Center for Young Women’s Development Earns Matching Grant

Young Women-Led Organization Awarded $425,000 Matching Grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for New Education Initiative

San Francisco, CA August 24, 2011 –The Center for Young Women’s Development, an organization led by formerly incarcerated young women, announces today that it has received a $425,000 matching grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support Sisters on the Rise: a new collaborative effort to lead girls and young women from juvenile hall to higher education and careers by creating an inter-agency, inter-system continuum of linked services and long-term support.

In San Francisco nearly 200 girls and young women were arrested and detained last year, some multiple times, and many on charges of prostitution, theft, and drugs. “This collaborative proposes an innovative project that links mental health therapy with much-needed educational services for young women involved with the juvenile and criminal justice system,” emphasizes Dan Corsello, Former Executive Director of van Lӧben Sels/RembeRock Foundation, who nominated the Center for the national matching grant. “Sisters on the Rise will coordinate and strengthen existing mental health, mentoring, substance abuse, parenting and education services toward the goal of helping participants achieve successful health, educational and career advancement outcomes.”
The van Lӧben Sels/RembeRock Foundation is providing matching dollars for the first year of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) grant along with The Burt Family Foundation, The Isabel Allende Foundation, James and Gretchen Sandler Philanthropic Fund, and Spark. The RWJF grant will pay out over four years and the Center seeks additional funding partners to complete the required dollar-for-dollar match.

Center for Young Women’s Development (CYWD) Executive Director Marlene Sanchez, speaks from personal experience about the need for young women coming out of lock up to have the opportunity to pursue higher education. “I was a young woman who ended up in and out of juvenile hall and had fallen too far behind to get my high school diploma. I was told to just get my G.E.D., but never that I had the potential to go to college and pursue a meaningful career of my choice. Most girls who end up in juvenile hall get there because they come from families who are barely making it and so they get involved in criminal activity to survive. We also know that many of these girls are suffering from trauma they experience on a daily basis. So we created a project that would link systems and services, while creating a community that would be there for young women throughout the entire process.”

CYWD will serve as the lead agency working with six core partners-community-based service providers and institutes of higher education-to develop the infrastructure and programming for Sisters on the Rise. CYWD’s core partners include City College of San Francisco, Each One Reach One, San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco City & County Juvenile Probation Department, Youth Guidance Center Improvement Committee and Youth Justice Institute.

The partners’ experience working with these young women has helped them understand that the girls often suffer from undiagnosed, unaddressed issues of trauma, grief, loss, violence, substance abuse, learning deficiencies and mental illness; and it is these problems that contribute to their delinquency and school failure. A significant number of the girls meet the criteria for at least one clinical diagnosis such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and learning disorders.

Ms. Sanchez knows better than anyone what it’s like to go from the streets and jails to a space where you are loved and supported. She came to CYWD fresh out of juvenile hall at 15 years old and worked her way through the programs into various positions to eventually become the Executive Director. CYWD has been developing the leadership of young women like Ms. Sanchez for over 17 years. They have been trailblazers in creating a gender-specific, peer-based model for high-risk, low- and no-income young women involved in the juvenile justice system.

CYWD’s programming has primarily focused on employment training, leadership development and youth organizing. They recognized that while employment opportunities and community involvement are critical for young women, the girls in their programs will always face serious limitations in the future if they do not progress academically. “CYWD’s participation in the collaborative is the logical next step in broadening the scope of services available to these young women,” says Corsello. “This population is the least likely to graduate from high school and attend college. Yet, it has been proven that higher education for vulnerable populations, especially women, brings beneficial long-term effects for their own control of their reproductive health, for their own wellness, and that of their families.”

Currently, there is no infrastructure in place to connect educational resources and other support services with care so that the best interests of each young woman in detention or on probation can be met. Rather than create new programming, Sisters on the Rise will coordinate the response to these girls’ needs in order to break the inter-generational cycle of school failure, recidivism and poverty.

During the initial 4-year grant period, their goal will be to enroll 240 young women ages 12-17 who are in detention or on probation and to assist them in achieving their post-secondary goals through college completion or until they reach the age of 24. Priority for enrollment will be given to young women who are homeless, parenting, in the foster care system, who have had multiple arrests, and who are two or more grades behind grade level. The initiative anticipates enrolling its first participants in Spring 2012.

