A community collaborative is offering a helping hand to Santa Maria families, who have in turn been able to provide local students with a better support system at home.
Born under the “cradle to career” mantra, THRIVE Santa Maria has made notable progress to prepare local children for the rigors of schoolwork to lead to successful jobs in the future.
THRIVE is in its fourth year of serving a select group of families with students at two Santa Maria elementary schools — Fairlawn and Robert Bruce — via grant funds from First 5 Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Foundation and a host of other nonprofit organizations and partners.
The two school communities were picked as areas of the Santa Maria-Bonita School District with the lowest socio-economic population, encompassing more than 10,700 residents in northwest Santa Maria, said Karin Dominguez, project leader of THRIVE Santa Maria.
A host of programs has helped increase child readiness as well as the number of families who can provide strong social support to children at kindergarten and at the third-grade level, according to THRIVE studies.
“We’re all working on how to get there,” Dominguez said of partnerships with other nonprofit organizations.
The health of THRIVE family children has also seen improvement, due in no small part to a monthly event dubbed Healthy School Pantry.
Two hundred families with more than 450 children consistently attend the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County event on the third Thursday of every month, picking up bags of food and watching healthy cooking demonstrations.
Teeth cleanings and flu shots from the Community Health Center are seasonally added to the monthly events, which are supplemented throughout the year with more parent meetings or home visits for child-care tips in an area of the city that continues to grow in spite of the threat of poverty.
“It’s a really great event,” Dominguez said. “The whole community comes out to support it. It’s fun for families because they live in really crowded housing. Parents have gotten really involved.”
THRIVE funds opened a migrant preschool last year at Robert Bruce and will open another new preschool on campus this fall.
But the THRIVE initiative would be nowhere without its partnerships, said Mark Muller, director of pupil personnel services at the Santa Maria-Bonita district.
“We’ve had a lot of collaboration,” Muller said. “The Food Bank is instrumental in this.”
Funding for THRIVE, which totals $200,000 a year, has been approved through the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
Organizers are hopeful THRIVE programs will be able to continue after that time with renewed backing.