A young woman working in the community

Why Public Health is the Ideal Career Path for Gen Z

Public Health is potentially the most undervalued, untapped reservoir of career potential for young students who are ambitious, eager to make an impact at a systemic level, and want to pursue a career path that offers both fulfillment and job security.

Public health requires every skill set, meaning everyone from marketers to software developers, scientists to statisticians can find a role that touches lives and makes real impacts. There is no shortage of jobs or job security, and there are openings in every frontier of this field. The field offers a chance to make a real difference, something many young job seekers cite a desire to do in their jobs, and the wealth of opportunities in public health create the perfect environment to do that. In addition, the public health field offers a level of job security that is increasingly tough to find in other industries. 

So what’s the disconnect? Why aren’t new graduates flocking to the career opportunities in public health? The answer is that public health has an image problem, and it’s due time to fix that.

In this article, we’ll cover: 

  • What does it mean to work in public health?
  • What jobs are available in public health?
  • The growing demand for young talent in public health
  • Why public health is an ideal career path for Gen Z
  • Why are young people overlooking careers in public health?
  • Bridging the gap in exposure with K-12 Health Pathways programs

What does it mean to work in Public Health?

To address this, we first should identify what we mean by “public health.” 

What does Public Health encompass?

Public health seeks to improve overall population health, empower communities to become responsible for their own health, and to protect people from disease and other preventable public problems like water and food contamination. Public Health is made up of essential services, both at the state, local, and city levels and also the work that health systems, centers, and community organizations do. 

What is the difference between Healthcare and Public Health?

Healthcare is typically delivered one to one by providers like doctors, nurses, and techs in a clinical setting. Public health is focused on working further upstream to address systemic issues and root causes of health problems affecting whole communities of people. The ultimate goal of public health isn’t only to treat the problems, it is to prevent the problems before they happen.

This means that those working in public health are considering a variety of disease states, certainly, but there are others looking at everything from environmental issues to average commute times to accessibility of green space in particular communities. Public health seeks to address the overall wellness of a community and takes into account much more than medical well being. 

What jobs are available in Public Health?

The word “health” typically lends itself to mental images of doctors, nurses, and hospitals, but that isn’t all that public health is. Many of those working within this field have job titles that can also be found in other industries. In the realm of community wellbeing, these familiar roles work hand in hand with clinical healthcare to better the holistic health of a large group of people, whether it’s a neighborhood, city, community or state. 

Common Career Paths in Public Health

Health administration and policy:

These roles oversee the day-to-day administrative operations of hospitals and other healthcare facilities and generate ideas and solutions to solve challenges. Their responsibilities might include planning and supervising all medical services—including monitoring budgets and updating health records. Candidates for these roles often have a degree in healthcare administration and may go on to pursue management degrees. 

Some jobs in this field include: 

  • Health Policy Analyst
  • Health Policy Research Assistant
  • Lobbyist
  • Public Affairs Specialist
  • Wellness Coordinator

Maternal child health:

Those working in maternal and child health look at public health through the lens of providing accessible and comprehensive prenatal care to pregnant women and resources and guidance once babies are born. These workers help address inequities in access and take into account cultural, social, and economic factors within communities. 

Jobs in this field might include: 

  • Lactation Consultant
  • Inbound Call Center Representative
  • Patient Care Assistant - Labor & Delivery
  • Maternal Health Research Scientist
  • Prenatal Education Coach

Healthcare program management/coordination:

In these roles, employees perform administrative and supervisory duties from creation and implementation of health-related programs to program monitoring and evaluation. This is a broad-spectrum role, and can focus in lots of different areas. Most candidates have an undergraduate degree.

Jobs in this field could include: 

  • Assisted Living Administrator
  • Professor or Researcher at a College or University
  • Consulting Health Care Administrator
  • Healthcare Quality Improvement Manager
  • Health Information Manager

Infectious Disease:

This field commits to investigating and protecting people from health threats including foodborne illness and waterborne illnesses, infections that spread in hospitals or might be resistant to medication, illnesses that spread through travel, illnesses spread by animals and insects, and new diseases that might be of concern, like Covid.  

Job titles commonly include: 

  • Health Scientists
  • Operations Research Specialist
  • Clinical Specialist
  • Research Associate


This is the study of why and how often certain diseases occur in different groups of people. Epidemiological information is used to plan and evaluate strategies to prevent illness and as a guide to the management of patients in whom disease has already developed.

Jobs titles might include: 

  • Infection Control Epidemiologist
  • Pharmaceutical Epidemiologist
  • Field Epidemiologist
  • Molecular Epidemiologist

Health education & community health:

People in these roles keep groups of people (employees, residents, students) up to date about common health issues and concerns, providing information and resources. They may also oversee teams of community health workers, guiding community members through healthcare systems and services, and ensuring individuals can access the help they need. These roles train and guide health workers, and handle day-to-day issues and concerns that arise from work in the field, acting as both human resource contact and mentor. These individuals often have degrees in healthcare administration, but others are promoted from the ranks of community health workers. 

Jobs in this field might include: 

  • Wellness Program Coordinator
  • Public Health Educator
  • Health Services Manager
  • Fitness Specialist / Trainer
  • Community Health Worker

Public health nutrition:

These specialized nutritionists are tasked with identifying unique nutritional issues within specific communities. They seek to find the source of prevalent issues and find ways to address them. The objective of this role is to contribute positively to the overall nutritional health of a population of people, driving education and awareness around good eating habits and how food impacts health. 

These jobs include: 

  • Registered Dietician
  • Nutrition Professional
  • Nutrition Services Worker
  • Nutritional Health Coach
  • Nutrition Education Coordinator

Global health:

Those working in this field have a similar focus to many pathways in public health, but they take a wider view of emerging challenges, and take into account the social, cultural, economic and environmental factors contributing to health inequities around the world. 

Job titles include: 

  • Biostatistician
  • Global Health Consultant
  • Global Health Educator
  • Global Policy Analyst

Environmental health:

This is the branch of public health that looks specifically at relationships between people and their environment. Those working in this field strive to address chemical and other environmental exposures in air, water, soil and food to protect people and provide communities with healthier environments.

Roles in this field include: 

  • Air Pollution Analyst
  • Environmental Health Inspector
  • Health and Safety Engineer
  • Environmental Toxicologist
  • Professor

In-Demand Skills in Public Health

While some people come to the public health field having intentionally secured a particular degree, there are a broad range of applicable skill sets that most people gain in school or in other careers, making public health a welcoming second-career for many.

  • Data analysis: all kinds of data are generated within the field of public health, and analysts may be called upon to collect and analyze data to assist decisions around the health of populations. Data analysis is used to determine if programs are working or if there are unmet needs among particular groups of people. 
  • Technology: those adept in software and hardware applications are needed to help update the field of public health as technology advances in general. Technology experts are helping with everything from providing online access to appointment booking to providing access for telehealth care to automating prescriptions. 
  • Strategy: as with so many other fields, action in public health follows careful planning, something those with experience analyzing existing information, budgets, and goals can help with. 
  • Marketing and public relations: now more than ever, messaging is critical. Whether it’s helping the public understand why and how to vaccinate against a disease, or raising awareness about a local effort in the community, keen marketers and public relations pros who understand how to work with media will always be in demand. 
  • Activism and lobbying: because so much work in public health happens thanks to federal and state funding, there is always a need for those able to work within communities and with representatives to ensure that legislation follows real needs. 
  • Change management and consulting: anyone with experience inside entities that have undergone strategic reorganizations will find a role in public health, where so many departments and sectors are working to adapt to changing technology, workforce sentiment, and community needs. 

