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

Revitalizing Community: Casa Familiar’s Bridge Cleanup Initiative in San Ysidro

Post Date:02/21/2024 3:17 PM

Casa Familiar - 3x1 Banner

San Ysidro, California, a predominantly Latino community (94%), is characterized by its youthful population, boasting around 3,850 households with children and 27% of residents under the age of 18 (data from the American Community Survey 2020 and Despite its rich cultural roots, the community faces economic challenges, with a median household income 56% lower than that of the City of San Diego, and 20% of the population living below the poverty line.

The deteriorating state of a pedestrian bridge near Willow Elementary School has become a significant health concern, marked by graffiti, criminal activities, and litter. This bridge, abandoned by community members due to safety and sanitation issues, has prompted families to take longer routes to avoid using it.

In response, Casa Familiar launched a Resident Leadership Academy (RLA) community improvement project to help improve the well-being of the community, particularly its youth, and set a precedent for active neighborhood care by future generations.

In April 2023, Casa Familiar received a $2,200 grant from the County of San Diego and Community Health Improvement Partners. This grant played a crucial role in enabling Casa Familiar to organize two cleanup events for the community improvement project. The funding had a significant impact, allowing for the purchase of essential items to ensure the safety and effectiveness of these cleanup activities. Thanks to the grant, Casa Familiar was able to purchase the necessary equipment, including trash pickers, durable trash bags, trash containers, brooms, gloves, face masks, containers for hazardous waste, and more.

The primary focus of the project was to rejuvenate the pedestrian bridge over the 5 Freeway between Willow Road and Calle Primera Street in San Ysidro. Residents from the Resident Leadership Academy took the lead as part of their community improvement project, emphasizing aesthetics improvement and regular maintenance.

Two community cleanup events occurred, one on June 22 and the other on November 18, 2023 to align with student availability. Each cleanup event involved over thirty dedicated volunteers, including RLA graduates, promotoras, students, and community residents, engaging in activities such as community outreach, waste removal, recycling, and weed control. Over 60 hours of community service was offered to youth and community members.

Beyond enhancing the bridge’s appearance, the project contributed to creating a safer and cleaner environment for the entire community. The positive impacts of the project extended to Willow Elementary and San Ysidro Head Start schools which serve over 2,500 families, as well as nearby mobile homes and apartment complexes which accommodate over 4,000 families. In total, it is estimated that more than 8,000 community members benefited from the project this year.

Projects like these underscore the importance of collaboration and engagement in improving the quality of life for all residents. The community gained valuable skills through this community improvement project which also serves as an inspiring model for younger generations, showing how individuals can unite to make a positive impact on their community. Through this collaboration, individuals and families can now feel safer crossing the Willow Street Pedestrian Bridge to access their schools and workplaces.

Casa Familiar received additional support for this project from various organizations, including The Office of Council Member Vivian Moreno, Institute for Public Strategies, San Ysidro Summer Camp, San Diego Police Department, Casa Familiar Youth Services, and Casa Familiar's Environmental Justice Department. 


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