January 11 2018

Happy New Year!

This edition looks at one of Building Healthy Communities’ greatest organizing successes of 2017, the passage of a student Bill of Rights in San Diego that sharply limits school suspension and expands restorative practices throughout the school district.

City Heights-based Mid-City Community Action Network helped lead the advocacy effort, building on previous wins in Los Angeles, Oakland, and other California school districts.

Our cover story provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Bill of Rights campaign, describing in detail how young people in our Building Healthy Communities site came together and worked tirelessly for change. After months of research, planning, and internal debate, they built powerful alliances with educators and ultimately persuaded school board leaders to embrace their agenda and spread restorative practices district-wide.

As you read more about this story, pay special attention to how the campaign changed the advocates, too. Participating in the process gave many young people a whole new outlook on themselves, their communities, and their power to make change.

Seventeen-year-old DeVonte White says the campaign helped students find their voice and their strength, “We have the ability to say what’s wrong, rather than being pushed to the side.” DeVonte and many advocates profiled in this issue continue to promote restorative practices in San Diego and throughout California.

Experts call the new outlook expressed by DeVonte a “feeling of agency.” That’s the sensation you get when you feel fully a part of the community and believe you can influence what’s happening around you. Feeling agency not only encourages people to become more active, research suggests the perception alone may also lead to better health.

As we kick off 2018, I hope you are inspired by DeVonte’s example and the courage he and other young people have shown while working hard to improve health and safety in our communities.

Here’s to many more success stories in the coming year!

You can read the latest issue of Health Happens Here: Building Healthy Communities in English here and in Spanish here.

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