Investing in our schools and the future of our local teens is very important to us at Empower Yolo. As we begin a new school year, we are hopeful the community will further support our efforts to sustain our after school youth programs in local high schools.
Empower Yolo’s After School Safety & Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) program supports local teens in Woodland and Knights Landing. ASSETs partners with schools and communities to provide academic support and safe, constructive alternatives for high school students. More than just an after school program, Woodland ASSETs team creates genuine connections with high school youth and families, and provides unique opportunities for the development of life and leadership skills. The program operates after school, weekends, summer, intersession, and vacation periods.
For the past 10 years, the ASSETs program has partnered with the Woodland Joint Unified School District (WJUSD) to offer after school programs at both Woodland Senior High School (WHS) and at Pioneer High School (PHS) with federal grant funding. Each campus has an ASSETs student resource center: The WHS the program, “La Semilla” and the PHS program, P.O.P. (Pioneer Opportunity Program) operate Monday-Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
The ASSETs program also ensures equitable access and support for WHS and PHS youth residing in Knights Landing (KL) at the Empower Yolo Knights Landing Family Resource Center. ASSETs serves KL youth with after school programs. Students in KL are offered academic tutoring support, community service opportunities, higher education and financial aid application assistance, family resource connections and bus passes to help with transportation to school. Without this programming these students would be greatly underserved.
“The ASSETs grant purpose is to engage at-risk youth and decrease high school dropout and truancy rates, teen drug and alcohol use, and gang violence/affiliation,” says Jessica Olivares, ASSETs program director at Empower Yolo. “The staff is highly committed to the success of the WHS and PHS programs. They work closely with students, respect their voices and model positive behavior. Integrating the services of Empower Yolo within each campus site has made many resources and community services available to youth and their families,” Olivares says.
The mission of Empower Yolo’s ASSETs team is to create genuine connections with high school youth and families and provide unique opportunities for the development of life and leadership skills. The program encourages families and the community to be supportive and involved. The program works to address identified student needs, and increase student achievement, connectedness to school and the community, and access to support services using the youth development approach.
The program promotes equity, access, inclusion and diversity, which is evident through the list of diverse program activities and offers a variety of youth-centered activities including: academic support (tutoring, literacy instruction, homework help), Cyber High credit recovery, support for English Learners, college and career readiness and support.
Through the ASSETs program students can attend a wide variety of enrichment programs that have been developed with student input and support. All clubs are student-led, providing an opportunity for leadership development. Because our clubs have some type of culminating project or performance, they build communication and creativity skills. Daily, students take on leadership roles in clubs and other after school activities, leading recruitment and organizational efforts. Some clubs have focus on critical thinking, and some highlight creativity, such as the Spoken Word club, Mural Club, Baile Folklorico, Drumline, Drop CIty Dance Club, Latin Dance Club, and K-POP Dance Club.
The ASSETs program has proven success. Past program evaluation indicates a strong positive relationship between after-school program attendance and regular school attendance. Students who participated in the ASSETs program demonstrated a higher level of regular school attendance than those who did not. Furthermore, those who attended ASSETs for 30 days or more demonstrate better average attendance than those who attended for less than 30 days. In the 2018-2019 school year, ASSETs WHS & PHS reached 67,293 impressions (each time a student attends an ASSETs program). 54,639 impressions were reached in the 2017-2018 school year, showing a large increase in student involvement and community partner collaborations in ASSETs programming.
The ASSETs program is highly successful with support from WJUSD leadership, WHS and PHS administrative teams, teachers, coaches, tutors, volunteers, and partnerships with local non-profit and academic organizations. This summer, ASSETs partnered with UC Davis Early Academic Outreach Program to facilitate the 2019 Freshman Leadership Academy (FLA). 50 incoming WHS and PHS 9th grade students were recruited to complete an empowering 5-week leadership program focused on Gallup Top 5 Strengths, College Knowledge, life skills, and weekly UC and CSU campus tours. The 9th grade students were offered community service hours and raffle prizes from local donors as incentives. Program partners and stakeholders are excited to see the results of the summer leadership program as the students enter their first year of their high school, prepared for success.
Sergio Gonzalez, a recent 2019 PHS graduate, speaks of his experience at the ASSETs P.O.P. Room, “They always gave me advice, checked my grades, always pushed me to do my best in school, and helped with scholarship and college applications. Thanks to their application guidance, I was accepted by several universities with financial aid and will be starting at UC Davis in the fall with a focus in Civil Engineering.”
Every five years, Empower Yolo must reapply through the California Department of Education (CDE) for the ASSETs federal grant funds to continue program operations. This year the application process included scoring based on the Free and Reduced Price Meal percentages. PHS was not awarded the ASSETs grant. Woodland High received funding, however this news has resulted in a loss of ASSETs grant funded programs and services for 1,530 Pioneer High students this upcoming school year.
“We are committed to keeping this program at both schools next year and have been actively seeking funding to continue the programs at both schools,” said Lynnette Irlmeier, Executive Director of Empower Yolo. “We know this program means a great deal to the students.”
Luis Torres, who recently graduated from PHS this past June, worked late night shifts throughout his senior year to support himself and regularly participated in the ASSETs program. “The closure of this program would affect everyone. Thanks to ASSETs staff, I have grown and overcome the challenges faced from having to repeat my senior year. The program gave me the opportunity to participate in new experiences and meet new people. The Learning Center was also a fundamental place for me to get help from tutors in subjects where I was having trouble learning. This was my last year at Pioneer and this program was the best in providing me with the support I needed to graduate. I want this program to continue for many generations after me,” Torres says.
The community can get involved with ASSETs by becoming program volunteers, after-school club advisors, inviting community presenters to inform our parents of new resources, and ways to collaborate with our local community stakeholders to implement new programming. The community is always welcome to donate funding for program incentives to increase student participation such as gift cards, club equipment, shirts and supplies. To donate please go to empoweryolo.org.
For more information on ASSETs see each school’s ASSETs website and contact information: Woodland High School ASSETs, La Semilla at: https://whs.wjusd.org/Students/Assets-La-Semilla/index.html; or Pioneer High School ASSETs, P.O.P. (Pioneer Opportunity Program) at: https://phs.wjusd.org/Staff/Pioneer-Opportunity-Program-P-O-P-/index.html.