Josefina Alvarado Mena,
Chief Executive Officer
Mission & History
Safe Passages disrupts the cycle of poverty by engaging youth and families to build and drive a continuum of services that supports student success and community development.
Safe Passages envisions a community where all young people have the opportunity to realize their full potential. Safe Passages is based on the premises that access to educational opportunity, health services, and family support should not be dictated by race or socio-economic status, and that healthy and supported young people are better prepared to learn and succeed.
Safe Passages, founded in 1995 and now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, was one of five sites across the country that was selected to participate in the national Urban Health Initiative (UHI) funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Each of the UHI campaigns focused on collaboration and systems change to improve the health and safety of young people in urban communities. The tremendous accomplishments achieved by the strategies in Oakland, led the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to expand its support to Safe Passages for an additional award year beyond the sunset of the Urban Health Initiative in 2006.
To institutionalize the unprecedented partnership, the Safe Passages Board also decided to create a sustainable organizational structure in the Youth Ventures Joint Powers Authority, an autonomous, public, multi-agency government entity authorized under California Government Code, focused on children and youth throughout Alameda County. This now-independent entity will continue to serve residents of the City of Oakland.
After twenty years, Safe Passages continues to advocate for, research, evaluate, develop and incubate culturally appropriate, cross-agency strategies designed to improve the lives of vulnerable populations, including youth at risk of dropping out of school, at risk or involved in gangs or the Juvenile Justice system, and likely to be involved in other risky behaviors.
Where We Work:
We work with disadvantaged communities in Alameda County where up to 80% of children live in poverty, in neighborhoods with the highest levels of health disparities including the highest rates of hospitalization for asthma, teen birth rates, and hospitalization for assaults among youth; where students score far below proficiency and have high rates of school suspension, drop-outs and truancy. 98% of the populations served are students of color: Latino (39%) African American (36%), and Asian (9%), Pacific Islander (6%), Mixed Race (5%), Native American (3%).
What We Do:
Programs and services are woven together to serve the entire age continuum of children and youth, from birth to college/career, including economic development strategies to fuel economic self-sufficiency for youth and families.
Early Childhood Initiative – Promotes collaboration between multiple public systems and non-profit providers to create a citywide safety net for children (0-5), who are exposed to violence. Services include Baby Learning Playgroups and workshops, case management, mental health services and mental health consultations at pre-school sites.
School Linked Services – Aims to integrate education and social services at school sites in order to make school communities catalysts for social change within the larger neighborhood context. Through multiple funding streams, the collaborative has effectively developed full service community schools across the Oakland flatlands. School staff members are poised to work closely with the family, case managers, health center staff and other providers to develop a coordinated plan for students.
Juvenile Justice Initiative – Brings juvenile courts, school districts, police departments, probation officers, and service providers together to reduce disproportionate minority contact with law enforcement, and lower recidivism among juvenile offenders.
Career Development – Work closely with government, universities and private entities to develop new job opportunities for youth during and after school hours, and in the summer time. Students are provided opportunities to learn about diverse career tracks including careers in the arts, teaching, law enforcement, legal services, social work and in the health profession.