The University of San Diego’s (USD) youth program began in 1991 when President Dr. Hughes convened USD departments, Linda Vista schools, agencies, and police representatives to address the increase in gang-affiliated vandalism in Linda Vista. The group found that due to a lack of afterschool prevention programs, 60% of the vandalism was committed by K-12 youth. The initial goal of the program was to implement youth programs promoting self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy while providing USD students the opportunity for experiential learning.

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The program grew in 1997, through the initiation of the national America Reads campaign. USD was one of 1,200 participating colleges and universities that received Federal Work-Study funds to hire undergraduates to tutor low-income youth. The growth of the program inspired the creation of student leaders for greater peer advising amongst USD students involved in the community-based youth program.

Building on the success of America Reads, America Counts was initiated in 1999 as a national effort to improve achievement in mathematics. USD was one of approximately 300 participating colleges and universities. The youth program was thus expanded, from its focused literacy and socio-emotional curriculum, to include broader academic support. 

Seven years later, California Campus Compact’s Youth to College Initiative began. The initiative, developed in 2006, was designed to prepare lower-income and underserved youth to succeed in college and thus increase the percentage of underrepresented students. This allowed for a staff position to be created in the Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action (CASA)) to coordinate existing youth programs, add additional college advising, and centralize all components of the youth program under the CASA Youth Engagement Initiative (YEI) umbrella. USD was one of four universities in California to participate as lead agencies for their specific region. Each of the regions included K-12 schools that serve students who are less likely to follow a college preparatory track, which allowed USD to continue working in Linda Vista. After the grant came to a close in 2009, USD remained committed to the youth initiative in the Linda Vista community by creating a full-time position to continue the training, advising, and development of CASA’s YEI. Today, USD students mentor, tutor, advise, inspire, and are inspired by over 1,000 Linda Vista students each year. The initiative also co-creates and co-runs intersession and afterschool programs that focus on developing character and leadership skills along with academics.    

Youth to College pictureYouth to College

As community needs and the public K-12 landscape changes, so does CASA’s YEI support and strategic efforts. For example, when budget cuts drastically reduced school counseling staff, CASA’s YEI co-created two counseling programs and began infusing empathy and confidence-building curriculum across programs. When the arts were eliminated from most schools over the past 10 years, CASA’s YEI co-created afterschool programs supporting self-expression through theater, dance, and visual arts. Current afterschool and intersession programs also infuse public speaking and writing across curricular areas to support English Language Learners needs and reflect the English Common Core standards. From its inception, CASA’s YEI has been a holistic program that evolves with the changing needs of the community and an impactful, transformative local immersion program for USD students.

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Youth Engagement Initiative Vision

Youth to College Vision

Linda Vista Impact

  • 81 classroom mentors worked with about 1,100 children for about 707 hours a week, and 20,130 hours per academic year.
  • The in-kind staff time the classroom mentors provide amount to $190,170 to the Linda Vista K-12 community per year.
  • Classroom mentors dropped adult-child ratios from about 1:25 to 1:12.
  • One classroom mentor provides approximately 300 hours, $2,700 hours a year to partner sites.
  • One classroom mentor consistently provides an average of 10 hours a week of classroom mentorship
  • Classroom mentors are placed at the following sites: Carson ES (100% Title 1, Spanish-Immersion), Linda Vista ES (100% Title 1, Spanish-immersion), Chesterton ES (65% Title 1, large military family community), Montgomery Middle School (100% Title 1 and feeder to above listed schools), and Twain High School (alternative high school).
  • Classroom mentors also co-create and support afterschool programs with Linda Vista Teen Center, Bayside Community Center, and the YMCA who work with students from all of the above listed schools.