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San Diego unveils new department dedicated to youth success

The City of San Diego has a new official whose job is to create a better life for children and their families. She is the first-ever Executive Director of the Office of Child and Youth Success. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has the story.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria announced Monday the hiring of a new high-level official who will lead a city department focused on meeting the needs of children from historically marginalized communities.

The new department is called the Office of Child and Youth Success, and Andrea O'Hara is it's new executive director.

O’Hara will be responsible for new programs and initiatives that connect city resources — such as child care, career training and mental health services — to marginalized children and families.


“I’m a mom of three,” O’Hara said after a morning news conference announcing her hire. “I want parents to get excited their children are going to start to have opportunities that they didn’t know were available to them.”

O’Hara comes to the city after spending the past 10 years as the San Diego Unified School District’s director of purchasing and contracts. She says connections made in that job will help her find resources more efficiently.

O'Hara will start with a handful of staff members and a budget of $350,000. The office will primarily focus on students in pre-K through 12th grade and will include help for child refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine who have recently arrived in San Diego.

O’Hara will also be responsible for identifying new partnerships and funding sources for her initiatives.

Gloria said the city conducted a nationwide search before hiring O’Hara who attended high school in San Diego and is also a long-time volunteer with the Girl Scouts of America.


“We know we can build deeper and more impactful relationships that benefit the children of this community as well as their parents,” Gloria said.

City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera who was part of the city's search committee, said the new office is a big step toward making a long-time vision a reality.

"San Diego should be a city where every young person has an opportunity to be happy, healthy, and prepared to reach their potential,” Elo-Rivera said.

The child care industry has long been in crisis, and COVID-19 only made things worse. Now affordable, quality care is even more challenging to find, and staff are not paid enough to stay in the field. This series spotlights people each struggling with their own childcare issues, and the providers struggling to get by.