The City of Vallejo, which is nestled geographically between San Francisco and Sacramento, has managed to capture its share of national headlines. In the late 1960’s, it was ground zero for the Zodiac Killer. In 2000, the abduction and murder of two Vallejo girls by Curtis Dean Anderson shocked the nation. In 2008, Vallejo became the largest California city (120,000 residents) to ever file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.
One would expect a city facing such challenges to struggle in places where headlines typically are not made. In this sense Vallejo is no different than many suburban cities across America. It too struggles in areas that are virtually invisible to the national lens but are well known by its residents.
Interestingly one of the hallmarks of Vallejo, which has escaped national attention, is its ethnic diversity. In fact, Vallejo is one of the most ethnically diverse cities of its size in the United States. However like many communities in America it is dying because the family is dying.
Perhaps it is because like many communities across America single parent households have become the rule rather than the exception. For if the community is only as strong as the families in that community are strong then the foundation of Vallejo’s communities were indeed crumbling.
Thus, in 1988 concerned Vallejo citizens along with the City Council formed a Red Ribbon committee to meaningfully address the rise of drugs, alcohol, truancy and youth violence. Fighting Back Partnership was conceived in an effort to undergird the psychological and social fabric of families and their subsequent neighborhoods in Vallejo.
It Takes A Village to Raise a Child
It is said that the “village” strategy considers saving the family or village even before casting lifelines to individuals who may have fallen through the cracks of convention primarily because of their disconnection from family and community.
Thus, Fighting Back Partnership has a family first initiative. From which it has launched three Family Resource Centers that are uniquely located in Vallejo neighborhoods. According to their mission statement, “Fighting Back Partnership is a non-profit collaboration that partners with business, residents, and government to improve neighborhoods, strengthen families, and support youth development creating a safe, healthy and thriving community.”
My personal experience with Fighting Back Partnership was a collaborative effort as part of a city task force team, which made a sincere effort to address the escalation of high school dropouts that at the time were fast approaching 50% percent amongst African American and Hispanic males as well as assuage the” turf” related rise of youth violence in Vallejo schools.
The Solano Mentoring Collaborative (SMC) is especially viable and is one of only 20 programs across the nation to receive Recovery Act (ARRA) funding through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). It provides men and women mentors for middle school and high school age youth. More than 37 tutors have been trained thus far to serve over 71 students with homework assistance.
In addition to providing Community service and training for 6 local high school students, necessary for graduation, the SMC also has trained 130 mentors who work with over 19 local agencies throughout the Bay Area.
Even though Fighting Back Partnership is confronted with many of the same economic challenges faced by similar nonprofits relative to federal funding, private funding and personal donations their commitment to the residents of Vallejo has not waned. Their tireless efforts will hopefully continue to increase Vallejo families’ capacity to be healthy, involved members of the community.