Project Partners

The Center for Young Women’s Development’s mission is to empower and inspire young women who have been involved with the juvenile justice system and/or the underground street economy to create positive changes in their lives and communities. Our core values are sisterhood, self-determination, social justice and spirituality. We offer a vibrant model for linking youth development and youth organizing, with the mission of providing gender-specific, peer-based opportunities for high-risk, low- and no-income young women to build healthier lives and healthier communities. Our programs work to ensure that young women who have been deeply hurt and excluded – who have been homeless, incarcerated, or otherwise severely impacted by poverty – have a place to heal, achieve self-sufficiency and become positively engaged in their communities.

City College of San Francisco values and fosters superior levels of educational participation and academic success among all students. Reaching out to and including all populations, we strive to provide an affordable and unparalleled learning experience in a supportive and caring environment that leads students to successfully complete their goals.

Each One Reach One diverts incarcerated youth from a life in prison to become productive community members through mentor-based performing arts and academic tutoring programs. We believe that one-on-one mentoring- especially through the creative act of playwriting and academic tutoring- provides the best way to shift the beliefs that incarcerated youth hold of themselves and that society holds for them. We believe that young people have the right to learn from their mistakes, and that they should be encouraged to take responsibility for building a better future for themselves. We further believe that education is the most powerful tool they can use to transform their lives.

San Francisco City & County Juvenile Probation Department – It is the mission of the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department to serve the needs of youth and families who are brought to our attention with care and compassion; to identify and respond to the individual risks and needs presented by each youth, to engage fiscally sound and culturally competent strategies that promote the best interests of the youth; to provide victims with opportunities for restoration; to identify and utilize the least restrictive interventions and placements that do not compromise public safety; to hold youth accountable for their actions while providing them with opportunities and assisting them to develop new skills and competencies; and contribute to the overall quality of life for the citizens of San Francisco within the sound framework of public safety as outlined in the Welfare & Institutions Code.

San Francisco Unified School District is the eighth largest school district in California, educating over 56,000 students every year. Our mission is to provide each student with an equal opportunity to succeed by promoting intellectual growth, creativity, self-discipline, cultural sensitivity, and democratic responsibility.

Youth Guidance Center Improvement Committee (YGCIC) was established in 1983 by San Francisco Superior Court Judges to provide additional support and opportunities to young men in Log Cabin Ranch. YGCIC has grown exponentially to serve not only young people in custody and engaged with the juvenile justice system, but also reaches disenfranchised young people seeking to enhance their education and employment skills. YGCIC is a collaborative effort with the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and their Families, Office of the Public Defender, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the non-profit and private sector community, and various foundations. YGCIC’s mission is to offer vital vocational and educational services to young adults so that they may develop a positive self-image as well as a sense of hope and purpose for their future.

Youth Justice Institute’s mission is to better the lives of the youth we serve and facilitate positive changes within the systems that affect them. We believe every youth has the right to dignity, humanity and justice. We envision juvenile justice and dependency systems that respond to the needs of youth and their families. YJI works to facilitate positive changes within these systems through direct services, research, documentation, and by constantly sharing the best and most promising practices.

Funding Partners

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For nearly 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

Burt Family Foundation supports organizations which build self-sufficiency and programs that that have a “ripple” effect on people and communities.

Isabel Allende Foundation is guided by a vision of a world in which women have achieved social and economic justice. This vision includes empowerment of women and girls and protection of women and children. Ms. Allende said, “The foundation is small, only a drop of water in the vast desert of human need, so I cannot spread my support too thin. I have found that it is more efficient to concentrate on specific issues and in limited areas. I therefore support select nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area and Chile whose missions are to provide women and girls with: Reproductive self-determination, Healthcare, Education, Protection from violence, exploitation and/or discrimination.”

James and Gretchen Sandler Philanthropic Fund invests in grassroots groups who work to improve the lives of residents in the Bay Area, especially immigrants and women and girls.

Spark is a network of young, global citizens who are invested in changing patterns of inequality that impact women throughout the world. In just six years, we have invested over $1,000,000 in grants and pro-bono professional services to grassroots women’s organizations globally. Spark believes that the world is flat and that the things that happen to women because they are women happen everywhere. Thus, we provide services and grants to both international and San Francisco-based groups.

Van Loben Sels/RembeRock Foundation’s goal is to promote social justice through legal advocacy for the underserved residents and communities of Northern California. The Foundation’s fields of interest includePublic Interest Law, Juvenile Justice Reform, Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women, and Social Services Programs in Remote, Rural Communities. The Foundation was created by the will of Ernst van Löben Sels (1879-1965) of Oakland, CA.