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Homie UP Youth Empowerment Program

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NLRC joins communities around the world in the observance of Human Rights Day on Friday, December 10, the day the United Nations ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The principle of human rights that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” is fundamental to our collaborative research work to create transformative change for communities of color in the border region. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodies our work with Latinx and immigrant youth and families, declaring: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” On this Human Rights Day, we acknowledge the vital role of a human rights framework in community research, education, and service. 

The National Latino Research Center (NLRC) at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), in collaboration with community stakeholders, developed the Homie UP: Youth Empowerment Program (Homie UP YEP) that provides  comprehensive services for Latinx youth and families in the context of a daily after-school youth program that, up until the COVID-19 pandemic, had been taking place at Centro Universidad Popular in Vista, California. 

Homie UP Youth Empowerment Program was supported by a grant from the Office of Minority Health (OMH) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2017-2021.  The program was supported from August 2021-February 2022 by a grant from California Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

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Homie UP YEP has been open to the community since 2018 and was able to continue serving youth and families during the COVID-19 public health crisis with innovative strategies for overcoming obstacles to teaching, access, and support by shifting to online platforms for remote programming. As we reflect on our work with Latinx youth, we share with you our framework, partnerships, and our program activities over the past four years 

We want to continue collaborating with our amazing network of community partners. Thus, we welcome you to join us at our upcoming community partners meeting to discuss ways we can collaborate to engage in community projects to support Latinx and immigrant youth and families.

 Please send us your RSVP. 

Theoretical Framework – Community Cultural Wealth

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Homie UP YEP practices are based on Yosso’s (2005) Community Cultural Wealth model, a strengths-based framework that highlights the importance of beliefs and practices originating from family and culture of immigrant communities and communities of color. The model highlights six forms of cultural capital, which have guided our work and promising practices.

  • Social Capital. Supportive networks of people and community resources help families to transcend the adversity in their daily lives. NLRC has successfully built a network of community-based partners that work together to comprehensively address risk and protective factors for youth and families through services, resources, outreach, and education. 
  • Navigational Capital. Critical navigational skills empower Homie UP YEP participants to maneuver through institutions not created with Communities of Color in mind. Curricula, programming, tutoring, and mentoring enhance college preparation, civic engagement, and skills to prepare youth and families to navigate complex social institutions and infrastructures. Our educational programming empowers youth with popular education pedagogy to enhance college preparation, identity development, cultural knowledge and history, anti-racism, self-care and wellness, coping strategies, and emotional intelligence. 
  • Aspirational Capital. This form of capital is the ability to maintain hopes and dreams for the future, even in the face of real or perceived barriers. NLRC successfully facilitated university and community resources to create a bridge for youth to attend their local university, have access to college experiences, and implemented curriculum that nurtured their potential as future civic and social leaders of change in their community  

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  • Resistant Capital. Knowledge of the structures of racism, nativism, sexism, classism, etc. and skills and motivation to transform such oppressive structures can come from parents, community members and a historical legacy of resistance to subordination. Located within the 100-mile U.S.-Mexico border zone, Homie UP YEP exists in a unique region that enhances the knowledge and study of local history and civic engagement through community organizations whose mission is to advocate for local needs such as Universidad Popular, Alianza Comunitaria, and the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC). Furthermore, there is a need to assess institutional inequalities (e.g. school system, law enforcement, etc.) to understand their role in contributing to or protecting against the risk of harm to youth.  
  • Familial Capital. Those cultural knowledges nurtured among familia (kin)—which may include immediate or extended family (living or long passed on) as well as friends whom we might consider part of our family—carry a sense of community history, memory, and cultural intuition. Intergenerational learning approaches facilitate the integration of the family unit (e.g. parents, youth, and extended family members) and improve program commitment and civic engagement. Collaboration within YEP Staff and partner organizations have harnessed curriculum development, teaching skills, research strategies, and the ability to create positive communication and engagement with youth and their families. 
  • Linguistic Capital. The intellectual and social skills attained through communication experiences in more than one language and/or style, this form of capital also refers to the ability to communicate via visual art, music, poetry, and a storytelling tradition which may include listening to and recounting oral histories, parables, cuentos (stories) and dichos (proverbs). Trained NLRC staff and interns are bilingual and multicultural whose experiences reflect those of program participants. Programming incorporated linguistically and culturally responsive strategies.  

Community Partners 

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Homie UP YEP addresses issues surrounding culture, education, health, and civic leadership with a collaborative group of partners that include health providers, local school districts, violence prevention providers, and social service providers. Collaboration with community stakeholders was essential in conducting our Youth Empowerment Program and linking culturally responsive resources and services that support the needs of youth and families.  