The Growing Demand for Young Talent in Public Health 

The Mounting Shortage of Public Health Workers

In our most recent blog article, we talked about the critical shortages around the country in the public health sector and explored some of the contributors to these shortages. 

Consider these statements: 

New Talent is a Critical Need in Public Health

The current workforce is aging, and over one-fourth (27.78%) of employees of state and local public health departments in 2017 were older than 55 years, meaning this population is in the midst of a steady retirement wave, while there are few new entrants backing them up. Many of these workers have been in public health their whole careers, so when they leave, they take decades of institutional knowledge and experience with them. 

While some knowledge is departing with those retiring, an influx of younger, more technology-adept workers is an idea welcomed by the field. Modernized approaches to outreach and communication are sorely needed, and those willing to address existing problems with new methodologies and technologies are eagerly welcomed. 

Public Health is an Ideal Career Path for Generation Z

Gen Zers look at the world differently than previous generations, with strong values related to racial justice and sustainability. Large scale mobilizations like the Global Climate March thrive on the activism of these young people who frequently call for reform on personal, public, and global scales to prevent future catastrophe. “Many Gen Zers describe themselves as environmentally conscious, and the majority of Gen Z expects to see sustainability commitments from companies and organizations,” according to a study by McKinsey & Company

This is the definition of the public health domain. No other field offers such a broad swath of programs and initiatives that directly impact the well-being of so many, while also offering a vehicle to employ and develop skills in technology, data analysis, communication, and beyond. 

Given that one quarter of the workforce by 2025 will be comprised of those identified as Gen Z, it seems like the perfect time for public health to make an appeal. This field needs diverse, young talent that reflects the cultural makeup of their communities. It needs people who really want to make a difference and aren’t hesitant to engage directly with the people around them in an effort to improve the lives and communities where they work and live, and people who are technology savvy, looking to innovate to ensure the field can keep up with – and stay in front of – its evolving constituency. And there are plenty of reasons to do so.

Reason #1: Affecting Systemic Change

Multiple recent workforce surveys illustrate that Gen Z cares about the world around them and wants to work in fields that have direct impact for good. One study notes:  “Gen Z actively advocates for causes they believe in. They participate in protests, grassroots movements, and online activism to raise awareness and drive meaningful impact. Gen Z's passion for sustainability has made them a driving force in shaping conversations and pushing for a more eco-conscious society. 73% of Gen Zers are willing to pay more for sustainable products.”

This desire to make a lasting and beneficial impact isn’t isolated to Gen Z, but is a broader trend, growing as information about the impact of humans on the world around them becomes more accessible. A recent study at Deloitte found, “More than half of Gen Zs (55 percent) and millennials (54 percent) say they research a company’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a job from them. Seventeen percent of Gen Z respondents and 16 percent of millennials say that they have changed their jobs due to climate concerns, with 25 percent of Gen Zs and 23 percent of millennials saying they plan to do so in the future.”

This desire to effect systemic change and lessen negative impacts can be hard to reconcile with the goals and projections of many corporate entities, especially publicly traded ones, making a career in public health a fitting alternative. This is why public health is such an ideal fit for this generation.

Reason #2: Making Grassroots, Community-Based Impact

While many members of Gen Z are vocal on social media and in their peer groups, it isn’t always easy to find ways to ignite real change within their communities and beyond. The public health career field offers hands-on opportunities to make critical differences to entire communities of people. For those looking to create government-driven change, there are paths within public health to do just that. 

Reason #3: Applying Technology and Communication Skills

For the first generation of digital natives, public health is an ideal outlet to put to use the communication and tech skills that are often second-nature. The opportunity is ripe for a traditionally slow-moving field to receive an influx of young and energetic workers who can help mobilize and rebuild the industry from the inside out, doing more good for more people on more fronts than ever before. 

Reason #4: Finding Career Fulfillment

Where so many occupations create a sense of detachment, a feeling of being a cog in a wheel, public health presents the opportunity to mobilize and empower entire communities of people. For those interested in influencing policy and funding to create visible impact, there is no better field to pursue. Additionally, there are numerous positions within the field where employees work inside a community, with citizens, to develop strategies and craft inputs that are representative and meaningful, and where the results of their work are visible in the short and long term. 

Reason #5: Wide Range of Career Possibilities and Job Security

There are more opportunities across the spectrum of skillsets within public health right now than in any other field. Where recent graduates used to flock to startups in the tech industry, we expect to see a growing number entering the wide range of jobs available in public health. There are so many opportunities for lateral and vertical growth with the industry, and the promise of job security is a boon - something almost impossible to find in other arenas today. 

Why are young people overlooking careers in public health?

A Messaging & Exposure Problem

One of the key reasons young people don’t pursue roles in public health is that they simply don’t know they exist. Kids are exposed to healthcare at early ages, and no child doesn’t know that “doctor” or “nurse” are jobs they might pursue. Very few understand the wide realm of opportunity that exists in public health, even as they enter high school and college. This is partially due to the fact that, as Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari noted recently, “If we’re doing our jobs right, nobody knows we’re doing our jobs because we’re preventing disease, we’re preventing illness, we’re preventing emergencies related to the food supply. We do our job quietly in the background and we don’t tell our story well.”

Building K-12 Pipelines to Increase Exposure

Because there is a wide breadth of opportunity in public health, it’s difficult to create a soundbyte to help expose students to the field. As a result, repeated and deep exposure to the range of career choices must be intentionally included alongside other career exposure programing. 

Local organizations are collaborating with public health departments to learn more about the needs within our communities in public health and taking those to the schools to build out pathways programs that will help fill the pipeline. In the long run, this is the only reliable way to build a funnel of interested and motivated people to enter the public health field in the future. 

By offering a combination of site visits, speakers, work-based learning opportunities, internships, and exposure events like conferences, organizations like Reach Out, Health Career Connection, and many others are actively changing the messaging surrounding the public health field, but it is a slow process, and one that requires many contributors to work. 

Conclusion: An Overlooked Field with Exceptional Promise

It’s critically important that young people are exposed to the possibilities available to them, both to encourage them to pursue meaningful careers and to help offset a major public health crisis in the Inland Empire and beyond. Students should be exposed to the variety of jobs available in this challenging and rewarding field, especially because the broad range of opportunities embrace those with college degrees and without. 

In order to expose young people to the world of public health careers, we need to continue to build our K-12 pathways, starting education about the opportunities available in public health as early as possible. Additionally, these pipelines need to connect to real-world opportunities beyond high school, through career pathway programs at junior colleges and universities that create internships and mentorships that give students a chance to experience the roles they’re considering. 


Learn more about Reach Out’s youth pathways initiatives here, and if you are a funder, legislator, educator, or administrator interested in helping drive the message about the wealth of opportunity in public health forward, please get in touch! 



A woman presenting to a group

Why the Inland Empire Needs More Public Health Workers

There is an ongoing crisis within the public health system in the Inland Empire (and beyond). 

Part of the problem is that most of us are unaware of the role that public health plays when it is working well. As Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari noted recently, “If we’re doing our jobs right, nobody knows we’re doing our jobs because we’re preventing disease, we’re preventing illness, we’re preventing emergencies related to the food supply. We do our job quietly in the background and we don’t tell our story well.”

