As a community, we can point to many things that make our region great.
But it’s the work of nonprofit organizations such as the Neighborhood House Association (NHA) that help make San Diego truly America’s Finest City.
Since 1914, NHA has been a beacon of support for the oft-forgotten communities in the region. Each year, the organization touches the lives of tens of thousands of families in 120 locations throughout San Diego County.
Yet to Rudolph (Rudy) A. Johnson, III, CEO of Neighborhood House Association, the how is just as important as the what.
Serving All Generations
“What we are attempting to do is build stronger children, families and leaders through a comprehensive approach to community development,” highlighted Rudy. “Take our innovative Nutrition Services initiative for example.”
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most young people fail to meet the daily nutritional recommendations, even though healthy eating directly correlates to a child’s academic success. In response, NHA has created a nationally-recognized program that provides nutritional school menus to San Diego’s children and strives to teach students about healthy lifestyles.
“We are proud to say that we are serving the healthiest ingredients that you’ll see any student across the country eat,” beamed Rudy.
Then there is the Senior Service Center, which provides recreation, transportation, nutritional meals and education to support the independence and safety of aging adults.
These are the comprehensive, holistic approaches that Rudy talks about when explaining the Continuum of Care Model that shapes NHA’s programs.
Building a Pathway for Youth
The latest NHA initiative is its new Homework Center. The safe, after-school study environment provides state-of-the-art technology and tutors to students that don’t regularly have the time or resources to do homework.
“We know that oftentimes the only thing preventing at-risk students from succeeding in their studies is a structured learning environment outside the classroom. Our Homework Center gives these children the opportunity to excel when their alternatives are limited.”
Since opening in 2012, 75 percent of students that use the Homework Center have improved at least one grade level in Math or English.
The organization is also expanding its youth services to grow the rate of San Diego students pursuing higher education. “One of the emerging needs in our region is college prep,” emphasized Rudy.
NHA is partnering with dozens of local organizations, such as Reality Changers, to bring college prep services to the underserved communities in San Diego. Through this new initiative, the organization can better ensure that students, particularly those who have gone through the Head Start program or utilized the Homework Center, are best positioned to earn a degree and secure a job later in life.
Living the Mission
San Diego’s poverty rate is staggeringly high at 15.7 percent, amounting to 212,098 total San Diegans. Sadly, that problem is magnified for children in the region, with 20.4 percent of youth living in poverty throughout the county.
By providing services and programs to all San Diegans, at every stage of life, NHA is tackling this issue head-on to create a stronger path to success for every person in the region.
However, the secret to how NHA has accomplished so much in the past 100 years lies beyond the programs themselves.
“In addition to philanthropic support, empathy and like-experiences are vital to the success of our programs and staff,” explained Rudy. “Most of our workforce comes from, currently lives in, or still has family in the very communities that we serve. This is why our staff is so committed to the work we do.”
For proof of this connection, look no further than Rudy himself. As a native San Diegan and graduate of the NHA Head Start program, Rudy uses his first-hand experiences to shape the vision and strategy that is helping the organization strengthen America’s Finest City today, and for future generations.