October 19, 2022

Community Health Improvement Partners Help Fund “Summer of Strengths/ Verano de Fortalezas” Program

Brett Hall, MSW Program Manager Community Health Improvement Partners

In June 2022, Community Health Improvement Partners and the County of San Diego Community Action Partnership awarded five community groups or organizations with Resident Leadership Academy Project Stipends. The goal of these stipends was to fund community improvement projects aimed at creating sustainable changes to the physical or social environment that promote healthy behaviors in the community.  

One of the awardees was RLA 10 Otay Mesa, a group of women from South San Diego County, who wanted to provide their community members with a training to help them identify their top strengths to help them thrive in their everyday work and relationships. The project entails providing each participant with a Strengths Finder book and access code to take their Clifton Strengths assessment; with that information, participants will identify their strengths and how and when to apply them to best benefit themselves, their relationships, families, and communities.  

Two "Summer of Strengths" sessions were held, one with 12 participants and the other with 8 participants. Sessions were offered in Spanish, "Verano de Fortalezas," and in English, and adjusted accordingly based on language needs. Different tools and techniques were shared with participants to utilize their strengths to create stronger relationships and improve their personal and professional lives. 

The women behind the “Summer of Strengths/ Verano de Fortalezas” project include Maritza Hernandez, Maritza Gerardo-Chavarin, Rosita Haro, Rosa Ruesga, and Vanessa Najera, all of whom are 2020 graduates of the Resident Leadership Academy program facilitated by SBCS. Three of the group members have also completed the Resident Leadership Academy Train-the-Trainer workshop provided by Community Health Improvement Partners, including Maritza Hernandez, Maritza Gerardo-Chavarin, and Rosa Ruesga.  

The group came up with the idea for the project after several of them had participated in a similar strengths program through Montgomery Middle and High Schools, where Rosita Haro acted as the local Strengths Parent Approach Liaison. The women noticed that some community members could not attend this strengths program as the sessions were offered in the morning instead of the evening, and they saw the Resident Leadership Academy Project Stipend as an opportunity to fill this need and serve their community.  

RLA 10 Otay Mesa group member, Maritza Gerardo-Chavarin, shared “The sessions were offered at night from 6:00pm-7:30pm as we noticed the need in the community. We thank the San Ysidro Library for offering their space to us to hold the sessions.”  

The “Summer of Strengths/Verano de Fortalezas” project was created with five objectives in mind:  

(1) to increase self-awareness of strengths,  

(2) to build confidence around strengths,  

(3) to learn how to use strengths in professional and personal life,  

(4) to understand community strengths, and  

(5) to create a strengths road map. 

“The most fun part is that a lot of these community members did not have access to this type of service before, so it was interesting to see them realize that some of the traits they have are strengths,” said Maritza Hernandez. “Being able to go through the assessment and notice how they can not only apply it to their own lives but also impact other members of the community, was really nice to see.”  

 “For the participants it was in some ways something new, but nevertheless they realized that focusing on the positive things about ourselves allows us to have better results,” said Maritza Gerardo-Chavarin. “It is also very important that we direct this type of workshop to young people and that from an early age they learn to know and work on developing their strengths and not their weaknesses.” 

The women of RLA 10 Otay Mesa plan to do a follow up session with both groups to see where they are at now and potentially organize a third group of youth to go through the “Summer of Strengths/ Verano de Fortalezas” sessions and hope to hold it at the San Ysidro Teen Center.  

"It is inspiring to see these RLA leaders put programming together that fits their needs and put to action the value that the RLA program has had on them and their community,” said Yeni L. Palomino, Vice President of Community Health & Engagement and co-creator of the Community Health Improvement Partners’ RLA. 

For More Information 

To learn more about the Resident Leadership Academy, please email Yeni L. Palomino at You can also visit the Community Health Improvement Partners RLA website or the Live Well San Diego RLA website