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

Rescue Mission’s Academy for Recovery Brings in CalFresh, Mindfulness Practices

Eating well important during recovery

Post Date:08/23/2023 4:13 PM

Healthy food

By Barbara L. Hughes, CalFresh Healthy Living Program

Since 1955, the San Diego Rescue Mission has provided meals, shelter, clothing, education, and job-skills training for individuals experiencing homelessness. The Mission has a residential program, called the Mission Academy, which offers a trauma-informed, holistic approach to recovery. This 12-month, three-semester program allows men, women, and single parents to get back on their feet, provides support for people to resume school, and gives residents hope for their futures.  

Strength for Recovery Through Nutrition 

The County of San Diego’s CalFresh Healthy Living program aims to reduce hunger by building partnerships with stakeholders to address food imbalances in vulnerable populations and communities through targeted nutrition education courses, promotora outreach and trainings, and onsite cooking demonstrations. The CalFresh Healthy Living team partnered with the San Diego Rescue Mission in 2021 to offer a hands-on healthy living and nutrition education classroom series of courses as part of the Mission’s recovery and job placement program. The primary goal of this partnership was to enhance the healing-centered practices of the Mission while adding a nutrition-related healthy lifestyle component. Learning about mindful activities and nurturing oneself in a way that builds resiliency despite difficult life circumstances was also part of the intervention.  

Now in its sixth cycle, the program has seen tremendous success with each class. Two one-hour classes that average 20 students are taught each week over the course of six weeks and are facilitated by CalFresh Healthy Living nutrition specialists and trauma-informed nutrition education-trained Mission staff. Topics range from budget-friendly shopping, reading and understanding food labels, to managing toxic stress and personal health, as well as improving nourishment among families and communities. Participants have been eager to learn and demonstrate safe knife skills, prepare healthy recipes, and share their talents and knowledge with their peers. Students are encouraged to share their personal stories and experiences with food in a safe-space environment.  

Adding in Mindfulness 

The residents of the one-year program also participated in mindfulness activities to reduce stress while learning nutrition concepts and culinary skills. Many individuals expressed how attending the classes had inspired them to re-create recipe ideas for their lunch or dinner during and after the program. They have also demonstrated character growth with each lesson. For example, timid participants became more comfortable sharing among the group, and were more inclined to participate in food preparation and discussion.  

Preliminary survey results have shown favorable nutrition behavior changes. It is anticipated that participants will carry out the skills they have learned and sustain these changes over time.  

The CalFresh Healthy Living nutrition class series has now become a mandatory core class that one-year Mission residents must take for program completion. Continued communication and training between the CalFresh Healthy Living team and Mission staff are helping to sustain the partnership. Future plans include meal evaluation and strategies to rework current menu offerings for all San Diego Rescue Mission residents.  

Learn more at San Diego Rescue Mission  

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