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

SBCS Helps Residents Learn to Influence Local Policies and Enhance Neighborhood Health and Safety

Post Date:03/22/2024 4:13 PM

SBCS Resident Leadership Academy

Submitted by Annie Sawyer, Director of Philanthropic Giving, SBCS


In 2016, SBCS partnered with the County of San Diego and Community Health Improvement Partners to invest in 15 Chula Vista residents who wanted to make positive, lasting change in their community. Eight years later, our Resident Leadership Academy has graduated 20 classes reaching 257 community volunteers from the often-overlooked communities of National City, San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Imperial Beach, and Chula Vista.

Over 10 to 15 weeks, SBCS facilitators lead volunteers through a collaborative training program where they gain knowledge and confidence to influence local policies and enhance neighborhood health and safety. Workshops on the fundamentals of civic engagement, assessing community need, and finding funding sources all help prepare Resident Leader trainees to work with elected officials and community leaders and get results.


But the Resident Leadership Academy is more than learning how to implement change – it’s about taking action!

Each class creates a Community Improvement Project to address a real issue affecting themselves and their neighbors. They begin while in the training program and continue working together to see the plan through to completion after graduation.

Some projects that have led to meaningful neighborhood improvement include:

  • The renovation of Lauderbach Park and Eucalyptus Park in Chula Vista to improve community health and access to green spaces.
  • The installation of streetlights at Castle Park Middle School and other dangerous intersections in Chula Vista to boost public safety (still working on speedbumps!).
  • Setting up food distribution sites in Imperial Beach to help families facing food insecurity access healthy food.


Harborside Park in Chula Vista

A recent class of Resident Leader volunteers advocated for the safe re-opening of Harborside Park in Chula Vista, which closed to the public in August 2022. Starting with a listening campaign in August 2023, the group talked to parents, business owners, seniors, and residents to understand their concerns and needs. They found support from Mayor John McCann, County Supervisor Nora Vargas, Superintendent Eduardo Reyes, and City of Chula Vista Homeless Solutions Manager Angelica Davis, who elevated the voices of our Resident Leaders – and the voices of hundreds of community members they spoke with.

Chula Vista City Council approved $1.1MM to re-open and revitalize Harborside Park in December 2023 – but our Resident Leaders don’t consider the job done! They will continue to volunteer their time together to represent the needs of area residents as the project progresses.

Today, SBCS Resident Leader volunteers from all graduating classes meet every third Thursday to continue investing in their neighborhoods and each another.

SBCS Resident Leadership Academy at Ribbon Cutting   SBCS Resident Leadership Academy in Action

From all of us at SBCS: Thank you to Live Well San Diego, Community Health Improvement Partners, the County of San Diego, and so many others for making SBCS’ Resident Leadership Academy possible.

To learn more, visit our website at or contact Annie Sawyer at

To learn more about Resident Leadership Academies, visit:


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