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Internships, child care and youth master plan among top priorities for new San Diego office
San Diego Union-Tribune - 8/9/2022
San Diego's new Office of Child and Youth Success is creating the city's first youth master plan, crafting new internship programs focused on careers, reenergizing the San Diego Youth Commission and trying to solve the city's shortage of available child care.
The office, launched this spring after young people complained about a lack of activities and support during the pandemic, is also focused on smaller things such as adding a special section for children and youth to Balboa Park's annual December Nights celebration.
Council President Sean Elo-Rivera praised the new office and its executive director last week for quickly laying the groundwork for the first city agency ever to focus on how San Diego's policies, projects and challenges affect young people.
He pointed to the efforts by executive director Andrea O'Hara, who was hired in April, to create the new December Nights special section.
"Families are going to have a better experience at this very important event," Elo-Rivera said. "It's small, but I think it's really indicative. No matter what we're doing, whether it's a major event or passing an important policy, there is someone here at the city of San Diego looking out for our young people."
While the office serves all young people in the city, a key part of its mission is boosting access to opportunities and resources for young people of color and those who come from low-income families.
O'Hara is launching a year-long effort to create a youth master plan focused on making it easier for young people to get around, find good jobs, secure housing, cope with homelessness and access health care.
The master plan, which will be based on focus groups held across the city, will also address education, college admissions, apprenticeships, mental health, immigration concerns and resources for healthy relationships.
Input will also come from the city's Youth Commission, which O'Hara intends to re-energize with new members and new initiatives.
"The Youth Commission has really started to gear up," she told the City Council last week.
O'Hara is also helping to craft a youth career pathway program that could become a model for public school districts and community colleges. It is funded by state grant money.
Students will explore general principles of business, finance, career preparation, economics, management, marketing and entrepreneurship, with an emphasis on collaboration, communication and technological applications, she said.
Assignments are expected to include hands-on learning experiences, including internship work, outreach to industry professionals, job shadowing and career research.
Another focus of the new office is addressing San Diego's shortage of available for child care, especially for the city's 11,000 workers.
The office is helping coordinate a search for new child care sites, supporting a November ballot measure that would allow for child care facilities in city parks and helping determine how much the city can contribute financially to possible solutions.
In coming months, O'Hara said she plans to hire two more employees to positions that are covered in the city's budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. The city is slated to spend $444,000 on the office this fiscal year.
She also plans to launch an Office of Child and Youth Success website.
"We need to make sure the city of San Diego is a place where our families want to ensure their children grow up," O'Hara said. "We're seeing this trend throughout the United States where these offices are popping up and being very successful."
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.
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