The Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood

March 21, 2014 | Jose Mireles, Program Director, Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood


Many who have been in the field of social service for years understand that partnerships and collaborations are instrumental in leveraging resources to maximize the supports needed in their community. This has been particularly the case in South San Diego, California.

Many who have been in the field of social service for years understand that partnerships and collaborations are instrumental in leveraging resources to maximize the supports needed in their community. This has been particularly the case in South San Diego, California. Since 1971, South Bay Community Services (SBCS) has worked closely with many organizations in San Diego County to provide services that address the multifaceted needs of a border community. SBCS is a nonprofit, multiservice organization that began as a small drop-in center for drug-abusing teens. Since then, SBCS has grown to an organization of more than 480 employees with a variety of programs that range from housing for seniors to services for children ages 0 to 5.

The road to such growth started the moment we paid close attention to the deeper needs of the community. What was first seen as a need to help youth going through drug abuse challenges soon led us to the realization that youth were using drugs as a way to escape domestic violence in the home, or as a coping mechanism for homelessness. We then took on the challenge of addressing those rooted issues affecting our community. Soon enough, these issues became so numerous that, in order to make meaningful impact, it was necessary to bring in organizations with the experience and resources to directly affect these issues. As a result, SBCS has been privileged to build partnerships with key organizations in the fields of law enforcement, social services, local businesses, nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations, local governments, and more. It made perfect sense to reach out to these organizations because we were all striving to achieve the same goal: to make communities places where children, youth, and families can thrive, feel safe, and enjoy lives of self-fulfillment.

The past 43 years provided the network and experience to bring a Promise Neighborhood to our community. The Promise Neighborhood Initiative, funded by the US Department of Education, was designed to bring “cradle-to-college” supports to specific neighborhoods nationwide. Our first year as a Promise Neighborhood started as a planning site. SBCS conducted a comprehensive needs and segmentation analysis of the community. In partnership with San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a network of 18 cities and governments focused on regional decision making and strategic planning, we set out to gather data about our community through door-to-door surveying and focus groups. In addition, we used Promotoras, an organization of community outreach workers recruited from the very same community we studied. With the support of SANDAG and Promotoras, we surveyed the community and conducted extensive research and, as a result, designed the most up-to-date data package with information on the community’s strengths, challenges, and needs. The segmentation analysis provided us with the knowledge necessary to design a continuum, or pipeline of solutions, which is our framework for implementing a cradle-to-college system in our community.

Becoming an implementation site was not easy. The implementation phase meant delivering the cradle-to-career system to the community. In pursuing the Promise Neighborhood implementation grant, it was necessary to bring together even more partners who could commit matching funds and in-kind supports, totaling close to $30 million. SBCS had experience bringing together partners to match funding, but nothing close to the magnitude presented by Promise Neighborhood. In the end, the years of partnership development preceding Promise Neighborhood made this possible. Many partners were already aware of the communities we were serving through various other programs and saw the potential in this community. Together, we designed programs that aligned perfectly with the continuum of solutions. In a way, we were all one step ahead in the design of the initiative, and it was only a matter of coming together to target a specific neighborhood. The greatest challenges were experienced in this first year of implementation, which concluded in 2013, but SBCS and our partners created ways for the various organizational systems to link together seamlessly and allow for smooth transitions throughout the various stages of Promise Neighborhood.

It has been an amazing year of growth and development, and we look forward to a new year in implementation. Our ultimate goal for the Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood is to improve opportunities for children and families, create sustainability, lift communities out of poverty, and improve the overall quality of life though better education and strengthened partnerships.

As program director of the Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood, Jose Mireles is responsible for oversight of the cradle-to-career continuum of services for students/families in the Castle Park neighborhood of Chula Vista, California. Mr. Mireles oversees a staff of more than 100 employees and a $5 million program budget, all working to turn around Castle Park schools and the entire Castle Park neighborhood. Mr. Mireles is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been with the agency since 2009 and has worked in the nonprofit sector helping underserved populations for more than 10 years. He will be speaking about this topic in May at the NCCD Conference on Children, Youth, and Families.