Today was not a good day. I found out that someone I know was murdered and his body was dropped off in Guadalupe. Police have not yet solved his murder. It is too easy to speculate that it was gang or drug related. Somehow when we categorize it that way it becomes a distant act but this one impacted me and it should stop and give us pause. Java was many things to many people. To me Java was a victim of Domestic Violence (although few would believe me since he was a huge guy physically). To me he was a man trying to get over the demons of his past. To me he was a man who was trying to Fight Back against the struggles in his life. He was also a father, a beloved son and a former student.
I also found out today that a high school student from our community killed himself. He had just applied for a job at Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab and he got the job. Of course this makes no sense to any of us. How can a bright kid surrounded by so many feel so alone that he takes his life. This is not a good day.
Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” It would be a waste of Java and Mark’s life if I did not remind myself and you why we do what we do. Why we put up with criticism, complaints, and negativity. It is for kids like mark and Java. We were not successful in their case, but that means we have to work that much harder to stop this from becoming normal.
I don’t want our community to become controlled by violence and guns. I don’t want there to be any kid out there who feels alone. I don’t want to see a man like Java have no place to go when his parents try and get him mental health interventions and I don’t want there to be students who feel so isolated that they end their life.
So I am inspired to work that much harder. It makes me want to work with you to continue to get the best interventions and services out there for our kids and families.
Here is what we have been up to these last three months:
- We are the TUPE Coordinator for the county. We will have our first meeting in October
- SMBSD was awarded a First 5 Grant and has subcontracted with FB to provide parenting classes for 75 families.
- Our four Program Specialists for SMBSD had a successful Literacy intervention with the Parks and Rec and the United Way with 22 students fully participating. They have started the year off with a bang knocking on doors and meeting with kids.
- Our Program specialist for Orcutt worked with over 30 students this summer mentoring them and getting them prepared to have a successful year
- We have designed a program, Foundations for Success to improve the educational outcomes for foster students and have applied for funding to: The Chumash Foundation, the Hutton Foundation, The Stuart Foundation, the Santa Barbara Foundation, We just need money to get this program up and running.
- We have prepared and are launching Safe Havens, and Anti Bullying campaign in Guadalupe
- We have been approached by the Workforce Investment Board to help 50-75 Students coming out of camp or the hall with their CASAS and help them pass their educational tests
- I met with the Department of Probation Chief Taylor and her Deputy Steve DeLira and they are very excited about partnering with Fighting Back and will be sending parents to our Parent Project and hopefully working with us on Restorative Justice Practices at the High Schools and the Hall.
- Parent Projects:
- September 2-November 4, 2014 for SPANISH Senior
- September 4-November 6, 2014 for ENGLISH Senior and SPANISH Jr.
- Covered California – Aimee Certified Enroller
- Re-ignited Coalition and community collaborations.
- Free 4 the Weekend October 25th
All this good work is not the solution. Programs and events are tools to the solution. You see I still believe that it is through relationship that real change happens, so although I am very proud of our work this summer I most proud of a phone call that we got on the second day of school. George’s mom called because he refused to go to school. His mom had not taken him to school the first day due to her not getting his TDAPP in time. She resolved that with the help of her program Specialist CJ and Teresa. She was calling us because now George refused to go because he did not have a backpack. We were already at Arellanes giving a presentation when we got the call. The Assistant Principal let us raid his stash of backpacks. I was fortunate enough to know George and I went to his house, talked to his mom, showed him the new backpack filled with school supplies and he got in the car.
George would not talk the drive over. Finally I looked at him and said, look I am not just going to drop you off at the curb. I am going in with you and I am going to stay with you until you tell me you are ok. He looked up and smiled at me and I knew then he was going ot have a great day. We walked in and the principal came out and met George. He talked to him then found a counselor who was going to show him around to all of his classes and stay with him until he was ok. George gave me the thumbs up. I said are you sure? He said yep, I got this. George has not missed a day of school since.
It is our relationship with George, his mom, the clinic, the schools that makes it possible for him to be successful at school. Despite his mother’s untreated mental health and his battle with anxiety, he is there, at school headed for success. We need to keep going, work hard and continue to fight for our future, one kid at a time.