Empower Yolo: Yocha Dehe invests in local youths

WOODLAND, CA (November 3, 2019) – Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes to help save the day — whether it’s a mother keeping her family safe, an advocate comforting her client, or a community member donating household items to help a survivor start over.

Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, our superhero this month, saved Empower Yolo’s After School Safety & Enrichment for Teens program this year for over 1,500 local teens who love and count on this program for their success.

In September 2019, Empower Yolo featured its ASSETs program, which supports local teens in Woodland and Knights Landing. ASSETs partners with schools and communities to provide academic support and safe, constructive alternatives for high school students. More than just an after school program, Woodland ASSETs team creates genuine connections with high school youth and families, and provides unique opportunities for the development of life and leadership skills.

The ASSETs’ purpose is to also engage at-risk youth and decrease high school dropout and truancy rates, teen drug and alcohol use, and gang violence/affiliation. The program operates after school, weekends, summer, intersession, and vacation periods.

The ASSETs program has partnered with the Woodland Joint Unified School District to offer after school programs at both Woodland Senior High School (WHS) and at Pioneer High School (PHS) with federal grant funding for the past 10 years. Each campus has an ASSETs student resource center: The WHS program, “La Semilla”, and the PHS program, Pioneer Opportunity Program (P.O.P.), which operate Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All PHS ASSETs programs were going to be cut this school year due to the competitive Califironia Department of Education’s application process for the 5-year federal grant. WHS received funding right before the school year started, but PHS was not awarded the ASSETs grant. This news resulted in the loss of ASSETs grant funded programs and services for 1,530 PHS students this upcoming school year.

Just as the perfect hero archetype saves the day, Yocha Dehe saved the ASSETs program for the students at the beginning of the school year. “It meant continued core services for 9-12th grade students during after school hours,” said Jessica Olivares, ASSETs program director at Empower Yolo.

Because of this funding, Empower Yolo was able to sustain P.O.P., community service and enrichment clubs, PHS learning center tutors and academic intervention support, off-season athletic conditioning and intramural sports, supplemental support for educational field trips and college visits, Knights Landing after-school programs for PHS students, SAT prep Saturday courses, spring break teen leadership camp, and summer programs like freshman leadership academy and kids day camp.

“Yocha Dehe created Doyuti T’uhkama — which means ‘to give the acorn’ in Patwin — to provide a pathway to ensure the benefits of gaming at our Cache Creek Casino Resort are felt directly in our local community and across our ancestral territory,” said Anthony Roberts, Yocha Dehe tribal chairman. “Yocha Dehe has long supported education, healthcare and public safety initiatives in Yolo County. Our work with Empower Yolo is an important example of what can be achieved through effective partnership,” says Roberts.

Doyuti T’uhkama was established by Yocha Dehe to oversee the distribution of “compact credits” available under the Tribe’s 2016 gaming compact with the State of California.

The partnership with Yocha Dehe will allow the ASSETs team to continue to accomplish so much this year. “With ASSET’s presence on campus, our site staff have been able to bring in outside partners for youth development focused programs and workshops,” Olivares said. “Our goal is to supplement what the students are already receiving during the school day through expanded learning. Our bilingual staff has also worked closely with the PHS parent liaison to connect with Spanish-speaking parents through monthly parent meetings providing access to a flurry of community resources and services provided by Empower Yolo.”

Yocha Dehe’s support of the ASSETs program has given teens more possibilities to succeed. Teens who access our after-school programs are given more opportunities to have a safe space to have their voices heard, study after school and connect with their peers in a positive environment, receive A-G academic guidance from P.O.P. staff, and get help with applying for colleges and financial aid. The ASSETs team aims to provide as many resources and opportunities for our students to grow. Without Yocha Dehe funding, student support after-school would have been greatly reduced.

Janet Ayala, a junior at PHS was thrilled the program was saved. “My experience in the ASSETs program at PHS has been unique,” she said. “I made new friends in the P.O.P. Room after-school. It feels like it has been a second home because it is a safe place to hang out and get help with homework.”

The ASSETs team has many goals they hope to accomplish this year. Most importantly, we need to secure sustainable funding to continue ASSET’s presence on campus for 2020 and beyond through open grant applications. ASSETs would like to assist the WJUSD in supporting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) related after-school clubs and programs, and offer a Saturday free tax prep VITA (volunteer income tax assistance) event on campus for low-income families.

The program strives to continue growing community partnerships, such as the valued partnership with Yocha Dehe, to help synchronize efforts to serve Yolo County youth.

Not everyone can be a superhero, but everyone can contribute and give back in their own way. The community can get involved with ASSETs by becoming program volunteers, after-school club advisors, inviting community presenters to inform our parents of new resources, and ways to collaborate with our local community stakeholders to implement new programming. The community is always welcome to donate funding for field trips, college campus visits, and program incentives to increase student participation such as gift cards, club equipment, shirts and supplies. To donate, please go to empoweryolo.org.

For information on ASSETs see each school’s ASSETs website and contact information: Woodland High School ASSETs, La Semilla or Pioneer High School ASSETs and P.O.P. 

— By: Natalia Baltazar, Director of Development and Community Relations of Empower Yolo