Delivering Impactful and Sustaining Programs in Service to Our Community
Alameda and Contra Costa counties are located in the San Francisco Bay Area and include 33 cities, and over 2.6M people. The Alameda Contra Costa Chapter of The Links, Incorporated (ACCL) targets East Oakland and the youth who live there as its community service program area. A needs assessment conducted in 2011 showed ACCL’s community service program area had a huge disparity in high school graduation rates among African American boys and girls; low test scores in science, math, health and technology fields, and an obesity rate of almost 30% in elementary school children. The decision to focus on STEAM education and workshops was made clear based on these disparities. ACCL established the Community Service Program in 2012 and named it, "Respect Yourself”. This transformational program consists of four components:
· Respect Your Health - Oral Health Initiative targets elementary school-aged children. HeartLinks, a partnership with the American Heart Association/Go Red to improve the cardiovascular health of African American women
· Respect Your Knowledge - Create educational activities focused on STEAM, financial literacy, English literacy, and International Affairs for elementary and middle school-aged children.
· Respect Your Family and Community - Provide education and programming to elementary and middle school-aged children targeting anti-bullying and environmental stewardship. Community Philanthropy via the Ann C. Cato Scholarship.
· Respect Your Creativity and Intuitiveness - Provide programming exposing elementary and middle school-aged children to arts and support emerging artists
Respect Yourself Youth Symposium, an annual event now in its twenty-third year, combines these components into a day of workshops focused on stimulating students’ interest in STEAM educational areas. The event is held at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland and is for middle school-aged students. An average of 125 students are typically in attendance.
ACCL’s Respect Yourself Umbrella Program has had a positive impact on the community in many ways, including:
· Improving the cardiovascular health of African American Women
· Conducting workshops that contribute to the reduction of obesity in children
· Improving student literacy rates and increasing students’ appreciation of books and writing
· Exposing children to the Arts
· Providing STEAM education and curricula to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Saint Leo the Great schools, fostering a desire to graduate from high school and go to college
· Serving as role models for youth to encourage their ability to achieve beyond their environment
The success of the Respect Yourself Umbrella Program is based upon chapter members serving on one of five facets:
Arts · National Trends and Services · Health and Human Services · Services to Youth · International Trends and Services
Each facet develops programs and activities targeting youth ages 8 through 14 which are facilitated throughout the year.
· Arts – Conducts a biennial National Poster Arts competition with guided workshops at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School and Saint Leo the Great School. The competition includes monetary prizes. This year, the Arts Facet partnered with the Oakland Ballet and hosted a “Discover Dance” performance at both schools. During the holiday season, bicycles are awarded to students who have perfect attendance. The Arts facet is also the organizing facet for our 21st annual Respect Yourself Youth Symposium.
· National Trends and Services - Conducts financial literacy and anti-bullying workshops at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School and Saint Leo the Great School. This year, National Trends began a new partnership with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office to provide workshops and guest speakers to the Young Women's Saturday Program, a program designed to meet the specific needs of young women who have been sexually exploited and trafficked.
· Health and Human Services, (HHS) in partnership with the National Dental Association hosts an annual Colgate Dental mobile clinic at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School to examine and access the dental health of those students. The Facet also created the HHS Passport, distributed within ACCL to organize and record healthy lifestyle habits of our Link sisters. Other activities are aligned with the Links national health initiatives-Breast Cancer Awareness, Heart Healthy, HIV-AIDS, Childhood Obesity and Mental Health Awareness.
· Services to Youth – The monthly, Reading Links to Living Girls book club at East Oakland Youth Development Center is now operating in its 20th year. It is a popular club for girls 8-12 and serves as a place to develop the love of reading, writing, journaling, and public speaking. The book club is visited by local authors and, it also sponsors field trips to area museums and libraries in order to expose and expand the knowledge base of the girls.
· International Trends and Services - Conducts workshops at Saint Leo the Great School and the East Oakland Youth Development Center utilizing a United Nations format to depict the lives and plight of children in Haiti and Jamaica. The workshops include fund raising projects developed and led by the students to purchase items to help children from Haiti and Jamaica such as mosquito nets.
Our Respect Yourself Umbrella program is sustained by our institutional leadership affiliations and relations. Each year our chapters’ strategic planning process aligns our objectives with the needs of the target audience through a review of both their needs and our national initiatives. This annual exercise allows for integrated involvement, strong partnerships, and focused community service. Our community partners include:
· Alameda County American Heart Association, providing heart health education and screening for African American women in our community.
· The Berkeley Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated assists with our annual Respect Yourself Youth Symposium.
· The East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), an award winning 501c3 nonprofit youth center established in 1978, and a community partner for twenty years is the location of our Reading Links to Living Girls book club. This Youth Center provides a safe haven for learning and growth for more than 2,000 youth and young adults.
· Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in West Oakland, a public school serving kindergarten through 5th grade students. This schools' population is 60% African American, and 82% of the students are eligible for the free lunch program. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School has been a community partner since 2014.
· Money Wise Financial Groups, a financial literacy partnership of Consumer Action and Capital One, assists with our Financial Literacy Program.
· Saint Leo the Great School, a pre-kindergarten to 8th grade school serving families of which 20% live below the poverty line and a sizable number of children require tuition assistance. Saint Leo the Great School has been a community partner for a decade.
· Samuel Merritt University, providing the facility for our annual Respect Yourself Symposium.