Universidad Popular As the pillar organization engaging Latinx and immigrant communities in North San Diego County, Universidad Popular provided the blueprint for the development of the youth empowerment program. Universidad Popular created and implemented curricula grounded in popular education centering on increasing knowledge of Chicanx history, the U.S. educational system, civic participation, and environmental justice. Universidad Popular granted our program the physical space to conduct our daily activities with youth and families at Centro Universidad Popular in the heart of the Latinx immigrant communities in Vista. We are infinitely thankful for the teachings that Universidad Popular has passed down to our tutors, mentors, youth and families. Their cultivation of knowledge and leadership has influenced NLRC staff to continue in the journey of advocating for our communities. Thank you maestras de Universidad Popular, Dra. Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez, Lilian Serrano, Flor Alvarez, and Daisy Resendiz, for all your leadership and guidance.    

TrueCare is a community health center providing primary health care and prevention services in North San Diego County. TrueCare was an essential partner in providing health prevention curricula to improve health and wellness outcomes. NLRC collaborated with TrueCare, with the leadership of Moises Moreida, Daniela Garcias, and Cheryl McMahen, in creating lesson plans for health education objectives, developing teaching materials and interactive activities for youthTrueCare Community Engagement Team and Homie UP YEP delivered 38 workshops focused on reproductive health education, increasing knowledge and awareness of protective and risk factors related to violence. TrueCare, Universidad Popular and Homie UP YEP collaborated to conduct 104 presentations promoting healthy lifestyles, health care services and resources to our families. Topics include Oral Health, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Coping and Preventing Stress, Personal Hygiene, Sun Safety, Sleep, Hand Washing, Brain Development, Diabetes, Disaster Ready, Movement for Change, Heart Health, COVID-19 Awareness, mental health awareness sessions that included Healthy Minds, Stress 101, Managing Emotions, Coping with Depression and Anxiety, and Suicide Prevention strategies. 

Professor David Avalos, a member of the NLRC Advisory Committee, local artist, and CSUSM faculty, mentored Homie UP YEP staff to create appropriate cultural enrichment activities tailored to our youth. He dedicated numerous hours providing feedback, Chicano Art presentations, and personal tours of Chicano Park, a recognized National Historic Landmark associated with the Chicano movement. Furthermore, we want to thank the Chicano Park Steering Committee and community leaders for their dedication in allowing our Chicano Park to flourish.  

Mano A Mano Foundation provides educational workshops, counseling, community resources, and information for the prevention of juvenile delinquency, gangs, drug/alcohol abuse, and violence. Mano a Mano promotes the role of parents in helping their children succeed in school and in life and emphasizes the importance of getting a college education. Dr. Beatriz Villareal was valuable in engaging with over 100 families through their “Padres Aprendiendo a ser Mejores Padres” series. Thank you, Dra. Beatriz Villarreal, for building this safe space for our parents. 

Survivors of Torture, International (Survivors) facilitates healing of trauma survivors and educates professionals about torture and trauma and its consequences. Survivors provided customized training for project staff, leadership, and practitioners in a Train-the-Trainer format that combines group therapy and healing circles to help identify the traumas youth and parents have experienced, many of whom are Latino/a/x immigrants. 

Vista Unified School District (VUSD) is our educational partner serving Latinx students in the local community. VUSD works with NLRC to identify opportunities to engage youth and parents in academic enrichment and opportunities to promote college readiness and career development. VUSD board members, teachers, and staff have been incredibly supportive of data collection, welcoming us to their school and taking the time to speak with our youth and families. Also, we want to recognize Board Members Cipriano Vargas and Martha Alvarado for their willingness to engage in activities with students, parents, and staff 

CSUSM’s Center for Research and Engagement in STEM Education (CRESE) facilitated the engagement of STEM Ambassadors to provide STEM career education, mentorship, and STEM hands-on activities. We are grateful for the genuine collaboration that CRESE, STEM Ambassadors, Program Director April Nelson, and faculty, Edwards Price, Charles De Leone, developed with Homie UP YEP. CRESE supplied material, welcomed us to their space, and provided numerous hours of mentorship to guide our youth and families to think about STEM education. 

FarmWorker CARE Coalition (FWCC) provided resources and information to farmworker families in North County San Diego. 

San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) provided opportunities for youth and family engagement in the 2021 Regional Plan about equitable public transportation systems. 

San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC) provided Know Your Rights workshops and opportunities for regional civic engagement. 

San Marcos Prevention Coalition informed about policies in the local, state and federal level for safer environments free of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. 

Law enforcement agencies and violence prevention providers collaborated with our program to facilitate educational presentations for youth and families aimed at increasing understanding, building trust, and integrating problem-solving approaches that are culturally and locally based with law enforcement agencies. 

