Solana Beach looks to fund Community Grants in full


Solana Beach appears to be in a giving mood.

Ten organizations have applied for this year’s round of community grants, their requests totaling $48,000 for initiatives ranging from citizenship training to children’s theater to an effort to digitize a cache of historical artifacts.

The city budgets $25,000 for its Community Grant Program and pulls $5,000 from its Public Arts Fund for art-related applications. The Rancho Christian School’s recent promise to contribute $10,000 brought the available funding to $40,000 when representatives from the 10 organizations made their case to the city council on Nov. 15.

The council was set to decide on Dec. 13 exactly how to dole out the grants. But after the groups made their presentations, Councilwoman Jewell Edson asked whether the city might be able to fund the requests in full.

“We can do anything we want—within reason,” answered Mayor Mike Nichols. “I think there’s probably a way to do that. I think that’s a great idea. … We are going to do our best to try to figure this out.”

The organizations are as follows:

American Association of University Women

Each year, the AAUW’s Del Mar-Leucadia branch sends eight to 10 7th-grade girls to its Tech Trek Camp, a one-week summer camp at UC San Diego that gives its attendees hands-on exposure to STEM subjects. The city’s $5,000 would allow five Solana Beach residents to attend.

“I’ve got to say, we’ve had some absolutely outstanding students come from Earl Warren Middle School,” said AAUW member Donna Lilly.

The camp includes trips to the Scripps Institute and to ViaTech, one of the camp’s sponsors, which recently hired a woman who had participated in Tech Trek years ago.

Assistance League of Rancho San Dieguito

With a $3,000 grant, the Assistance League of Rancho San Dieguito provides shoes for preschoolers from St. Leo’s Head Start program. This is their fourth year applying for a Solana Beach community grant. This year, they hope to take 75 children to the Marshalls in Solana Beach to buy a pair of shoes.

“You see the excitement and the comments from some of these children who have never been in a store to buy brand new shoes for themselves, or have been in a situation where they were alternating going to school because they were sharing shoes within the family,” said Roberta Waterman, chapter president.

Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito

The Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito — the largest nonprofit in Solana Beach — provides about 140 economically disadvantaged Latino youths four hours of mentoring each week at its La Colonia clubhouse. That includes field trips, school supplies and a “Brain Gain” program in the summer to help children and teens keep their study habits and reading comprehension skills sharp.

“We’d like to continue to do that good work and so with your support we look forward to hopefully continuing and strengthening the relationship we’ve got going,” said Blake Johnson, development director.

Casa De Amistad

With its $5,000, Casa de Amistad plans to bolster its twice-weekly mentoring program at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church that this school year is serving 225 children. Because many of those children lack the necessary equipment to complete their school’s increasingly web-based curriculum, Casa de Amistad launched a “DREAMS + Tech Initiative” to close the opportunity gap by giving them access to laptops, computers and iPads. The city’s grant would help Casa de Amistad recruit and train mentors with STEM backgrounds. Last year, 17 Casa mentorees graduated high school, half of whom enrolled in STEM-based majors in college.

“We’re really seeing that the funding from this grant is making a difference in the lives of our students,” said Dianna Wolf, program coordinator.

Community Resource Center

For the past three years, the Community Resource Center in Encinitas has received a Solana Beach grant to help fund its Holiday Baskets program. Now in its 35th year, the program expects to serve about 1,500 low-income households from across the county. The recipients — between 50 and 100 of whom live in Solana Beach — will go to the Del Mar Fairgrounds between Dec. 15 and Dec. 17 and fill their baskets.

“They get to experience a shopping experience where they get gifts for everyone in the family, food, clothes, household essentials and things to make their household a little bit brighter during the holidays,” said a CRC staffer.

La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation

Over the past several summers, La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation’s Youth Leadership Program has helped dozens of at-risk youths build their skills in conflict resolution, communication and teamwork.

