Attendance, behavior and achievement for an estimated 200 court and community school students have all improved as a result of the RESTART After School Program. And as a result of that, the program has been awarded a Golden Bell Award by the California School Boards Association.
"I'm thrilled," said RESTART director Suzanne Williford, who has taught in the County Office of Education's Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) for 21 years. "I'm thrilled that I work for a school system that allowed me to take a chance with some students. Bringing different factions of students together has worked."
RESTART has offered flag football and soccer, and will soon add basketball. In addition, the students are offered community service opportunities, which have included cross-age tutoring at Luis Rodriquez School in San Diego Unified, and a garden at the Jackie Robinson Y.
Williford described many of the participants as "students who have had drug, alcohol and violence problems, gang involvement. But they've worked together, participated, and played sports together without mishap," she said.
The RESTART program takes place four days a week, from 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the Jackie Robinson YMCA in Southeast San Diego. Boys and girls from 9th to 12th grade take part, as long as their grades and behavior allow them.
"These are kids who don't get to be involved in school sports or athletics," Williford said, because competitive sports and physical education are not typically offered in the Juvenile Court and Community Schools. "This is an outlet for them. I see the sports leagues are kind of a microcosm of life in general. If they can maintain and display anger management techniques in the heat of athletic competition, they can function in the real world."
The JCCS system serves approximately 3,000 students in alternative settings throughout the county. Most JCCS students have had trouble in traditional schools, although some are victims of crimes themselves.
"It has always been a goal of mine to have a program like this," Williford said. "Now I hope we can make it a permanent part of the Juvenile Court and Community Schools offerings."
The CSBA Golden Bell presentation is scheduled for December 1 at the San Diego Marriott Hotel, as part of CSBA's annual convention here.