It’s time to tell the story of public health, and it’s time to work as a community to build a pipeline of public health workers for the future. The consequences of inaction will ensure that public health becomes a focus of awareness for every single citizen, because we will all be affected to some degree. 

In this article, we’ll be shedding light upon: 

  • The startling decline in public health workers
  • Why public health workers are leaving
  • How the shortage in public health workers will affect us
  • Solving the problem with a coordinated regional effort
  • The bottom line: fixing the exposure and messaging problem

The Startling Decline in Public Health Worker Numbers

How large is California's public health workforce gap?

Put simply, the gap is huge. A study published in March 2023 noted: “Nearly half of all state and local public health employees left their jobs between 2017 and 2021. An additional 80,000 workers are needed to provide a minimum set of public health services to citizens.”

While most of us have heard about shortages in clinical staff, particularly nursing, on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic, what you might not realize is that non-clinical workers make up a significant part of the public health workforce. 

How many public health workers will we need by 2030?

Projecting the future needs of the public health workforce is made all the more difficult by the reality that data is incredibly fragmented. Presently, due to the lack of a central data source, it is nearly impossible to keep tabs on the whole of the public health workforce or plan for upcoming gaps, since there is “no single source of data that encompasses all workers in the public health workforce.” That said, it’s easy to gain a clearer picture of the whole by considering anecdotal information that can be found easily in any public health department within the Inland Empire. In Riverside County, as an example, a posting for an epidemiologist was open for three months without a single qualified applicant found.

This leaves public health across the country in a purely reactive state. Needless to say, we are unprepared to face another pandemic, and the academic consensus is that we are not wondering if there will be another global pandemic, but instead are contemplating when. 

The Root Causes: Why are public health workers leaving?

Retirement of Lifelong Employees

One of the key contributors to the upcoming departure of many of our public health employees currently is age. According to Dr. Jeff Leung, Riverside County Public Health Officer: “Many people who join public health stay in public health for their whole career.” That means that when they leave after 20 or even 40 years, they take a wealth of knowledge along with them, creating a vacancy that is very difficult to fill. 

While many people immediately think of doctors and nurses when the term “public health” is mentioned, the shortages extend beyond clinical settings. 

Positions facing severe shortages include: 

  • Health and medical managers
  • Hospital and healthcare administrators
  • Biostatisticians
  • Management consultants specializing in healthcare
  • Epidemiologists
  • Occupational health and safety specialists
  • Social and community services managers
  • Health education specialists

Covid-19 Burnout

The pandemic had a profound effect on the state of public health in this country. When it began, those in the field were put under extreme pressure, partially fueled by the fear gripping citizens around the globe. That pressure, coupled with the longevity of the pandemic, led to a significant portion of the workforce citing burnout and departing. 

Beyond the pandemic’s direct effects, Covid-19 also swung a spotlight onto a field that typically operates, as Saruwatari said, behind the scenes. The public had opinions on the way the pandemic was being handled on a variety of levels, thanks in part to the politicization of the issue, and public health departments took a lot of criticism. This lack of public support for what is a fundamental and under appreciated function of society created a hesitancy for those who might have been considering careers in the public health field. 

Lack of An Established Career Pipeline 

Because public health has often operated under the radar of most peoples’ awareness, the career options within the field are not the kinds of things that children grow up planning to pursue. Without exposure to the wide range of career opportunities available, those rising through our schools choose alternative paths instead. 

A Slow-Moving Government Engine

The nature of the public health field–that it is a government job–is part of the issue in several ways. For one thing, government careers don’t offer the reliable benefits and pensions that once led so many to opt for the security of a government job over higher salaries in the private sector. With pensions disappearing, government positions are being forced to compete on salary, where private organizations often have the upper hand. 

For new graduates facing student loan debt, these numbers matter. According to a recent future workforce study, “the top three reasons that upcoming and recent grads would turn down a job include low pay, poor work-life balance, and unattractive benefits.”

Government departments are further burdened by a notoriously laborious hiring process that often takes months. It is unrealistic to expect that graduates can put off making rent, car, and loan payments for months at a time in order to compete for a job that most likely pays less than the private sector can. 

How will the shortage in public health workers affect us? 

Good question. It will affect every single citizen living in the United States if this problem isn’t solved in the near future, even more so in the Inland Empire, given that so many qualified candidates move to bigger cities in California to work, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego, exacerbating the shortages faced in our region. The current shortages make it difficult for departments to handle routine community care, and impossible to mount a surge response like that which would be needed for another pandemic. 

Public health addresses many of the things that make up our communities, things we take for granted. According to the 2022 book, Public Health: “Common public health issues and concerns include environmental quality (clean air, water, and food), sanitation, climate change, health equity, health reform, access to healthcare, tobacco use and exposure, mental health, injury and violence, physical activity, nutrition, obesity, and vaccination.”

The current crisis should be top of mind for all of us, but particularly: 

  • Policymakers who deal with the overall health of their communities and create legislation in the event of public health emergencies
  • Hospitals, which are on the front lines of any public health outbreak or crisis and are dealing with shortages of their own
  • Schools who can look at this as an excellent opportunity to create candidates ripe for positions in an eager market

Solving the Problem with a Coordinated, Regional Effort

It is clear that the diverse Inland Empire needs more highly skilled, cross-culturally competent public health workers. We need to attract them and make it worthwhile for them to stay. 

The good news is that there are ways to accomplish this and many efforts underway to put these ideas into action, but it is a community effort that will take proactivity, collaboration, and deep coordination across organizations like ours, public health departments, universities, and school districts.

1. Expanding Health Pathways Funding

Students don’t necessarily understand what jobs exist in public health, and it is up to those seeking applicants to change this. Private companies attend job fairs and set up tables on campuses during career week, but public health is not usually there. In order to plan for a career, students need to know it exists. They need to understand what the jobs are, what the titles are, and what kind of preparation goes into securing them. They need to know what these jobs pay and what they can expect for their futures if they embark on a career in public health. 

Assembly Bill 1695 – a bill that would provide funding for a Nursing Pathway Program, which would provide an Associates in Nursing from any of California’s community colleges at several schools serving ninth through twelfth graders – is an excellent start.

However, we need similar funding and support for nonclinical pathways including management, administration, and education within the public health field, and we need to expand these into middle schools if we truly want to instill interest early on. Building pathways that increase exposure to career possibilities in public health creates a new generation of motivated and prepared applicants to enter the field. But funding is needed, and programs should start as early as possible in the schools.

2. Enhancing Collaborative, Project-Based Curriculum Design

Our workforce shortage isn’t just a factor of quantity. Equally important to the livelihood of our region’s public health is the quality of candidates we’re attracting and hiring. Public health departments often cite that candidates they’re recruiting – many of whom come from leading public health schools – still are not equipped with all of the soft and hard skill sets needed to excel in a modern public health environment.

Some skill sets traditionally missing in applicants include:

  • Grant writing: since 90% of health departments are funded by grants, writing applications is critical.
  • Budgetary competency: understanding how budgets are built and how to monitor them.
  • Complex data skills: applicants need to know how to mine data for insights and how to turn those insights into actionable strategy to direct limited resources for the most impact.
  • Technology and software: the tools have changed and will continue to evolve. The workforce needs to be adept at learning new tech and implementing it quickly. 
  • Grassroots interactions: with so many applicants having come up through remote education and relying on screens, many are unsure how to connect within their communities.
  • Written communication: training in proper and professional communication is crucial. 
  • Public speaking: the ability to motivate and mobilize groups is important, as is presenting recommendations and findings in order to inspire action. 

