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An exciting start to 2013

Family Engagement Network

Collective Action; Collective Impact

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Despite the prevalence of prosperity on the Central Coast, there are significant disparities that are undermining the health of our schools and the health of our communities. These disparities negatively impact Latino, African American, and Native American students and include: significantly lower grade point averages and test scores; under-enrollment in honors and advanced placement courses; disproportionately higher rates of suspension and enrollment in special-needs classes; and lower rates of high school graduation and college preparedness, acceptance, attendance, and completion.

The high school dropout rate for Latino students is three times what it is for white students. Add to this an under-representation of people of color in teaching, counseling, administrative, and school board positions within our school systems and it is easy to see why, on whatever measure one uses, from the SAT to the Stanford Nine, there exists a persistent achievement gap. This gap is detrimental to the success of all students and to our communities as a whole.

Just Communities has been working with Central Coast schools and districts to eliminate these disparities since 2001. Our newest initiative is a partnership between ourselves, Future Leaders of America, The Parent Project, and United Parents-Padres Unidos. Each of our organizations has worked hard to help increase and improve parent involvement through education, leadership development, and advocacy. Each of us have had successes. But, we've found over the years that as effective as we are on our own, we are even more effective when we work together.

As a result, we are excited to announce the launch of the Family Engagement Network. The Family Engagement Network is premised on the fact that active parent involvement is a key component in the success of students. Research has established that one of the most effective, and financially efficient, ways to improve student outcomes is by strengthening parent involvement. There is a wealth of data demonstrating that when parent involvement increases, so does student achievement (Rosenberg & Lopez, 2010; Harvard Family Research Project, 2006 and 2007). When parents are active and engaged in their children's schools, the results are quantitatively and qualitatively improved. Research also shows that, despite what some may believe, "The level of parent involvement at schools is not determined by parent interest or apathy. The level of parent involvement is determined by whether or not appropriate strategies and structures are in place to facilitate the participation of parents." (Milbrey McLaughlin, Stanford University).

Over the course of the next year, The Family Engagement Network will work to bring together all organizations and programs in Santa Barbara who share our vision of active parents, strong families, effective schools, and just communities. Utilizing a Collective Impact framework the Family Engagement Network will serve as a backbone structure to support and facilitate the development of a common agenda for parent engagement throughout our community, the creation of shared measurement systems that will help us assess our effectiveness and our impact, the alignment of the efforts of each participating organization and school system to ensure they are strategic and mutually reinforcing, and the creation of a structure that will allow for continuous communication between partners and between parents.

In doing so, we believe the Family Engagement Network will alter the landscape of our schools such that parents of all economic and ethnic backgrounds have equal access to participation and have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to be successful advocates and supports for their children's academic success.

The Family Engagement Network is currently seeking a full-time Coordinator. Click here for a job description and application instructions.

Applications are due February 1st.

For more information about the Family Engagement Network or to join, please contact Jarrod Schwartz at

Festival of Lights

A Bright End to 2012

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We are pleased to have once again partnered with the Anti-Defamation League this December to host the Festival of Lights at the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Public Library.

This annual event brings together various cultural-faith communities to explore the traditions behind their respective holidays. Represented this year were Enlightenment Day, Eid al-Adha, Christmas, Las Posadas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa.

Participants at the event were able to learn about differences and explore commonalities as we celebrated the light - both literal and spiritual - which characterizes each holiday tradition. Every year, this event serves as a reminder of the sacred connections we have to our community and to one another, and highlights the strength found in our diversity.

Be sure to keep an eye out for information regarding next years event. Festival of Lights is free to the public and family friendly.

Special thanks go out to the presenters who made this year's event possible:

Rev. Henry Toryo Adams, Buddhist Church of Santa Barbara

Rev. Dr. Hillary Chrisley, First United Methodist Church

Rabbi Evan Goodman, Santa Barbara Hillel

Gabriela Gutierrez, St. Mark's University Parish

Keith Marshall, on behalf of the African-American community

Imam Yama Niazi, Islamic Society of Santa Barbara

SAVE THE DATE: The 2013 Festival of Lights will be held onTuesday, Decemeber 10, 2013. More information to come.

Meet Our Board

Lucky Lynch

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"I had the privilege of working for NCCJ for 21 years and in that time had the opportunity to work with Jarrod Schwartz as he established the Central Coast Office. When I moved to Ventura in 2005 I was asked to join the board and agreed because it provides opportunities for supporting this important justice and anti-oppression work. Just Communities is an important organization in the region as everyone on the staff works with respect, skill, sensitivity and creativity to initiate and collaborate on programs that improve equity and inclusion for all residents. I am grateful to work with other Board Members who are committed to insuring that the work continues for many years to come."

Thank You Southern California Edison!

"Southern California Edison's gift is an investment in our community's young people and, through them, in our collective future. We hope this gift represents the start of a long relationship between SCE and Just Communities/CLI."

Jarrod Schwartz, Executive Director, Just Communities

Southern California Edison has presented a $5,000 donation to the Santa Barbara-based nonprofit Just Communities for its Adopt-a-School program for Community Leadership Institute (CLI) scholarships.

Because of So. Cal. Edison's generosity 6 local students who would not have otherwise been able to afford the tuition, were able to attend CLI 2012.


Click below to read more about this sponsorship in both Noozhawk and The Santa Barbara Independent.


A Record Year...

Thanks to you!

Thanks to your support Just Communities enjoyed the most successful year-end appeal response in our history!

Not only did we beat our year-end goal by 20%, but we were also able to raise $1,500 more than we ever have from a single year-end appeal.

As a grass roots community organization, every dollar makes a huge difference for us. Thank you for your support!

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