessment activities and strategies for stakeholder engagement.
  • 2nd Edition Curriculum
    2nd edition curriculum expands on the 1st edition to include embedded activities, reflection questions and content on smoke-free environments and climate change.

RLA Resources & Opportunities

Bi-Monthly RLA Council Meetings
Meetings to provide additional training, discuss RLA updates, and to engage with other RLA practitioners. Anyone in the RLA network (graduates/residents, facilitators, CBOs and agencies supporting RLA) is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Technical Assistance (TA) for RLA Practitioners
TA is provided by the County to any RLA Practitioner involved with RLAs. TA may consist of assistance with planning of future RLAs, and development, refining, and implementation of Community Improvement Projects (CIPs), for example. For groups funded for a particular RLA session or project, the TA provider will be determined by your funder.

RLA Network Supplemental Training Workshops for Current RLA Practitioners
Supplemental trainings are available to anyone in the RLA network (graduates/residents, facilitators). These trainings focus on expanding leadership skills and offering opportunities for current RLA practitioners to engage with one another. The supplemental trainings may cover, but are not limited to, such topics as: Presentation Skills, Meeting Facilitation, and/or Applying for Resources.

New Facilitator Training/Train the Trainer Seminars
Seminar participants attend 3-4 full days of training, which consist of a detailed review of the curriculum, facilitation practice and tips for RLA planning and coordination. One or more new facilitator trainings per year will be offered through 2019.

Contact us for additional information on any of the resources listed above, or to learn about RLAs happening in your community.

RLA Success Stories

Basking in Nature at the YMCA Kinship Family Garden Project

Post Date:05/09/2023 2:51 PM

 May News YMCA Kinship Garden 3x1


Author: Amy Zink, Garden Educator and Horticultural Therapist, County of San Diego 


January’s harvest brought in radishes, kale, lettuce, arugula, cilantro and parsley. It was a nice haul for any community garden, but this produced more than just a healthy load of greens. For the kinship garden, the crop is community healing. 

The Copley-Price YMCA kinship garden program was created to support caregivers, many of whom have begun raising grandchildren under unexpected circumstances, find comradery in dealing with their new responsibilities that are often the source of financial and emotional stress. Many of the families have experienced dramatic lifestyle changes that have forced them to deprioritize their health and make them vulnerable to various chronic conditions.  

The YMCA’s kinship program aims to strengthen families by offering countywide services to help caregivers preserve the family unit and avoid the entry or re-entry of children into foster care. 

County of San Diego horticultural therapist Amy Zink worked closely with the YMCA to redesign a garden space that is trauma-informed and takes into consideration the kinship families’ vision for the garden. Kinship families and community volunteers, including UrbanLife Ministries, a youth agency in City Heights, as well as County of San Diego staff members, sanded and stained four large garden beds and four small herb beds that were originally built for a rooftop garden. Finally, the kinship group began to plant. 

The Copley-Price YMCA was identified as a particularly good fit for the project considering that the families were a part of its kinship support program. CalFresh Healthy Living funds were used to purchase additional garden materials. The YMCA and a San Diego Master Gardeners’ grant also helped fund the project. UrbanLife Ministries supported the project by sanding the garden beds, filling them with soil and helping the families with watering, planting and harvesting.  

The initial garden project vision began in January 2022, and families were finally enjoying their first harvests in January 2023 and March 2023.  Monthly garden and nutrition education classes featuring the Teams With Intergenerational Support (TWIGS) curriculum -- which focuses on gardening and nutrition to increase children’s knowledge about healthy eating – are also available. TWIGS classes will continue throughout 2023 with older adults from the YMCA and youth from UrbanLife Ministries youth.  

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