Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: LifeBound on the ropes, but still standing

LifeBound Leadership, a local youth development program administered by the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County, will no longer be eligible for state funding in South San Luis Obispo County after June 30.

For more than a decade, LifeBound has provided an after-school safe haven and youth development program based in the town of Nipomo.

It provides academic tutoring, leadership classes, mentoring, community service, job readiness and health education. The site presently serves more than 50 youths and their families in after-school settings, and reaches more than 350 youths in South County middle and high schools.

Given its many years of demonstrated effectiveness, why is funding ending in the South County for this successful program? The short answer is a significant change in state rules in qualifying for funding. Since its start in 1997, LifeBound has been primarily funded by a Community Challenge Grant administered by the California State Office of Family Planning.

To qualify for future funding, all Community Challenge Grant projects across the state will now have to possess a teen birth rate equal to 30 teen births per 1,000 or above. According to 2004 to 2005 Health Data (the baseline year used by the grant), the South County area (Nipomo, Oceano, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach) has a teen birth rate of 28.1 per 1,000, disqualifying the program from future grant funds.

The only area of the county where LifeBound will qualify for Community Challenge Grant funding is in the North County communities of Paso Robles, San Miguel and Shandon.

A timely facilities acquisition and program expansion undertaken in August 2010 in the city of Paso Robles (through a partnership with Paso Robles Public Schools) ensures the program’s overall survival and allows LifeBound to become more active in the North County.

However, without adequate funds to support the staffing and program supplies required to continue running the after-school program in Nipomo, the South County community will have to prepare for a substantial loss of services and resources for its youth.

On one hand, given funding constraints, we understand the state’s need to find ways of reducing costs. On the other hand, we believe that the success of LifeBound’s program is one of the reasons why South County falls below (albeit closely) the state’s cut-off point. Along with its ongoing programs, recent examples of LifeBound’s impact on the South County include:

The planning and hosting of the kiosk dedication event in the Cesar Chavez Native Garden by youth participants. The event fostered an ongoing partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Nipomo and allowed for additional collaborations with the Nipomo Native Garden and Allan Hancock.

For the last three years, the program has provided a community-based youth leadership program — a 14-lesson class intervention that encourages youth empowerment, psychosocial skill building, employment competency, career mentoring and numerous opportunities for community involvement and service.

At the 2010 Asset Development Conference (Igniting Sparks), LifeBound was distinguished as the recipient of the “Giraffe Award” for “sticking its neck out” on behalf of youth in the community.

Stated simply, by being available after school and operating at the margins where underserved teens need compassion, consistency, resources and education, LifeBound’s community-based programming plays a critical role for youth and families in the South County.

For this reason, Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County has entered into a strategic planning and contingency phase in an effort to identify new funding sources such as grants, endowments, fundraising ventures and partnerships to sustain the program.

With the support of the community and the collective strengths of like-minded organizations, our goal is to continue LifeBound’s core services as well-enhanced career mentoring, job shadowing, outdoor education and service learning.

Turning to the community for direct aid to fund a facility has never been more essential than now. To make a donation or speak with program staff about prospective facility space or sustainability opportunities, please contact project Supervisor, James Statler, at 929-6054 or jstatler@capslo.org.

For more information about the program, please visit us at www.lifeboundleadership.org or on Facebook (LifeBound Leadership).

James Statler is the program supervisor of the LifeBound Leadership Youth Development program.