California State University, Long Beach
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CSULB Latino Center Receives $900,000 Grant for Project YES!

Published: December 15, 2009

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded a $899,931 grant to the National Council of La Raza-Cal State Long Beach Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation and Leadership Training (NCLR-CSULB Center for Latino Community Health) for a project aimed at improving the health and academic achievement of Latino middle school youth.

The project, called “Youth Empowerment for Success! (YES!) Si Se Puede,” will provide academic mentoring, digital media skills, career development, college preparation and physical fitness activities to youth from Alexander Hamilton Middle School in North Long Beach.

The three-year grant was one of just 12 community projects awarded nationwide by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health. The YES! Project will run through August 2012.

“The YES! Project combines volunteer work with a rich array of campus and community resources to provide incredible support to at-risk Latino youth,” said Britt Rios-Ellis, CSULB professor of Health Science, director of the NCLR/CSULB Center and principal investigator for the project. “We hope to create a Latino-centered program that can serve as a model for academic success and well-being. We also hope to give Latino youth the culturally and linguistically relevant support needed to grow as leaders in their communities.”

Through a collaborative effort of the NCLR/CSULB Center, the Fairfield Family YMCA, Alexander Hamilton Middle School and other university partners, the project will promote physical fitness, sexual health, mental well-being, violence prevention and academic success among sixth- through eighth-grade Latino youth. Additionally, CSULB students will provide mentoring at the local Fairfield Family YMCA and will welcome youth participants to campus for workshops designed to prepare them to be future college students.

The goals of YES! are to increase academic success; enhance personal development, life skills and health/wellness; provide information about career options and paths; increase participants’ desire to attend college; and to nurture cultural strengths that can be used to promote health and academic success.

“We focus on Latino youth, as they, more than any other Long Beach population, are at risk for obesity, diabetes and lack adequate access to health care,” Rios-Ellis explained. “As the largest demographic Latino youth truly represent the future of Southern California and increased attention needs to be placed on incorporating Latino culturally specific resiliency factors, such as family unity, and integrating them into middle-childhood and adolescent programs. This will enable us to transcend the historically individualized message of educational success and well-being and integrate the Latino family and community.”

Latino Grant
José Pio (l) is the lead mentor for the project.

CSULB mentors will provide weekly support at the Fairfield Family YMCA and youth will participate in award-winning digital media classes on Saturdays. Campus partners including the Career Development Center, Leadership Academy, Multicultural Center, and Mi Casa Mi Universidad, will provide monthly on-campus specialized workshops to enhance participants’ academic and career development, and leadership and violence prevention skills.

During the summer, participants will receive full scholarships to the CSULB Academic Enrichment Camp and the 49er Sports Camp to strengthen academic development and engage in recreational and sporting activities.

Project staff are currently recruiting one CSULB graduate and four undergraduate students to serve as interns and mentors for the project, as well as recruiting Hamilton Middle School youth participants. CSULB interns will receive training in community participatory research methodology and mentoring skills.

José Pio, CSULB/UC Irvine M.D., M.P.H. student and lead mentor for the project, captured the enthusiasm of the entire project team “I’m really looking forward to working on the YES! Project. It will really make a difference in our community and kids’ lives.”

For more information about the project, contact the NCLR/CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation, and Leadership Training at 562/985-5312.