By increasing collaboration between public health departments, middle and high school CTE departments, and the schools of public health within our region, up-to-date training can be created to ensure that graduates are ready to step into active roles on day one, and are equipped with the skills needed to add value to a modern public health department. Collaborative, project-based curriculum design is one way to ensure that these programs meet the needs of the schools and also of the public health departments they ultimately funnel to. 

3. Rethinking HR Practices to Fit the New Workforce

Digitizing & Streamlining the Hiring Process

The current process takes far too long and has too many steps to be an effective way to fill critical -need positions. Though government agencies are notoriously slow to move, this is one area where accepting the status quo will cost us immensely, both in the near and long term.

Re-assessing Compensation Packages

The best talent will not settle for lower compensation, and when inflation is at record highs, graduates will not accept less than they would make in the same job in the private sector. The ongoing lack of funding to make salaries competitive continues to deter talent. It is critical that government agencies assess pay in comparison to industry benchmarks, knowing that for many of those who do choose a role in public health, it’s a choice they maintain for life, making them extremely valuable workers. 

More On-the-Job Training & Room for Promotions

Another way to offset the burden those in this field often feel is by investing in on-the-job training to ensure those new to the field can ramp up rapidly. Finally, job pathways must be identified for those who are interested in up-leveling inside the field. Many people leave because they have no upward trajectory.  

4. Addressing the Storytelling Problem in Public Health

Public health is an opportunity that has not been properly represented, especially as a generation rises that has demonstrated a desire to impact the world in a positive way. Students today are more invested in working for the greater good than any generation in recent memory, and public health is a very concrete way to ensure your work life has a real community impact. 

“In public health, we’re not impacting one person,”  Saruwatari noted. “It’s neighborhoods, communities, cities, entire counties.” 

 Saruwatari went on to talk about what inspires her to remain in the field and to do her best to recruit interested graduates to public health: 

“The thing that keeps me going is the desire to really get upstream and get people healthy so we can prevent the chronic diseases that are making them sick and keeping them home, keeping them from doing the things they love. I want Riverside County to be the healthiest county in the country. I want people to move here because they know we have an environment where they’re going to thrive.”

There is a lot of talk about the desire to work in a role that has a real impact on the world, and there is no question that public health offers such a place. For those coming out of corporate positions who have potentially felt empty or less than meaningful, public health makes a great second career. The field is eager for those with experience in tech, management consulting, strategy, marketing, change management, and more. 

The Bottom Line 

We’ve highlighted four major issues contributing to the need within public health, but what we really require is more forums and collaborative groups convening to hammer out the issues and find solutions. Some of this work is taking place, for instance in the Public Health Leadership Consortium led by Reach Out, where we are bringing together public health departments and public health colleges, along with workforce development boards and some funders to discuss how to approach the very real shortages within this critical field. We’re also part of Thrive Inland SoCal, which is discussing this issue along with others impacting our communities and economic development initiatives. 

It’s not enough, though. For this work to have the impact the Inland Empire needs it to have, more funding and more involvement from the K-12 community is needed. In order to build exposure pipelines to attract the bright young minds from within our community to take on this work, this crisis needs to be front of mind for those with the funds to help elevate it. Our kids deserve the awareness that K-12 exposure pipelines bring to the kinds of opportunities available to them, and our communities deserve to have fully staffed public health departments to ensure their well being. 

Without programmatic, coordinated exposure – and the funding required to deliver those programs – we’re one mass outbreak away from a recurrence of 2020, something our region and our people cannot afford. It’s due time – as policymakers, educators, funders, and community leaders – that we recognize the gravity of this challenge, while at the same time, not missing the profound opportunity to set the next generation of health workforce professionals up for success, while revitalizing the face of a profession that is ripe with opportunity to serve and enact change amidst a generation that is searching for an outlet to do so.


To learn more about Reach Out’s Public Health Leadership Consortium and our Work-Based Learning programs, or to inquire about funding initiatives for the public health workforce, contact Dr. Shermineh Davari: shermineh at we-reachout.org


kids learning about healthcare careers

How to Start a K-12 Health Pathways Program

What is a Health Pathways Program?

How many times do we ask children what they’d like to be when they grow up? It’s a common adult question, and one that is inherently unfair. How many kids, or even young adults, are well-versed in the wide variety of career fields available to them? Within every field there are many professional positions that most of us haven’t even heard of. So how are kids supposed to learn about them? 

For healthcare, one way kids can learn about the wide variety of available professions is through a K-12 Health Pathways program, such as the one we offer at Reach Out. Pathways programs are engineered to integrate with school schedules and curricula to provide opportunities for students to learn in multiple settings about different career fields. 

“The key word is exposure,” notes Dr. Sherminah Davari, the Director of Reach Out’s Inland Health Professions Consortium, which oversees the Health Pathways programs. “The goal is to expose students to as many people, programs, and paths as possible so that when it is time for them to make decisions about their future, they have all the information they need to make informed choices.” 

Most pathways programs begin in middle school, with sixth through eighth graders. The programs follow a continuum over seven to eight years, giving students plenty of time to explore their interests as they learn about the field from different perspectives. 

Pathways Programs Offer Extensive Benefits

Given the shortage of healthcare workers in the Inland Empire, providing students with early exposure to the wealth of opportunities in this field is likely to help offset the shortage in the future. In a previous blog post, we discussed this shortage with experts who agreed that filling the pipeline early is the only way to combat the crisis we’re currently facing. 

It’s been demonstrated that kids who are exposed to careers in the sciences early are more likely to choose careers in those fields. A study in the STEM Education journal notes that “exposure of students to STEM careers can enhance their interest in pursuing careers involving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” 

Giving kids the opportunity to understand the full range of available health care careers early gives them more choices as they make decisions about their future through the high school years. This is especially important for kids from diverse backgrounds who may not feel “seen” in the current healthcare system and therefore hadn’t considered the field for themselves. Being exposed not just to a variety of potential careers, but also to a range of professionals within those jobs can change the landscape of what working in healthcare looks like. 

What a Health Pathways Program Covers  

Health Pathways programs, like those implemented by Reach Out across a spectrum of local schools and districts, include a range of informational activities and experiences geared toward introducing students to the healthcare field. 

  • Speakers: Reach Out focuses on bringing in a variety of speakers from diverse backgrounds and professional paths, recognizing the importance of students “seeing” themselves in the experts we bring in. Speakers often share their own journeys, and also discuss practical aspects of their chosen field such as educational requirements, income potential, and the pros and cons of their jobs. 
  • Site Visits: A good program will incorporate site visits to clinics and hospitals in order to offer a view beyond speakers and textbooks. Students get the chance for memorable, hands-on experiences in real settings, allowing them a first taste of fields they might be interested in. Site visits often lead students to pursue internships in places they’ve visited that have appealed to them. 
  • Internships: Most people understand the basic goal of an internship - to get a real hands-on immersion into something prior to making a full commitment. Reach Out offers a 40-hour internship, which students typically complete over winter or spring break. 

