Unlocking the Potential of Contra Costa County: Exploring Health and Education Opportunities

Contra Costa County is a hub of educational and health opportunities for students of all ages. From the Destiny Arts Center (DAC) to the West Contra Costa Unified School District, there are a plethora of programs and initiatives that provide students with the resources they need to thrive. In addition, the county is home to a number of student-run conferences that focus on science, health, and education. The Destiny Arts Center (DAC) is a creative youth development program that serves between 3,000 and 4,000 students each year.

The program includes placing teaching artists in more than 25 schools, after-school classes, summer camps, and a competitive entertainment company for young people. To understand how DAC affects health, researchers spent four weeks learning about the program by participating in school and after-school programs, observing auditions by entertainment companies, and interviewing key stakeholders. The ultimate goal of this partnership was to increase the capacity of the DAC to apply for health-oriented grants. The Contra Costa County Summit was another initiative that focused on health and education. This summit included university and high school students in an effort to expose them to the history and culture of the Afghan people, as well as to the health disparities faced by the Afghan community.

Community Energy Services also received funding from Contra Costa County to provide free home improvements to low-income families who have family members suffering from asthma. The Wellness Academy is another program designed to advise and support underrepresented high school students to succeed in college and consider a career in the health field. The West Contra Costa Unified School District prohibits discrimination, intimidation, harassment (including sexual harassment), or bullying based on descent, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, immigration status, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group with one or more of these real or perceived characteristics. Alexis' project brought together participants from My Mentor and the UCSF Latino Medical Student Association to advise and support people interested in applying to medical school. Instead of focusing on traditional topics such as history or science, Freedom School participants discussed history and focused on the experiences lived by women of color as central teaching points that have been and will be fundamental to imagining a more inclusive practice of medicine and public health. Tami's project was developed with Lucia Acosta, the parent coordinator of Helms High School in San Pablo, a local Spanish-speaking church, and Community Energy Services. Adrienne also partnered with the Huckleberry Youth Wellness Academy (YWA) to design a longitudinal mentoring program for high school students interested in professional health careers. Andy Márquez is another example of how Contra Costa County is providing educational opportunities for its students.

Márquez attended Diablo Valley College (DVC) and transferred to UCLA where he earned a degree in Political Science. He then attended Contra Costa College (CCC) and San Francisco State University where he earned his associate of arts degree and his bachelor of arts degree respectively. Finally, fourteen first-year PRIME students gave workshops for minority and disadvantaged students from high schools, high schools and universities in Fresno on various topics of health education and other topics such as healthy eating, exercise physiology, applying for college, and financial aid processes. In conclusion, Contra Costa County offers an array of educational opportunities for its students. From student-run conferences focusing on science and health to initiatives such as Destiny Arts Center (DAC), Community Energy Services, Wellness Academy, West Contra Costa Unified School District, My Mentor Program at UCSF Latino Medical Student Association, Huckleberry Youth Wellness Academy (YWA), Diablo Valley College (DVC), Contra Costa College (CCC), San Francisco State University (SFSU), PRIME Program at Fresno High Schools – there are numerous ways for students to get involved in their community.

Jocelyn Beutel
Jocelyn Beutel

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