One of North County Lifeline’s many programs is Club Crown Heights (CCH), a youth development program for K-12 youth located in and serving kids in Crown Heights, one of the poorest and most violence-stricken neighborhoods in the City of Oceanside. More than 2,200 Crown Heights youth are at risk for school dropout, gang involvement or victimization, and juvenile justice system involvement. CCH gives 190 neighborhood youth each year the safe space, role models, academic support, and leadership training they need to choose positive role models, graduate, resist gang invitations, say no to drugs, and become leaders. Programming focuses on:
• Education – Daily homework assistance and academic mentoring, 1:1 tutoring in math and reading (supports the Common Core standards), science and math labs (supports STEM initiatives). The kids receive free backpacks and school supplies.
• Civic Engagement & Leadership – Youth assume leadership roles in neighborhood cleanup programs, maintaining community garden plots, Habitat for Humanity projects, local community events, and community festivals organized and run by Club Crown Heights.
• Employment – Youth age 12-17 develop an employment portfolio that includes a resume, introductory letter, sample application, and references as part of a series of workshops, which also includes mock interviews, individualized coaching, and financial literacy education.
• Life Skills – Short-term programs and activities such as peer mediation training, art instruction, cooking classes, health and nutrition, sewing, photography, gang avoidance, decision making, anger management, teen pregnancy prevention, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
• Outdoor Activities – Daily outdoor sports and activities, soccer club, and field trips.
• Hunger/Nutrition – Club Crown Heights partners with Feeding San Diego to ensure that the kids have a meal every day after school at the program.
• Intervention – Kids at greatest risk for gang involvement receive family-centered intervention from an onsite case manager.
Not only does Club Crown Heights offer neighborhood kids a safe and nurturing afterschool program, it’s also providing some of our high school students with a stepping stone to a career. Our Counselor in Training program provides an opportunity for older kids to gain valuable work experience and give back to Club Crown Heights by volunteering as program counselors.
Jessica, who enrolled at Club Crown Heights in her high school junior year, is now one of six Counselors in Training who assist program staff. In Jessica’s case, the Counselor in Training program is also helping her prepare for her chosen career as an elementary school teacher. Jessica describes her career goal by simply saying, “I want to do more and help little kids.”
Jessica lives in the Crown Heights neighborhood with her parents and two brothers. Her older brother is 22 years old and is working to become independent, but even with two jobs, he has struggled financially and recently moved back in with the family. Jessica’s younger brother is just six years old and relies on his older sister for help with his school work.
It’s important to Jessica’s parents that their children get a good education and prepare for independent and successful lives. Neither her mother or father attended school beyond the elementary level, but they know it’s critical that their children graduate high school and go on to college.
Jessica says she loves Club Crown Heights because “it’s a safe place where you can have fun without anyone to hurt you.” Her volunteer role as a Club Crown Heights Counselor in Training allows her to work directly with the younger kids, helping them with homework and educational activities. Jessica says she especially enjoys playing games with the kids – her favorite game is Uno.
When asked what she would do if she didn’t have Club Crown Heights, Jessica told us that she would have to find another afterschool program. Having a place where she can do her homework, socialize, and support the younger kids is a critical part of Jessica’s life as she prepares for her future.
Jessica is looking forward to graduating this year and already has plans to attend Mira Costa College to continue working towards her goals.
All of the Club Crown Heights staff, volunteers, and students were excited to see Jessica and our other high school seniors graduate this past June! The entire staff hopes that Jessica will continue to be part of Club Crown Heights as she moves on to college – and then to teaching.