“We’ve found that these internships have been really critical,” noted Miguel Olaez, Program Manager for the Inland Health Professions Consortium. “I’ve seen instances where students found that the thing they really thought they wanted to do wasn’t as interesting to them in reality as maybe, their third choice.” Internships are a way to avoid investing years into education and training only to learn that the career that looked good on paper wasn’t what someone really wanted. 

Most students have the opportunity to participate in several internships over the years between middle school and graduation, giving them wide exposure to a variety of interesting career fields. 

The benefit of schools working with a partner like Reach Out is that the organization has more than fifty years of experience in the community and can provide a wealth of connections in hospitals, clinics, public health departments and private offices to arrange placement for students based on individual interests. 

  • College Visits: Pathways programs also begin early helping students explore college programs that might serve their interests. With the guidance a program like Reach Out’s offers, students can learn what kinds of grades and scores they might need, and work on building extracurricular items that might make them more competitive when it’s time to apply.   
  • Soft Skills Training: While knowing where they might like to go is important, it’s equally critical to help students learn how to get themselves there. Reach Out includes mock interviews, resume advice, help with writing emails and making professional phone calls, and networking as part of the program.

    “So many of these skills were lost during Covid and the years of Zoom classrooms,” Miguel notes. “So we really work on how to format emails differently than text messages and how to be professional in meetings and on the phone.” 

  • Conferences: Reach Out also puts on an annual one-day conference to bring students together to hear a selection of speakers and to talk one-on-one with representatives from hospitals and career fields they are interested in. 
  • Partner Network: The best pathways programs have a wide array of partnerships in place, which can be tapped in order to tailor truly individualized learning opportunities for each student, depending on their unique interests. 

How Reach Out’s Health Pathways Programs Work 

Reach Out’s programs vary because they are engineered to integrate directly into the needs of each school’s existing programs. We offer a diverse range of support and training, but the overall goal is to offer in-depth and honest exposure to potential career paths. We want students to have a comprehensive understanding of what is available to them, and also to understand the benefits and challenges of each path. 

Though all programs are a bit different, they all offer:

  • A Full Spectrum of Health Professions - Most students already know what doctors and nurses are. We expose them to the other health professions available to them as well. This includes behavioral health, public health, lab techs, physical therapy and more. Our speaker series, site visits, and internships expose students to the much broader field, so they can find an authentic career path for themselves.
  • Inspirational, Honest Speakers - Our speakers are inspirational, but honest. On top of the excitement of their field, they also share their difficulties, the level of competition to enter the field, the challenges they’ve faced. The goal is to offer the complete perspective, since each choice will take commitment and perseverance. When students don’t get this type of exposure prior to making life-changing decisions, they can end up dissatisfied and disillusioned. 
  • Transparency into Earning Potential & Educational Requirements - We recognize that for some, earning potential is the most important factor, while for others, a less time-consuming training regimen might be the key. Exposing students to everything they need to know to make informed decisions is part of ensuring their choices will be good ones for them. 

How Will Reach Out’s Program Integrate Into Your School? 

The best thing about the Health Pathways programs Reach Out offers is that they are not a one-size-fits-all offering. Because every school and district is different, the program is built to accommodate flexibility and collaboration. Our mission is to align our program to each school’s needs, and we work as an integrated partner to achieve this. 

One of the most important goals we have is to honor existing curricula and teaching time, so the pathways programs we implement are built to complement and extend existing curriculum. We work directly with teachers to find this balance, and build our programming into minimum day schedules and students’ off periods. As a general rule, schools will have some form of interaction with the pathways program manager from Reach Out every week. 

Reach Out’s Health Pathways Program Takes the Burden off Schools

Reach Out has been running some form of the health pathways program for more than a decade. That experience means that we are able to seamlessly integrate into existing programs and serve a wide range of needs with our existing infrastructure and programs. By partnering with us, schools can save time, resources, and funds, and remove the burden to provide this comprehensive career education from teachers who likely don’t have time. 

In most situations, teachers come to see Reach Out as an integrated partner, helping demonstrate the utility of the STEM skills they are teaching in their existing curriculum. We bolster this effort by helping students understand the practical applications of their classroom learning. 

Because the program already exists, schools benefit from very little “ramp up” time. Once we gain an understanding of a particular school’s needs, we are able to implement immediately. The curriculum and programming already exist, and we can tap into our wide network of speakers and partners to deliver. Another benefit is that unlike programs spearheaded by one motivated staff member or teacher, Reach Out’s health pathways program isn’t reliant on a single individual. The program exists separately, which means if a staffing change occurs, the program can remain in place. 

“We have so many connections with great partners, whether they’re potential employers, or colleges and universities. We have close relationships, so we can often just pick up the phone and call them directly to make connections for our students. That’s part of being an organization that’s been operating locally for 52 years.” - Dr. Shermineh Davari

How to Start a Health Pathways Program

  1. It starts with a conversation. If you are a teacher, an administrator, a school board member, or even a parent or student, we would love to talk to you about the potential for establishing a health pathways program for you. The discussion is really our first step, and will be very collaborative. The goal is for us to understand where the gaps and interest areas are in your school so that we can structure the program to meet those specific needs. 
  2. The next step is to identify funding sources. Most schools operate in a fee-for-service model, contracting Reach Out to deliver the programming and working with the school board to approve it. This may require receiving state or federal grant funding to subsidize the program. Sometimes, partners like Reach Out may receive grants directly from foundations, state, or the federal government, and be able to provide these programs directly to the school. Get in contact with us and we can discuss potential funding with you. 
  3. Customizing the program is the next step. We’ll work with you closely to determine which programming pieces will best serve your needs, and also dive into the logistics of getting the program up and running in a way that complements your existing programs and schedule. 
  4. The last step is to implement the program. This is the most exciting piece, since it’s where the students we all work to serve really see the benefit of the program. They’ll learn about real-life opportunities that can have a lasting impact on their future and on the health of the Inland Empire as a whole. 

To learn more about establishing a K-12 health pathways program, please get in touch today.

A woman talking to a group of studentrs

The Health Workforce Crisis & Why the IE Needs More Health Pathway Programs in K-12 Schools

The Health Workforce Gap: A Mounting Crisis for the Inland Empire and Beyond

The world, the United States, and especially rural communities and communities of color such as California’s Inland Empire, are facing a health workforce shortage that is only expected to grow worse over the coming decade. While it’s easy to suggest fixes that seem simple (hire more nurses!), this issue is complex and woven through interconnected shortages and inequities that have impacts far beyond the obvious.

The Health Workforce Shortage is Dire

The shortage of qualified healthcare workers will look different in different settings.: 

What Roles are Most In-Demand in the Health Workforce?

There are shortages across the spectrum of healthcare, but what’s important to know is that healthcare encompasses a wide swath of careers beyond doctors and nurses. There is unprecedented demand for physical therapy aides, home health aides, pharmacy techs, phlebotomists, and medical assistants. 

Staff Shortages and Overtime are Unsustainable

It isn’t hard to find evidence of the ongoing crisis in healthcare. This year saw strikes across the industry, with Kaiser Permanente nurses, ER technicians, and pharmacists participated in a three-day strike Oct. 4-6 that resulted in a 21% raise in wages over the next four years. CVS and Walgreens saw a similar walkout with working conditions cited as the cause. In fact, twenty-two separate healthcare strikes were reported this year in the United States, all of them citing staffing and concern for reduced patient care as the reasons.

