Jessica Cejnar / Wednesday, April 14 @ 12:59 p.m. / Community

True North Organizing Network, Yurok Tribe Plan to Blaze "Cradle to Career" Pathway in Del Norte County with $30 Million Promise Neighborhood Grant

Yurok Tribe seal

Speaking in whens, not ifs, Terry Supahan, Kevin Malone and Jim McQuillen envisioned a Del Norte County with significantly improved high school graduation rates with students moving on to, and staying in, college.

A U.S. Department of Education’s $30 million Promise Neighborhood Grant can support a new career-technical education program in construction, manufacturing and utilities, family resource centers in Smith River and Klamath, and enable Del Norte to grow its own crop of teachers and counselors, Malone said.

True North Organizing Network

Malone and Supahan, representatives of True North Organizing Network, and McQuillen, the Yurok Tribe’s education director, conceive using the 5-year grant to blaze a “cradle to career” pathway for American Indian students and other underserved populations in Del Norte.

“In the six week planning process we granted magic wands to everyone we talked to to try and think outside the box,” Malone told Del Norte County supervisors Tuesday. “Mental health and social emotional (health) came up as key issues. Transportation came up as a key issue. Affordable housing came up over and over again, which is outside the scope of this grant, and recruiting and retaining teachers and counselors and growing our own professionals for those areas came up over and over again.”

Four county supervisors approved a letter of support for the grant to the Yurok Tribal Council, emphasizing the Department of Health and Human Services’s role in providing multiple services to the community. District 5 Supervisor Bob Berkowitz was absent.

The letter also pledged to invest more than $6 million in DHHS monies toward the Klamath Promise Neighborhood Grant application over five years.

According to Malone, those services, which include children’s counseling through Remi Vista, services for high-risk families and homeless prevention and rapid rehousing services, will go toward a required 50 percent in-kind or cash match the grantees will have to provide over the five-year life of the grant.

“We’ve identified with (DHHS Director) Heather (Snow), services you’re already providing, not new ones,” he said. “It creates, not a safety net, but a trampoline so when somebody falls through, they’re thrown back up.”

The Yurok Tribe is taking the lead on pursuing the Promise Neighborhood Grant, McQuillen told supervisors. The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors will also be asked to sign off on a memorandum of understanding with the tribe if they agree to be a partner in pursuing the grant, McQuillen said.

“It’s a pretty large proposal including many partners,” he said. “Including Del Norte Unified School District, the Del Norte Child Care Council, First 5 of Del Norte County, the Northern California Indian Development Council and others as partners. It’s a pretty large partnership.”

According to Malone, the U.S. Department of Education plans to award five to seven Promise Neighborhood Grants this year ranging between $4 million to $6 million per-year for five years.

Required outcomes for receiving the grant monies include improving kindergarten readiness among the area’s children, students scoring at or above grade level on math and English-language arts assessment and increasing the high school graduation rate, according to Malone.

Other required outcomes include children eating healthy, increasing students’ feeling of safety at school as well as their access to high-speed internet and computers, according to Malone. Most require deep community engagement, he said.

“We’ll be hiring an army of promotores — cultural guides — building parent centers in targeted schools,” Malone said. “We are starting in Crescent Elk, Smith River, Margaret Keating and at Del Norte High School. In year two, we’re adding four new schools.”

Those four new schools include Sunset High School and Joe Hamilton Elementary School, Malone told supervisors. He added that Del Norte County and Adjacent Tribal Lands’ involvement in the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities Initiative will be an advantage to the community’s becoming a Promise Neighborhood.

“The reason we are prepared to win this grant is because there’s been a decade of work through Building Healthy Communities to set this up,” he said. “Were it not for the BHC, I don’t think we could have come close to competing and we certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it in six weeks.”

County supervisors also heard from DNUSD’s assistant superintendent of instruction, Tom Kissinger, who said if Del Norte does become a Promise Neighborhood, those grant dollars will enable the district to provide extra tutoring and technological support to its students. Those grant dollars would also help the district create programs identifying areas of academic struggle and ensuring those are addressed.

Kissinger noted that the grant really focuses on the community’s youngest children, enabling them to be “competitive, successful, happy and comfortable” by the time they get to school.

“I call it a river of opportunity — that river starts with our youngest children,” he said. “What I like about this grant is one of the heaviest investments is in the 0-5 years where our youngest children get the support they need.”

Noting that transportation was a need identified during the grant application process, Supahan said True North plans to partner with the Del Norte Local Transportation Commission and Redwood Transit to conduct a transit study with the Promise Neighborhood grant dollars.

Tamera Leighton, the transportation commission's executive director, said the agency has already met with True North in connection with the Promise Neighborhood grant and the proposed transit study. Those meetings have already identified challenges and have come up with good ways of solving them, she said.

Lonnie Reyman, Del Norte County’s chief of probation and a commissioner on the First 5 Board, said he also supports the grant opportunity.

Klamath area parent, Chrystal Helton, who was involved in True North’s Klamath Local Organizing Committee, was also optimistic about the Promise Neighborhood grant effort.

“It’s nice to know someone’s working on all the stuff we’ve been working on for years,” she said. “I fully support this.”

The grant application is due April 19.


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