Monday, June 29, 2015

Office of Children and Youth in Transition receives national honor

The National Assistance League's Operation School Bell® Award was presented at a recent Board meeting by its local chapter to the San Diego Unified School District's Office of Children and Youth in Transition (CYT), led by Program Manager Vanessa Peters. The Assistance League of Greater San Diego forged a relationship with this office more than three years ago, and together they have developed a process that, in the last year alone, has enabled more than 200 of the hardest to reach children in San Diego to participate in Operation School  Bell (OSB). Peters is shown in photo holding the award with members of the local Assistance League.

Operation School Bell®, the signature philanthropy of the organization's 120  chapters nationwide,  began in the 1950's as a one-woman effort to provide clothing to disadvantaged children so that they could attend school. This year, Operation School Bell in Greater San Diego grew to provide new school necessities to more than 3,100 students in 70+ schools in eight school districts. Each child who visits Operation School Bell receives two complete school uniforms plus a jacket, underwear, socks, a hygiene kit, homework supplies and a brand new book. Satellite programs fit and purchase new clothing and shoes for qualified students at  community  retail stores. All  children  are  greeted  by  an  Assistance League (AL)  volunteer who guides them through the process  of selecting two complete outfits and needed supplies just for them.

The Office of Youth and Children in Transition works to support the continuity of education of students in transition including students in foster care, those experiencing homelessness, military dependents, and students who have refugee status. A goal of this office is to ensure students receive a quality education during transitional times when consistent attendance at a "home school" is too  often  interrupted.

A significant expansion of Assistance League of Greater San Diego's signature philanthropy - primarily supported with revenue from its Thrift Shop at First and University and donations from individuals and foundations - was made possible through collaboration with the office of Children and Youth in Transition. A series of special events brought busloads of 60 children at a time to AL's Chapter House in Hillcrest. CYT provides the bus, driver and supervision to travel across the city to pick up children in grades K through 6 whom have been identified as in critical need of assistance.

A group of eight educators from CYT welcomes the children to Operations School Bell and ensures professional supervision for the children while they wait their turn to try on clothes with an AL volunteer. As they wait, the children  are guided by the CYT team through the process of writing 'thank you' notes, building with Legos, making puzzles and playing educational games. When the last child is fitted with what may be his or her first new clothes and only book at home, the group gets back on the bus and each child is safely delivered to his school or family.

Assistance League of Greater San Diego nominated Office of Children and Youth in Transition for this national award for many reasons:

1. The staff has the expertise to identify children in need who are often missed by individual schools that may not have the chance to recognize their needs before they move on.

2. Educators worked with OSB leaders to work out a plan that works for our organizations' strengths and to meet the students' needs.

3. CYT has eliminated the transportation barrier that has limited OSB outreach to the neediest populations.

4. The events have been replicated with consistent success and positive outcomes.

5. Potential funders have attended the events, resulting in significant grant income to purchase clothing and supplies.

6. CYT has been a positive voice about Assistance League's impact on the community.

7. Presenting the award to CYT can bring public awareness of the needs of San Diego's school-aged population.

2015 marks the Assistance League of Greater San Diego's 50th year of serving San Diego. To learn more about the Assistance League of Greater San Diego and Operation School Bell, visit