In California, the situation is worse than in some other parts of the country. A recent report on CapRadio noted “the nation is facing a health care shortage decades in the making, and the situation in California is especially dire. Projections show the state could be short 44,000 registered nurses by 2030. Approximately 35% of physicians in the state are over 60 years old.“

What Caused the Inland Empire’s Health Workforce Shortage? 

Geography is One Part of The Inland Empire’s Health Workforce Problem

The Inland Empire and California’s Central Valley both struggle to train and retain healthcare workers. According to Jeff Oxendine, MPH, MBA, who is a health executive, educator and consultant who founded and runs Health Career Connection (HCC), “The Inland Empire and the Central Valley are two of the fastest growing regions in California. And they are the two areas that have the lowest per capita health workforce. It’s also a challenge to recruit and retain people in these areas that reflect the diversity and language capabilities of these regions.” 

Those born in these regions who ultimately pursue healthcare often leave to choose bigger cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, or California to practice. The other issue is that there are simply not as many medical schools and training programs in these regions to produce the workforce needed. 

Repercussions of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Health Workforce

There is no denying the devastating consequences that 2020’s pandemic wrought on those in the healthcare field. Burnout was a very real issue, leading to more healthcare workers leaving the field than at any time in recent memory. The lack of full-time nursing staff led to an increase in competition for traveling nurses, and hospitals without deep pockets or attractive locations could simply not compete with the bonuses and high weekly salaries being offered in other places. 

Reimbursement Declines Exacerbate the Problem

Cliff Daniels, Senior VP / Chief Strategy & Integration Officer at USC Arcadia hospital and the current board chairman for Reach Out noted, “While our costs are rising for hospitals at 12-15% per year, our reimbursement rate rises at maybe zero to two percent per year. You can visualize that graph. It’s unsustainable.” 

Reimbursement is the payment that a hospital, healthcare provider, diagnostic facility, or other healthcare provider receives from insurance plans for providing service. The 1997 Balanced Budget Act (BBA) kicked off an enormous shift in the way Medicare reimbursed healthcare. 

Though the topic of healthcare reimbursement is extremely complex, some studies suggest that “the BBA may have exacerbated the nursing shortage, because nurse workload increased at high and medium Medicare pressure hospitals and, thus, likely increased nurse dissatisfaction and burnout. The BBA may have resulted in slower growth of nurse wages, and existing nurses were unlikely to be compensated for the additional workload. In addition, slower growth in wages makes the field less attractive to new entrants and may have accelerated the use of temporary nurses in hospital settings.”

Balancing Short & Long-Term Solutions to the Health Workforce Shortage

One of the ways the state of California has found to incentivize health workers to stay is by offering various incentives. Jeff says, “Now the state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to get people into the pathway to go into those professions and with loan repayment, with scholarships, those kinds of things, but it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to what the immediate and long-term needs are.” And while reimbursement for school and scholarships certainly work, the funding available isn’t bottomless and these programs ultimately increase the cost of care. At some point, we’ll need a longer-term solution. 

The Future Lies in Training for the Health Workforce

Jeff notes that the two greatest factors influencing where a physician chooses to practice are: where he/she is from, and where he/she does residency. It makes sense then that building more residency programs in underserved areas would help, since this would allow retention of locals who understand the culture and community where they train. 

An additional strategy is to secure more scholarships to fund healthcare education within underrepresented populations. Jeff points out that it’s difficult for those without significant resources to enter healthcare because of the schooling required and the cost associated. This clearly disfavors those from lower income backgrounds, and contributes to the lack of representation many populations see in their healthcare providers. 

That said, there are numerous areas of healthcare that don’t require the years of education or the cost associated with becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, many people who might enter the health workforce in one of these areas aren’t aware that these jobs and the need to fill them exist. 

The Long-Term Solution to the Health Workforce Crisis

The most sustainable and effective solution to the workforce shortage is to begin filling the pipeline earlier. Cliff and Jeff agree that critical exposure to the variety of potential health care careers must occur in middle school. 

Jeff explains, “I’ve assessed these programs for over 20 years now, and the best ones include a combination of academic support and helping with things like study skills and notetaking to help students be successful. Having health career exposure that includes work-based learning, internships, or project work or shadowing” can lead to interest in health careers. 

Why K-12 Health Pathway Programs Work

Jeff and Cliff both talk about the benefits of funneling middle school students into what they call Health Pathways programs, like the work-based learning program and Moving in New Directions program Reach Out offers. It’s been demonstrated that kids who are exposed to careers in the sciences early are more likely to choose careers in those fields. A study in the STEM Education journal notes that:

“exposure of students to STEM careers can enhance their interest in pursuing careers involving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” 

Giving kids the opportunity to understand the full range of available health care careers early gives them more choices as they make decisions about their future through the high school years. This is especially important for kids from diverse backgrounds who may not feel “seen” in the current healthcare system and therefore hadn’t considered the field for themselves. Being exposed not just to a variety of potential careers, but also to a range of professionals within those jobs can change the landscape of what working in healthcare looks like. 

A More Diverse Health Workforce Means Better Care

“California is facing a health workforce crisis. There are not enough health workers to meet the needs of its increasingly diverse, growing, and aging population, and the situation is worsening. Shortages exist across professions and geographies, with sizeable urban and rural underserved populations. Additionally, although the state population is becoming increasingly diverse, the current health workforce doesn’t reflect these demographic shifts. For example, in 2019, 39% of Californians identified as Latinx, but only 14% of medical school matriculants and 6% of active patient care physicians in California were Latinx.” (Source: CA Healthcare Foundation)

Recruiting early and from traditionally underrepresented populations and regions makes sense in other ways too. There is an increasing focus in hospitals on cultural competency, something many healthcare organizations are paying consultants to train. If the makeup of the health workforce more closely matched the population served, there is a potential for better cultural competency without the need to bring in outside consultants to train this. 

Keys to a Successful Health Pathways Program in K-12 Schools

As organizations like Reach Out partner with healthcare organizations and work to counter the effects of the health workforce shortage, one of the critical aspects of curriculum planning will be based on an honest evaluation of current needs. As Dr. Shermineh Davari, Director for Reach Out’s Inland Health Profession Consortium points out, “We need to be innovative and consider what it is now that students actually need. We collect both qualitative and quantitative data through our learning and evaluation department in order to adapt to current needs and provide the best training and services possible.”

Pathways programs must be directly connected to the organizations they feed in order to ensure that their programs are providing training that prepares participants for the evolving requirements of various health professions.  

The Pipeline Cannot Leak

The entire goal of exposing children as early as elementary and middle school to the variety of health care professions is to capture their interest early and then build on that interest as they grow in order to hopefully help them enter the workforce. That means that having a fantastic middle school program isn’t enough. Once a student moves on to high school, the program must be there to continue to support the student’s interest and meet their needs in terms of curriculum and preparation. 

Ideally, this begins with a program like Reach Out’s work-based learning program, which exposes children in middle school and high school to health careers. In college, programs like those offered by Health Career Connection, Jeff Oxendine’s non-profit, expose students to networking opportunities, internships, and training that lead directly to entrance into healthcare fields. When programs like these are supported in diverse communities, they lead directly to a more diverse health workforce. 

“Part of why I focus on health workforce and diversity issues is because everybody wins,” Jeff says. “The health organizations get the qualified diverse employees they need, and people get education, which leads to all kinds of other benefits. It’s an economic development solution.”

