General information

Healthy Start Sustainability Stories Project

Gloria M. Rodriguez, Associate Professor, UC Davis School of Education (Lead Co-PI)
Maryann Straub, California Department of Education (Co-PI)
Irina Okhremtchouk, Graduate Student Researcher, UC Davis School of Education
Beth Hart, Project Consultant for Site Selection

California Healthy Start (HS) has had a long history of supporting the educational success of students via a blending of academic, social, and emotional support services aimed at strengthening youth, families, and communities. The Healthy Start Sustainability Stories Project sought to understand from the local perspective what it has taken to keep the spirit and services going in sites that have been in action for at least 5 years beyond the initial CDE funding for HS. Of the factors that were identified in previous studies of HS, this study focused on (1) long-term commitment of resources and (2) effectively-functioning constituency groups. Two rural and two urban sites in northern California served as the four case study sites for the project, which engaged staff in co-constructing each site’s “sustainability story.” Using video-recorded interviews and focus groups, the project’s aim is to provide both the individual site-level stories and some cross-cutting themes in the form of video clips. The video clips will serve as a resource for other HS and similar service providers that utilize or are developing these approaches for supporting student success in and beyond school. Video clips will be available for public access via the CRESS website in Summer 2010.

Findings and Lessons Learned:

  • Resource development/allocation practices take forms that challenge ideas about “investment” in student success: Rather than viewing resource allocation as “throwing money at problems,” this process is viewed as having two dimensions, including (a) nurturing relationships as a resource that exists across school community constituent groups and (b) taking the long view of both investing and cultivating returns on the investment of resources
  • Collaborative, sustaining partnerships are not dependent upon particular sources of funding; rather, opportunities are sought to respond in dynamic fashion to student/family needs, which typically produce more strategic partnership (and thus, funding) approaches that allow for long-term flexibility (e.g., multi-source funding, non-profit management approaches, etc.)
  • Leadership development—an additional, critical resource—among HS staff is linked to school community strengths and needs; and, leadership development is not limited to staff but extends to community members, local agency partners, and youth


Ester Rosario, Director, CASA del Rio, Riverbank, CA

Speaking on collaborative partnerships and resource and program development…

“As far as partnerships…partnerships don’t begin and end, I think. It’s a part of our system. It’s a part of our day-to-day operation. We have a process with the collaborative. I can’t underscore that enough. In my experience and a lot of my peers, I see the difference where sometimes efforts like this struggle because a collaborative is in response to a struggle…whereas we have to look at this as a collaborative as a way for interested, concerned folks to keep coming together, to be interested in learning what the community has to say…

It’s important that we report what the community is telling us on a regular basis. And, that is where the collaborative of community folks, outside folks, county folks, agency folks come together and listen and participate. And then we create, perhaps, services there from that point on…and resources. It’s really important that they listen to what these folks [pointing to her staff colleagues] as our leadership team here and also the voices of our liaisons from the community. But, also they have to be willing to listen to the community itself. And, sometimes that brings challenges for partners because it may not be their normal mode of business. But, we have to be confident, and I believe that they will understand that their needs will be met in a very proficient way when they come to Riverbank and partner with CASA del Rio, and we link them to the families…

The families tell us…they tell us when things are working…and they will definitely tell us when things are not. And, we have to pay attention to that. And, we also have to be willing to say ‘no.’ We’ve learned to say ‘no’ well [to certain organizations offering services]. Not often, but well. And that’s because we are here representing our community. If it’s not done well, we can’t do it because then we’re doing something disrespectful.”

Log in