The four-day camp is expected to cost $18,300 when it takes 60 youths and five adults to the Whispering Winds Camp in Julian. Manny Aguilar, president of the all-volunteer foundation, was proud to report that many of the camp’s participants have gone on to college and have carried out community service projects throughout North County.

“The leadership that they demonstrate to be good people is a testimony to the support you all give us,” he said. “We can have attorneys, but we want good attorneys. We can have scientists but we want good scientists. People that have good values, that have good morals, and you’re helping us do that.”

North Coast Repertory Theatre

Five thousand dollars from Solana Beach would cover more than half of the scholarships and production costs of the North Coast Repertory Theatre’s performance of “The Secret Garden,” which will run seven times next May. The city helped fund past productions, including Anne Frank, Seussical and Aladdin Jr.

“Without you, we can’t help these students really grow,” said Christopher Williams, the theater’s associate artistic director. “Thank you for your consideration of watering our theatrical garden and providing our students the key to unlocking new opportunities to grow.”

North County Immigration and Citizenship Center

The very moment Linda Martinez Haley was giving the North County Immigration and Citizenship Center’s presentation to the city council, a group of two dozen immigrants were at the Solana Beach Library studying to become U.S. citizens. Only a few days prior, she had taken one of NCICC’s mentorees for her citizenship test.

“She sat there grinding her nails and when she passed, she cried,” said Martinez Haley, NCICC’s executive director. “She burst into tears and she said to me afterward, ‘How can I ever repay you?’ and I said you can thank the City of Solana Beach because they believe enough in you and your community that they want to welcome you.”

The NCICC began as an effort to tutor the parents of students in Casa de Amistad’s after-school program. It now has three advisers accredited with the U.S. Department of Justice to provide pro bono and “low bono” immigration services. The grant NCICC received from the city last year — its first year of citizenship training — helped 23 Solana Beach residents become citizens. As Martinez Haley spoke, she showed photos of some of those new citizens, many of whom lived and worked in Solana Beach for decades before applying.

“When I interview all these folks, it’s the same story: I didn’t know how,’ ‘I didn’t have the money,’ ‘I didn’t know who to go to,’” she said. “Hopefully with the new grant that I’m writing, we’ll be able to provide scholarships so that people don’t wait 25 years and so that we can fill this room with a different crowd, so that our students will bridge into this population.”

Reality Changers

What sets Reality Changers apart from other college-placement services, said Lauren Tullis, the nonprofit’s director of advancement, is the exceptionally high entrance rates of the thousands of students they have worked with since launching in 2001. Ninety-seven percent of its students have gone to college, and 86 percent have either graduated or are still in school. Their students average $88,000 in scholarships, and have earned a total of $120 million in scholarships.

Solana Beach is one of Reality Changers’ most active sites, making up 15 percent of students from the 29 sites Reality Changers runs throughout Southern California.

The $5,000 grant from the city will fund scholarships for students with a 3.5 GPA or higher to enroll in STEM summer classes at UC San Diego for college credit.

“It gives them access to really opening their eyes to careers they haven’t seen before,” Tullis said.

Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society

A trove of documents, photographs, scrapbooks and newspaper clippings dating back almost a century are stacked in a back room of the Solana Beach Heritage Museum, hidden away from the public.

The artifacts are kept in boxes and loose-leaf school binders, not archive-quality storage sheets, said Lisa Montes, the museum’s curator. Some of the photos are growing mold. Silverfish are a common sight. The newspaper clippings are growing more yellow and brittle each day.

With $5,000 from the city, the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society will hire a professional archiving company to properly preserve those artifacts and digitize them so they can be studied by everyone from historians to armchair anthropologists to college students to the 3rd graders from Solana Vista Elementary’s “Living History” program.

Once completed, Solana Beach would be the first local city to make such a rich cache of historical documents available online, Montes said.

“What a wonderful way to be able to digitize all this history and to have these students be able to access it via the internet and to be proud of where they’re from,” she said.