Claremont’s Teen Committee Helps Develop Transportation Solution
The City of Claremont won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Ruth Vreeland Award for Engaging Youth in City Government category of the 2007 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.
In the past 10 years, Claremont’s student population has become more diverse, both socially and economically, due to increases in the schools’ interdistrict transfer population and the continued availability of quality affordable housing. Thirty percent of the city’s student population receives free or reduced-cost lunches, which reflects the level of need among many of Claremont’s families.
In 1995, the city developed a Youth Master Plan using a participatory evaluation process involving youth, families and service providers. The plan identified community problems and established multiple indicators to measure progress on addressing them. The plan also established that interdistrict transfer students and those residing in the school district’s Attendance Zone in neighboring communities would be considered residents and, therefore, eligible for the same after-school program activities and services as resident students. This eligibility includes access to free supportive services and scholarship and recreation opportunities. The underlying idea was to help unify an increasingly diverse community.
Transportation became a priority issue for youth, parents and service providers needing to connect students with multiple quality-of-life programs, especially those living in South Claremont’s multifamily housing neighborhoods and those living within the school district’s Attendance Zone in neighboring communities. These neighborhoods contain high concentrations of youth reported to perform more poorly in academics and participate less in community life due to limited mobility and economic and language barriers.
Teen Committee Provides Valuable Input
To help explore solutions, the city’s policy-makers turned to Claremont’s Teen Committee. Created in the late 1990s, the committee is charged with addressing communitywide programs, services and accessibility for teens. The 24-member Teen Committee also advises the city’s Human Services Commission on the progress made by local teens on communitywide youth initiatives and provides assistance in ensuring that programs and services for young people remain relevant and effective.
City and school district staff, human services commissioners and city council members serve as mentors for the Teen Committee and provide reports from their agencies about community needs and strategic plans, which form part of the committee members’ ongoing training. The Teen Committee meets on a year-round basis and sets its own agenda and work plan, which includes expert panel discussions hosted by local and county professionals and elected officials who report on communitywide initiatives. As set forth in the 1995 Youth Master Plan, the Teen Committee uses youth forums to solicit input from its peers, study youth needs in the community and make recommendations to policy-makers to address gaps in services.
Tackling Transportation Issues
In 2006, the Teen Committee began partnering with local nonprofit organizations, city and school district staff and the Los Angeles Children’s Planning Council’s local parent action network to more clearly identify barriers and develop collective solutions to transportation issues for youth.
The group explored opportunities for expanding a fixed-route, after-school shuttle system to transport teenagers and children to recreation and tutoring sites and then home after activities conclude. This shuttle, which had been operating on a limited daily basis since 2005, takes elementary school children from school to various tutoring sites throughout the community and carries teenagers from school to recreation centers. Teen Committee members and parents focused the shuttle service in areas where teens are less likely to participate in after-school programs due to limited economic resources and inadequate access to alternative modes of transportation.
As a result, the service provides transportation to students living in high-density areas in Pomona and Claremont. Drawing on Claremont’s local transportation funds to underwrite the shuttle, the after-school service provides 4,000 rides to teenagers and 3,000 to elementary school children annually at no cost to them.
One of the Teen Committee’s major accomplishments in 2006 was working with city staff and elected officials in further extending the shuttle service to transport teens from the alternative education sites to recreation centers after school. The committee continues to advocate for more transportation services for teens. And by working with the city council and local leaders, the Teen Committee continues to show that creating opportunities for participation keeps kids actively connected to the community – and out of trouble.
Contact: Mercy Santoro, deputy director, Department of Human Services, City of Claremont; phone: (909) 399-5496; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.