As summer quickly approaches, many parents are picking out the perfect camps and planning out summer schedules for their children. For many of the families that Empower Yolo serves, children lack resources and opportunities during the summer, this can mean fewer enriching activities and limited peer interactions. For children staying in Empower Yolo’s safe house, summer may not be fun and carefree, but may lead to more stress and isolation for these children. 

Summertime at Empower Yolo’s safe house-

Empower Yolo’s child advocates are preparing ways to provide fun, healthy and enriching summer activities for the children residing at our emergency safe house. “This summer Empower Yolo hopes to combine fitness, wellness, and recreation programs for our kids at the safe house through a wide variety of programs, which include crafts, sports, outdoor activities, and field trips. We hope to provide our youth with experiences that will encourage leadership, teamwork, friendship skills, communication, and responsibility, all while having fun,” says Patricia Cortez, Empower Yolo, senior child advocate.

Parents at the safe house are not only trying to keep their children safe, but like many parents they are trying to find summer activities for their children. Families at the shelter have additional barriers and many kids struggle with other issues. “Children in the safe house typically struggle with communication skills, peer-to-peer interactions, and the lack of resources available to them. This can lead to feeling isolated from their friends or peers during the summer,” says Cortez.  As with other issues around equity and inclusion for these children, not all summer experiences are created equally. “With the lack of resources available to our families in the safe house it is hard to take children on vacation, enroll them in summer camps or attend field trips,” says Cortez. This summer, Empower Yolo wants to change this to create its own summer camp experience for the children in a warm, welcoming, safe environment where the children can flourish and grow with new experiences. 

With the necessary resources and funding the children in the safe house can safely engage in a wide variety of activities that will be supervised by Empower Yolo staff and volunteers.  Along with Cortez, two new child advocates, Tyler Geike and Pammi Singh are helping to support the children at the shelter.
“Our vision is really to provide an opportunity to create positive experiences while serving as an inviting center, and fostering a culture of engagement and community for our kids,” says Cortez.  

The community can help by making monetary donations to Empower Yolo’s summer camp and/or donate experiences such as pool passes, or movie tickets. Items for water play, outdoor activities, materials for crafting projects, art supplies, and snacks are also welcome. These types of donations are greatly appreciated for the families and children at the shelter.  

One quote the shelter staff live by is “one hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” – Forest E. Witcraft, teacher/scholar. “We hope to create lifelong memories and skills that our children can cherish for a lifetime. This is our next generation; let’s help make a difference in their lives,” says Cortez. 

After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) summer programming-

Empower Yolo’s ASSETs team is planning and organizing leadership and athletic activities for teens at Woodland and Pioneer High Schools.  

ASSETs is collaborating with local partners to offer the Freshman Leadership Academy (FLA). Now in its third year, FLA is a five-week program running from June 21 to July 23. It will focus on supporting incoming first year students as they transition into high school through programming focused on leadership development, social-emotional learning, and academic success. FLA is made possible through the generous support of Woodland Joint Unified School District, UC Davis Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP), Travis Credit Union, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, and the City of Woodland.  “We look forward to welcoming incoming freshmen and preparing them to be leaders within their high schools,” says Tony Morales, ASSETs Youth/Parent Engagement Specialist.

There will be a variety of interactive workshops and activities throughout FLA. “Each staff member from both ASSETs and EAOP has worked hard on lesson plans and scheduling in order to get the most out of the time we have with students each day. We also want to make sure that students are having fun and building unique relationships with one another focusing heavily on team-building activities. Our goal is always to empower students and create spaces for them to feel heard so with each lesson plan, activity, icebreaker and game we put together we keep this in mind,” says Morales. 

The ASSETs team welcomes and encourages community support in increasing awareness of safe and enriching engagement opportunities for youths this summer. “Our hope with these programs is for our students to have safe outlets to be physically, academically and socially engaged with role models that can help them develop leadership, personal responsibility, and academic self-regulation skills,” says Fabian Iglesias, Empower Yolo Director of Youth Programs, ASSETs Program Manager. 

In addition to FLA, ASSETs and Woodland High School (WHS) are collaborating to host a summer sports camp with coaches and teachers from WHS. The program will include football strength and conditioning from June 14 – July 23; and open gym from June 21 – July 30. Open gym will provide space to play intramural soccer, basketball, and for boxing sessions with WHS alum, professional boxer, and former Olympian, Vicente Escobedo. “There will be an array of sports activities offered to keep students engaged throughout the summer,” says Morales. 

 This year’s summer sports program developed through a collaborative effort between ASSETs and WHS athletics staff, particularly teacher/coaches Javier Marin and Alberto Tamayo, which ensures the best experience possible for student athletes by providing proper equipment and equitable meeting times during the summer. “WHS athletics staff expressed the need for providing additional opportunities for youths to become active and get outdoors after a long year of remaining indoors due to COVID-19 restrictions and distance learning. Recognizing that not all students have had an opportunity to return to physical fitness activities outside the home, our summer programming provides an opportunity for students to get active and improve their fitness,” says Paola Pretell, ASSETs/La Semilla site coordinator, WHS.

Program goals are to support students’ social emotional growth. “Due to the challenges of the past year and the ongoing pandemic, many of our programs over the summer will focus on the social emotional needs of our youth. FLA has social emotional learning built directly into the curriculum to help support some of those needs, while ASSETs summer sports will address the social and physical wellness of our students. Both programs have been carefully planned and designed to provide healthy outlets for students’ stress and anxiety, as well as provide opportunities to safely socialize and re-engage in outdoor activities,” says Pretell.  

The community can support our teens by helping us spread the word about these programs. We hope that each student who is in search of a safe and productive space is aware of the opportunities we are offering to them throughout the summer.  We also encourage the local community to advocate for any and all programs making a difference in the lives of their students.  If you are interested in donating towards Empower Yolo’s youth programs visit: empoweryolo.org. 

If you have any questions please reach out to Paola Pretell at [email protected] or Tony Morales at [email protected]“We anticipate this year will be an amazing opportunity for students to learn about their community and the plethora of opportunities that await them in their high school careers and beyond,” says Morales.

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