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City Heights Nonprofit Struggles To Connect With San Diego Businesses

City Heights Nonprofit Struggles To Connect With San Diego Businesses
City Heights Nonprofit Struggles To Connect With San Diego Businesses
GUESTS Tad Parzen, Executive Director, City Heights Partnership for Children Kevin Crawford, President and CEO, United Way of San Diego County

It's been an uphill battle to get San Diego businesses engaged in a City Heights education initiative.

In 2011, City Heights Partnership for Children was launched. The idea was to join with San Diego Unified school district and the business community to create a cradle to college to career education effort in City Heights.

But a recent case study by the Harvard Business School’s US Competitiveness Project, notes how the effort has struggled to connect with San Diego businesses.


"On a scale of 1 to 10, I think we are at a 4 on mobilizing the business involvement,” City Heights Partnership for Children Executive Director Tad Parzen said.

Meanwhile, children in the poor and underserved areas of Mid-City are waiting to see the full realization of this ambitious education agenda.

The case study cites issues ranging from the cultural differences in the education and business communities to an uneven history of working together after the departure of SDUSD Superintendent Alan Bersin and lack of awareness of opportunities in the City Heights neighborhood, where 40 percent of the residents are foreign born, the median income there is $37,600 well below the San Diego median of $60,800.

Mark Cafferty, of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and a member of the Partnership was quoted in the study.

“There is no shortage of business community engagement in education programs...I believe businesses are frustrated with 'one off' programs and are hungry for something that can scale and make more systematic improvements.”

Cafferty went on to say:

“It’s a neighborhood that seems ‘out of sight out of mind’ for a lot of the business community and I think because of that, getting business to dig deep in engaging with City Heights has been more challenging.”

But even when businesses do step up, there are still challenges, says SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten.

“I found way too many people coming into the schools trying to do things to us and trying to do things for us, which is disenfranchising, disempowering and disrespectful of our community. It would always sound good, but that attitude of ‘we’re going to come and save you’ doesn’t work. We wanted partners who were thoughtful and relevant around the goals that we were trying to meet.”

Click on the video interview above to hear about the Partnership's relationship with the United Way and how they're joining forces to successfully engage the local business community.