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Santa Rosa, CA
Capital: Health, Personal, Social

The Sonoma SERVES (Students Engaged in Relevant Volunteerism in Educational Settings) afterschool program has been in operation for seven years. It provides a safe place for 1,000 students from eight elementary schools in south Santa Rosa, California. A primary focus of the program is for participants to develop positive and supportive relationships with caring adult AmeriCorps mentors who staff the program.

Participating schools recommend students for participation in Sonoma SERVES. The program, which is free to participants, offers activities that are designed to build skills through project-based learning. The COOL (Creating Opportunities for Outstanding Learning) School Day is designed to provide students with engaging, constructive activities that make learning fun and place an emphasis on service learning and character education. Some of the activities include reading groups, activity clubs, community-building games, enrichment centers, physical education, and homework support.

The program works closely with the schools by having two teachers at each site provide support to the AmeriCorps mentors in developing lessons that complement the core day. The program uses an assets-based approach to build protective factors in youth and develop their strengths through positive relationships with adults.

Sonoma SERVES also helps students develop life skills and make plans for the future. A process called Tribes provides children the means to manage their own behavior, address conflict, and build connections with each other and the school community. The program helps students begin setting goals and planning for the future by exposing them to a variety of career options through Friday Clubs. Students also tour the Sonoma State University campus.

Parents also are encouraged to participate in the program through an orientation meeting, parent nights, and Parent University. Parent University involves a series of workshops on communication strategies, information about gangs and violence, healthy decision making regarding drugs and alcohol, college preparation, and the developmental stages of adolescence. The goal of the parent program is to provide a comfortable and safe setting for families, which is accomplished in part by offering the workshops and child care at no charge and making use of Spanish and English interpreters.

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