SPOTLIGHT: Community Partnership for Youth
Naturally Nurturing – Community Partnership for Youth cultivates students who become its next leaders.
By Mark C. Anderson
On a warm autumn afternoon on the playground at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Seaside, with the sunset sprawling pastel pinks and blues on the sky, Community Partnership for Youth’s “big idea” is everywhere.
It kicks a soccer ball back and forth with a handful of kids. It talks with a visitor and CPY youngsters about growing up in Seaside. It offers encouragement to the child guitarist working on his first songs. It dribbles a basketball around on a nearby court, tossing a shot over a student’s windmilling arms.
Like each of the 158 nonprofits participating in this 2017’s MCGives! fundraising push, CPY prioritized a project, aka its Big Idea, for support. For CPY’s tutoring-mentoring-enrichment afterschool programs, also in place at Del Rey Woods, Highland and Ord Terrace elementary schools and Walter Colton Middle School, it is young leaders. More specifically, it’s the High School Leadership, Life Skills & Job Preparation program that grooms junior leaders to be paid high school staffers – and the lifeblood of the organization.
“It might sound corny, but it’s all about the relationships,” says Assistant Program Director Ray Adams. “When you’ve been in the program, it’s common ground.”
A quick survey of the staff reveals decades of familiarity with what many describe as “the CPY family.” One was getting help on homework at CPY since first grade, another pre-K. A smiling Armando Iglesias, a high school junior, says he wasn’t planning on being a role model, but that’s where the program led him. “I didn’t want to have leadership role at first,” he says. “I just wanted to stay in the program. Now being a [leader], it makes me look at my old leaders differently.”
Ben Bruce can identify. When he was in middle school his single mom needed a safe place for him and his sister. He didn’t want to participate in CPY, let alone be a junior leader – “I was quiet,” he says, “just trying to fit in” – until he was paired with a mentor supervising second-graders. “He made me feel valued,” Bruce says. “He gave me a voice and made me want to keep working, to step up and help out.” 1
That hasn’t stopped. Today Bruce is the nonprofit’s program director and celebrating 18 years with CPY. “This is a program that has designed itself to support its young people from kinder through high school and beyond,” he says. “But those students working in high school have been through it and relate best. It makes their leadership that much more powerful to the younger students.”