We envision a community … where the sounds of gunshots have been replaced by the sounds of … laughter and learning.
RYSE Center in Richmond creates safe spaces that build power for young people to transform lives and communities. This organization applies trauma-informed, healing-centered supports and programs that both reflect and expand upon the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study.
The California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness) was one of the initial funders supporting the RYSE Center, founded in 2000 to address community health and violence prevention in Richmond. A city of 100,000 in the triad of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, Richmond’s dominant narrative has traditionally been one of violence and danger. When the RYSE Center conducted a “listening campaign” in 2013 with 500 young people who shared experiences of violence, trauma, coping and healing, the stigma of living in Richmond stood out as a significant impact on their daily lives. Young people reported they felt burdened with an incomplete narrative absent of their hopes, successes, dreams and tenacity.
Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, RYSE Center’s director of community health and integrative practice, said that, in order to prevent violence, structural and historical inequities of trauma and oppression must be addressed, including violence in the media and the systems responsible for young people.
“It is meaningful to have Cal Wellness as a partner that allows us to address violence at all levels of the ecological model. Not just individual behavior change and not just policy. It has to be all of it, and it has to be very connected,” she said.
RYSE Center provides services under five departments: Education/Career, Community Health/Mental Health, Youth Leadership, Media Art and Culture, and Youth Justice. Dhaliwal emphasized that young peoples’ experiences are the drivers behind policies, investments and approaches to supporting their well-being. “Young people’s narratives and expertise is primary to how we develop programs and respond to their needs,” she said. “Screen printing, creating mix tapes, taking part in performances — all are a part of how we work to humanize young people’s experiences.”
Dhaliwal gains hope from the people involved with the RYSE Center. “There is a sense among many of us who have been in this community of a shift happening,” she said. “At RYSE, we are a part of a growing movement committed to a Richmond that engages young people with love, dignity and justice.”
Cal Wellness’ support of the RYSE Center falls under its Promoting Healthy and Safe Neighborhoods grantmaking portfolio. “The support of Cal Wellness has been critical for us to ensure [the youth] feel encouraged and can engage in opportunities to take risks with their skills and talents and fears,” Dhaliwal said.
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