Proyecto/Project HEROES, a community-based participatory research program led by Drs. Maryam Kia-Keating and Jessica Adams of CALM, welcomes all members of the community to attend Nuestras Escuelas: Voces de la Comunidad (Our Schools: Voices from the Community), a Bilingual Community Forum, 11:30 am - 3 pm, Saturday, May 31st at Franklin School (1111 E. Mason St., Santa Barbara). This event is co-sponsored by Las Abuelitas of Santa Barbara with the support of parents, youth, and 15 other community organizations and partners. Lunch and childcare will be provided. The event will offer the community an opportunity to engage in a mutual dialogue, with a focus on factors that both support and interfere with the academic progress of Latino youth.
After a series of violent incidents and suicides involving young people in Santa Barbara County, a number of efforts to address violence have been initiated in the past seven years. These have included creating response teams, and holding meetings and summits to better understand the complex issues influencing violence and how to prevent it. Through these discussions, community leaders, social services agencies, parents, and youth have pointed to the need to address the traumatic effects of violence exposure, attending to contributing factors such as poverty, discrimination and other stressors, and the importance of education in the schools.
Proyecto HEROES was formed as a community collaborative in January of 2014 through a three-year grant (Principal Investigators Drs. Maryam Kia-Keating (UCSB) and Jessica Adams (CALM)) from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). HEROES stands for Honor, Educación, Respeto, Opportunidad, Esperanza, Solutiones (Honor, Education, Respect, Opportunity, Hope, and Solutions). The two primary goals of this collaborative are: 1) to foster grassroots dialogue about the impact of violence and trauma on all facets of Latino youths’ lives, and through this exchange 2) to promote community informed prevention and intervention efforts.
Synchronously, Las Abuelitas of Santa Barbara was forming around the time that Proyecto HEROES emerged. Spearheaded by Dr. Barbara Lotito, Las Abuelitas of Santa Barbara has taken the approach of empowering and mobilizing female elders to mentor and advocate for youth and families. “It was a beautiful act of fate that brought these efforts together,” says Lotito. “Las Abuelitas were excited to participate in the Collaborative and join forces to hold this community forum, because it met so many of our mutual goals.”
In order to foster a dialogue reflecting the various perspectives of school personnel, parents, students, and others concerned with the education of local Latino students, the May 31st forum will begin with a panel including Monique Limón of the Santa Barbara School Board; Ismael Huerta, Youth Outreach Worker SB Unified School District; Linda Guereña, Dos Pueblos High School Bilingual Community Coordinator; Mayra Perez, parent; Nayra Pacheco, Santa Barbara Youth Organizer Future Leaders of America, Inc.; Sergio Castellanos, San Marcos High School (SMHS) Guidance Counselor, and SMHS photovoice project student representatives. “Photovoice is an exciting approach designed to give voice to populations, like youth, who rarely have an equitable say in what happens in their lives,” explains Kia-Keating. “At the forum, the students will have the opportunity to share their thought-provoking photographs with their community. Through their images and descriptions, we can learn a lot about their world, their needs, and their ideas for social change.” Small group roundtable discussions will follow, ending with specific suggestions to improve Latino students’ opportunities for success.
“We are thrilled to have these inspiring panelists speaking on Saturday,” says Adams. “We feel so fortunate to have a team of amazing collaborators. Since we began, we have interacted with so many truly phenomenal people in our community who are dedicated to improving the lives of our youth. We’ve been inspired by each other’s work which has made this collaboration a more meaningful experience for everyone.”
The Collaborative includes: CALM, Community Action Commission, Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Domestic Violence Solutions, Isla Vista Youth Projects, Just Communities, La Casa De La Raza, Las Abuelitas of Santa Barbara, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Santa Barbara City Council, Santa Barbara Police Department, Santa Barbara Response Network, Santa Barbara Unified School District, South Coast Youth Gang Task Force, UCSB, and the YMCA.
Funding for this conference was made possible (in part) by Grant 1 R13 HD075495-01A1 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention by trade names, commercial practices or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Las Abeulitas of Santa Barbara operate under the auspices of Art Without Limits.