Health Pathways Programs Can Solve the Health Workforce Issue

Jeff points out that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to working to build a good health pathway program into schools. Teachers and administrators are burdened enough without having to try to figure out how to create these programs. Instead, he suggests districts partner with existing and proven programs like Reach Out’s work-based learning program. 

“Reach Out is trying in every way we can to provide opportunities and resources for students,” Dr. Davari notes. “Through hands-on direct services for high school students and teachers, providing internships, side visits, bringing in career speakers, and offering coaching, we strive to create hands-on experiences to help bring exposure to health care careers.” 

Reach Out also offers training for Community Health Workers, a career field that Jeff and Cliff agree is gaining in both demand and impact, and is an excellent opportunity for someone entrenched in their community who really wants to make a difference. 

Bringing in a health pathways program is something all school districts in the state of California should be considering to help provide diverse opportunities for their student populations and to help offset the dire health workforce shortage the state is facing. 

For more information about how Reach Out can help build a health pathways program at your school, contact us.

A family eating together

Perfect Families vs. Nurturing Families

Parenting is challenging. The decision to bring a new life into your world, accepting that you and your immediate family will be responsible for guiding and forming the environment and inputs to dictate a human being’s experience and identity is a huge task. Add to that the expectations we put on ourselves, and those we perceive being placed on us by society, and the pressure to be perfect makes parenting that much more difficult. Few of us would say that we came from ideal backgrounds ourselves. And while most parents envision raising their children differently than they were raised, some patterns tend to repeat over generations. So how can we rise to the challenge of being good parents? What does being a nurturing parent even mean? 

Perfect vs. Nurturing

Setting out to be “perfect” parents is setting ourselves up for failure. Perfect does not exist, and as anyone who’s raised a child will tell you, perfect parenting plans are generally abandoned as quickly as they’re made, since children are nothing if not unpredictable. A better goal? Strive to be a nurturing parent instead of a perfect parent. 

The Goal: Being a Nurturing Parent

Comparing ourselves to other parents, even to our own parents, is a fruitless endeavor. Each of us is guided by a varied and convoluted set of experiences and ideas when we approach raising a child. No two parents will be alike, just as no two children will be alike. That’s why programs like Reach Out’s Nurturing Families Program encourage parents to strive for something else: to be nurturing parents. 

“We are really about empowering parents,” notes Alejandra Arias, Program Manager, Community & Family Wellness. “It’s not about the guilt of comparison or the way we look at other parents and believe they have it all together. It’s about taking what we already have and applying our experiences to make us better. Not perfect. Better.” 

The Tools are Available to Us All

Each of us comes to parenting with a unique set of tools to apply to the task, and many of us don’t recognize the utility of our equipment. That’s why programs that capitalize on existing experiences and outlooks are so useful. They empower us to build from where we begin, calling on our strengths and unique abilities to become the best parents we can be. Not perfect parents. Nurturing parents.  

What is a Nurturing Parent? 

Karen Nutt, Director, Community & Family Wellness, explains, “A nurturing parent is a parent who provides emotional support to their children, who creates a safe environment for them to be able to learn and grow. The key thing nurturing parents bring to their children is empathy.” 

Every Child is Different

Nurturing will look different in every parent/child relationship, because no two children require exactly the same thing. But for all nurturing relationships, the key element of empathy will be obvious in all parent/child interactions. It is easy for us to forget as adults in a world built for adults that being small can be frustrating, and that learning new things every day can be tiring. If parents maintain their awareness for these realities and acknowledge that kids are constantly challenged and therefore deserve respect for their accomplishments, the seeds for a nurturing relationship are sown. 

Lifelong Impacts Occur from Ages Zero to Five

According to the Center on the Developing Child of Harvard University, 90% of a child’s brain development happens before the age of 5. Additionally, an article on the First5California site explains, “The relationships children experience within the first five years of life shape their expectations of how others should treat them and how they will interact with others. Relationships are powerful and a critical part of your child’s development.”

Some parents worry that providing children with too much attention will spoil them, but as Karen points out, “You don’t spoil children by attending to their basic needs. For children, needs are expressed in different ways, through crying, maybe retreating. And our job is to extend some understanding and help them understand their own needs, so that eventually they can soothe themselves when that need comes up again.” 

During these critical years, Karen explains, parenting is about meeting basic needs, but also about giving children the opportunity to live and grow in an environment where they know that if they make mistakes, someone will be there to help, forgive, and guide them to do things better next time. The first five years are all about exploration, and parents are there to chaperone that exploration, keeping kids safe and helping them understand their own emotions and reactions to the world. 

Learning to Nurture Can be Healing for Parents Too

Nurturing children is closely related to breaking destructive and toxic cycles that occur within families. As parents strive to provide the emotional support and empathy their children need to develop healthy relationships with others and with themselves, we often see the absences of this type of nurturing in our backgrounds. For some families, neglect and abandonment come into play, for others, abuse and substance misuse might be issues. Acknowledging and consciously breaking these cycles can be healing not only for future generations, but also for the parents who were once children themselves. 

A study published in 1994 and quoted in a parenting article published by Arizona State University explains, “Children who experience a nurturing home environment are more likely to develop into healthy, capable, fully functioning adults. Parents who are nurturing are warm, affectionate, good at listening, respectful, and attend to the basic care and well-being of their children (Smith, et al., 1994).”

How to Practice Nurturing Parenting

The evidence is clear, but that doesn’t mean that being a nurturing parent is something that comes naturally to most people. Quite the contrary, there are specific skills that come into play, and while most parents have the tools to be successful, it still takes practice and instruction, which is why Reach Out offers the Nurturing Families program. 

For anyone looking for tactical tips to employ immediately, Alejandra and Karen have many to offer: 

  1. Reading: Reading teaches literacy, definitely. But beyond that, sharing favorite books with children creates feelings of intimacy and well-being in children (and adults) and the perception of an adult spending time and sharing love and attention encourages positive social growth and development.
  2. Emotional Affirmation / Expressing Empathy: Karen suggests looking for deeper meaning in your child’s behavior, especially “bad” behavior. Could a tantrum really be a sign that your child feels separated from you because you’ve been at work all day? Maybe the screaming and crying is a way of expressing this need, of saying, “I missed you. I need some attention from you.” It’s hard in the context of daily life, but practicing empathy and trying to understand rather than condemn unwanted behaviors is a great way to nurture children.
  3. Practicing Praise: For some parents, praising our children for being and for doing does not come naturally. Start with small things, and work on expressing your praise vocally for what you love and appreciate about your children. Tell them when you’re proud of them, tell them they’re good people, they’re smart, they’re kind. We all need affirmation, and parents are in a unique position to offer this to their children regularly.
  4. Honoring Differences: Sometimes adults lump kids together. They’re children. But in reality, each child is a unique individual, and they deserve to have their uniqueness accepted and honored. So rather than pushing children to conform, parents can nurture them by embracing the various ways they express who they are. 

Nurturing is Important for Parents Too

It’s easy to see that children need to be cared for and loved, but parents are human beings too. While you are working to be the best parent you can be for your children, don’t forget to take care of yourself. If our wells are empty, we have nothing to give to others. 

Take time when you need it. It’s not always easy, not when work and family commitments take up the bulk of your time. Do your best to: 

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Move a little each day. A walk outdoors has benefits far beyond the physical. 
  • Spend some time free from screens and distractions, allowing your mind to quiet. 

