United Way of Santa Cruz County and Cradle to Career Santa Cruz County (C2C) are moving forward with a new partnership that stregthens and expands equity-focused school-based organizing and support in Live Oak and 3 new school districts.

Photo Credit: SHMUEL THALER - Santa Cruz Sentinel

United Way of Santa Cruz County and Cradle to Career Santa Cruz County (C2C) are
moving forward with a new partnership that strengthens and expands
equity-focused school-based family organizing and support in Live Oak and 3 new
school districts: Santa Cruz City Schools, San Lorenzo Valley Unified, and Soquel

The new partnership reflects continued collaboration across organizations within the
county that are working to build communities of support for children, youth, and their
families. This will extend the reach of C2C, supporting more families to share their hopes
and dreams for their children, removing barriers for family engagement at school sites, and
supporting school communities through integrated activities & support services informed
and led by families. This expansion will be funded with support from a three-year
Santa Cruz County CORE Targeted Impact Grant, an opportunity focused on
addressing systemic racism within our county.

“The evolution of C2C would not have been possible without our amazing funders,
community partners, fiscal sponsors, and - most of all - the families that have made their
voices heard every step of the way. We are so excited to announce that we have joined
forces with United Way of Santa Cruz County, which will serve as both a fiscal agent and
project partner to support C2C’s expansion at a critical point in the pandemic recovery
process for children and families,” said C2C Director Allison Guevara.

“We both share a common vision of creating spaces and shifting systems to be more
inclusive, diverse and welcoming by embedding equity at every level of practice. We will
continue to cultivate our current partnerships with community organizations to offer
programs that bring joy, healing, and wellbeing to all families,” said United Way CEO Keisha
Browder. This includes continuing to work closely with C2C’s founding partner Santa Cruz
Community Health (SCCH), who houses C2C’s Promotoras de Salud program
(parent-to-parent health education), and their Pediatric Center of Excellence, which is
expanding and enhancing comprehensive family-centered care. SCCH CEO Leslie Conner
commented, “We are excited by the expanded opportunity to integrate health and
education sectors on behalf of low-income children. When health care providers and
school districts work together, we can better identify and address risks faced by
children and their families.”

C2C began as the Live Oak Cradle to Career initiative in 2015 with a small ‘Hopes and
Dreams Workshop’ in a preschool classroom and has expanded to four school sites in the
Live Oak School District. C2C brings families and agency partners together to support

multiple community-led strategies that uplift health, education, character-building, and
community strength in a holistic and strength-based way. This includes free enrichment &
recreation activities, leadership development opportunities for parents and youth, cultural
events, and more.

The collaboration comes at an important time. Families struggling economically are
likely to be worse off than before the pandemic.
Using a national survey, researchers at
Oregon State University have demonstrated that inequalities have been exacerbated
during COVID-19, and these material hardships contribute to chronic stress (Fisher, 2022).
Their research has also shown that children’s behavioral problems correlate to disrupted
family routines, with more interruptions for families contributing to more behavioral
challenges (Fisher, 2021). These situations parallel Santa Cruz, where families in tourism
and agriculture--already some of the lowest-paid-- were hardest hit by the pandemic. Local
data show that income varies significantly by race and ethnicity, a local manifestation of
structural racism (DataShare 2022).

The overarching goal and strategy embedded throughout C2C’s work is that local
families most impacted by long-standing systemic inequities and who have been
disproportionately impacted by the pandemic have a voice and share power in
developing priorities and policy solutions.
The expansion of C2C, which is being officially
kicked off this week, will be supported by a new C2C Countywide Advisory Board that also
includes leaders from the County Office of Education, Encompass Head Start, First 5, Santa
Cruz Community Health, County Public Health, and UCSC.
Guevara and Browder invite everyone to get involved and join together to build a
supportive and learning-rich community where every child, youth, parent, and caregiver is
empowered to unleash their full potential. Learn more at c2cscc.org.