Nuestra Comunidad - Lastly, we want to thank all our community members and leaders for their ongoing support in mentoring Latinx youth in North County San Diego. We value your teachings and time and hope to continue this journey with your indispensable support 

Check out our photo gallery to see all the great work we did!

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Program Activities 

Six objectives guided our after-school youth program aimed at reducing the prevalence and impact of youth violence and promoting culturally relevant approaches to build positive community relations.  

Objective 1  Academic Enrichment and Career Development 

  • NLRC trained CSUSM students to become youth mentors and tutors receiving intense training in areas such as Ethics in Social Research, 2020 Census Outreach, Culturally Responsive & Trauma-Informed Care, Community Cultural Wealth Model, Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS), Train the Trainer: Combatting Misleading COVID-19 Information in Latino Communities.  
  • 67 college students and community leaders volunteered for Homie UP YEP, providing 4,088 hours of mentorship and academic support. Homie UP YEP conducted daily tutoring sessions, college readiness workshops, and university field trips, and collaborated with CSUSM CRESE, STEM field faculty, and college students to provide hands-on activities, demonstrations, tours, and mentorship to increase Latinx representation in STEM fields 
  • Homie UP YEP successfully conducted a six-week summer program every year to increase knowledge of higher education and bridge university resources to the local community. 
  • NLRC staff, CSUSM students and faculty, Homie UP YEP participants, and Universidad Popular presented on the My University curriculum and fundamentals of the Community Cultural Wealth Model at the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) conference in 2021 and 2019, and in the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) Student Poster Showcase at CSUSM in 2018.

Objective 2 – Life Skills 

  • Community educators facilitated 114 workshops to promote team building, positive communication, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving. Team-building activities were fostered daily to promote active communication among youth and tutors during daily programming. Staff worked with TrueCare to deliver life skills workshops to increase knowledge and awareness of protective and risk factors related to violence through the implementation of Cuidate, Second Step, In Touch with Teens and Media Studies curricula. 

Objective 3 – Health and Wellness 

  • Homie UP YEP and TrueCare collaborated to conduct presentations promoting healthy lifestyles, health care services and resources. Topics include Oral Health, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Coping and Preventing Stress, Personal Hygiene, Sun Safety, Sleep, Hand Washing, Brain Development, Diabetes, Disaster Ready, Movement for Change, Heart Health, Emotions, and COVID-19. 
  • Homie UP YEP conducted workshops that discussed the connection of cultural enrichment with health, knowledge about ancestral foods, and environmental justice. 
  • Survivors of Torture conducted training workshops for community partners to integrate trauma-informed approaches to youth empowerment.  

Objective 4 – Family Engagement 

  • NLRC, Universidad Popular, and Mano a Mano provided culturally and linguistically appropriate opportunities for families. 275 parent workshops were conducted fostering proactive communication with youth, becoming active members of their community, and engaging in decision-making at the local and regional levels 
  • Youth participated in 61 civic learning sessions to increase knowledge of civic rights and responsibilities. Parents and youth were involved in civic engagement activities such as training to become Trusted Messengers for the 2020 Decennial Census, Meet and Greet with School Board Members and Superintendent, community forum with Vista Sheriff’s Captain, transportation forums with SANDAG, and engagement in civic education to voice concerns during meetings with local representatives. 

Objective 5 – Community Policing 

  • Homie UP YEP participated in the San Marcos Prevention Coalition to learn about youth substance use and abuse prevention strategies, and in monthly meetings with the Vista Unified School Board Meeting safety forums, and Homie UP, maintaining active communication with board members who were open to engage in community forums, training with staff, and conversation with youth throughout the years. 

Objective 6 – Arts and Cultural Enrichment 

  • Homie UP YEP students participated in culture and arts sessions to increase knowledge and awareness of cultural heritage and community connectedness via the implementation of various activities such as cultural fieldtrips, Raíces de Acción curriculum, MAIZ SELF TREE curriculum, North County’s Mexican & Central American History curriculum, dialogue with Civil Rights leaders, Meet-and-Greet events with San Diego artists, Indigenous People of Maat Kumeyaay presentation, and Generation Esperanza curriculum. 
  • Participants designed a cultural project every year to communicate an essential aspect of their cultural identity. Their projects were presented to the public via My University graduation events and social media platforms. In Year 1, students created a Maiz narrative diagram illustration that reflected aspects of their cultural heritage, identity, and ancestry. In Year 2, students created Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos converging on social issues (e.g., environmental, health, safety, etc.). In Year 3, students created a collaborative group presentation via Zoom advocating for current social issues affecting their communities. In Year 4, students participated in the QuaranTeens course, in which they created original videos narrating the challenges they, their families, and their community have faced during the pandemic.