And remember that for many families, the primary caregiver does not have to work alone. If you have someone to share the childcare responsibilities, allow yourself to ask for help. Empower your partner by asking if they can handle the bath tonight, or if they can read a story. You don’t have to do everything by yourself, and getting a partner or helper involved has benefits for you and for your children. 

Our Nurturing Families Program

Reach Out’s Nurturing Families program is for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and any other interested and involved family members who will share in the responsibilities of raising children. 

What to Expect from the Nurturing Families Program

This course is about learning critical skills to help be a more nurturing parent, but it’s also about you. Alejandra says, “So much of this course is about reflecting on you. How were your parenting skills built? And what is it that you want to change or do differently? It’s about our kids, but really, it’s about us because we’re the first models they’ll see.” 

The course is a hands-on experience where caregivers learn skills they can employ immediately. If needed, they’ll be connected to other services and resources to help along the way. For example if a child is experiencing a developmental delay and a family isn’t sure where to turn. Nurturing families can help with that. 

The Curriculum and Format

Nurturing Families is a 16-week course that takes place in San Bernardino. 

The course covers routines, discipline, self-identity, family values, and morals. Each week the course covers a different topic, and each family receives personally tailored instruction based around their specific needs. This case management means we’ll develop goals and outcomes that are unique to each family situation. In the past, we have assisted with housing assistance, utilities, and other basic needs that help families build solid foundations for nurturing relationships. 

Learn More by visiting our Nurturing Families page and filling out an interest form! 

A teen looking discouraged

What Role Should Schools Play in Conversations About Gender Identity?

Helping Families Navigate Challenging Conversations

by Diana Fox, Executive Director of Reach Out, and Omar Gonzalez-Valentino, M.S., LMFT, LPCC

Recently, schools have implemented policies to notify parents if students identify at school in a way that is different from their birth-assigned gender. The policies have sparked controversy and debate around the role our schools play in the relationships between parents and children. More specifically, these policies have inspired conversation about the responsibility of schools to tell families how their kids choose to identify at school. 

Regardless of whether it is “right” or “wrong” for schools to insert themselves into what is essentially a family conversation, the issue being raised here is not about schools and legalities. And it isn’t about parents’ rights. 

What is the real issue at stake in gender notification policies? 

The real issue surrounds the children we’re raising in the Inland Empire and beyond, and whether they have the support and tools they need to adequately explore the world they’re growing into and find their places within it. It also lies within the fabric of these families–have we as a community adequately equipped families to navigate difficult conversations with their kids? 

No matter our personal beliefs on this topic, there is no denying that the world our kids are growing into is vastly different than the one into which their parents and grandparents were raised. Unless the seeds of communication and understanding were planted during their grandparents’ generations, many families may not have the ability to engage in open communication about issues surrounding gender identity and sexuality in ways that don’t alienate one party or another. 

For these families, the notifications have the potential to do real harm. If a child hasn’t confided in their family, we can assume there must be a reason. While for some, the reason may simply be a lack of trust, for others it may be founded in legitimate fear for their own safety. Certainly, the goal of this policy is not to endanger those of our children who already live in less-than-stable home situations. 

However, that's an unfortunate consequence these policies can have. 

A Call To Action 

Let’s assume notifications proceed. Let’s assume not all kids will be safe once their families are told something they don’t want to hear. 

What can we do–or more importantly, what can those most affected: our kids–do to reinforce the support for their well-being and that of their peers? As adults and concerned citizens, we can continue to inform ourselves, to learn and grow, to accept differences among people (even people we consider part of us, because in truth, our children are individual human beings.) We can continue to fund resources for mental health and crisis intervention, and we can continue to talk to–and listen to–our children about the things we each struggle to understand. 

And our kids can continue to express their identities however they feel called to do, while making it safe for their peers to do the same. They can charter clubs and associations like the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) at their schools to provide resources and support for one another. They can embrace and utilize wellness centers and counselors provided by organizations that use grant funding for exactly this purpose. And if they are in fear, they can access crisis centers and other resources to help manage their situations. 

But the real call to action for all of us is to work harder on opening lines of communication, slowing down and asking ourselves to both talk and really listen. After all, the greatest illusion around communication is that it has actually occurred. 


Merrill Crisis Center

The Merrill Center is a short-stay crisis stabilization unit (CSU) that offers 24/7 services to adults and youth. The Merrill Center aims to increase access to crisis services, reduce inpatient hospitalization, reduce the amount of time that law enforcement is involved in a mental health crisis, and strengthen the existing outpatient behavioral health services. Merrill Center is under contract with the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health.

The center features 20 chairs with four reserved for serving youth of all ages. We serve adult and youth residents of San Bernardino County.

Walk-in clients are welcome. Individuals in crisis can access CSU services on their own or by referral. Referrals to the Merrill Center will be accepted from the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) outpatient clinics, full-service partnerships (FSP), DBH Community Crisis Response Teams (CCRTs), law enforcement and first responders, hospital emergency rooms, mental health assessment teams, and other county medical clinics and departments.

Address: 14677 Merrill Avenue, Fontana, CA 92335

Hours of Operation: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

The United Way Inland Southern California Crisis Hotline: 

The Inland SoCal Crisis Helpline is the regional 24/7 crisis and suicide hotline for Inland Southern California. It is free and confidential and you may remain anonymous. Trained counselors are available to provide support and resources to best help you. Bilingual counselors are available.

951-686-HELP (4357)

Riverside Pride, Inc: Riverside Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Pride Inc. 

(Or Riverside Pride, Riverside LGBTQ+ Pride Inc for short) is hard at work improving life for the LGBTQIA+ communities in the Inland Empire. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Text or call 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.

Talking to kids about identity: Planned Parenthood offers resources to guide tough conversations. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and gender nonconforming people are a part of every community and beloved members of many families. Learn how to discuss sexual orientations and gender identities with your kid, and how to support them if they’re LGBTQ.

Community Health Worker

The Transformative Role of Community Health Workers

Bridging Gaps in Healthcare Access

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are increasingly essential in providing comprehensive healthcare support in various communities. Their work spans educational outreach, healthcare advocacy, and specialized healthcare programs.

Reach Out trains and employs CHWs throughout the Inland Empire, and hopes to see these critical healthcare workers utilized more widely across the potential spectrum of applications. This post will consider:

  1. Who are community health workers?
  2. The critical importance of trust and cultural literacy for CHWs
  3. The spectrum of a CHWs work
  4. Who is a good fit and how is a CHW trained?

Who Are Community Health Workers?

According to Dr. Shermineh Davari, Director of Reach Out’s Inland Health Profession Consortium Department (IHPC), CHWs are individuals trained to assist their communities with a variety of healthcare issues. Dr. Davari's department, for instance, runs various programs such as work-based learning and mental health advocacy, with a special focus on Community Health Workers. “The goal is to find gaps and remove barriers to provide more equitable access to resources and services within our communities," she explains.

Mayra Mixco, a physician trained in El Salvador, is a program manager at Reach Out focused on the CHW initiatives there. “Community Health Workers inform communities about healthcare issues, help schedule various appointments, and focus on culturally appropriate outreach. They seek to connect as trusted community members, working in community spaces, including churches, consulates, and schools.”

Trust Comes with Cultural Literacy for CHWs

The cornerstone of effective healthcare provision by CHWs is trust. These workers share a cultural, linguistic, and social background with the communities they serve, which makes their role exceptionally vital. From providing healthcare education to serving as navigators and advocates, the CHW’s responsibilities are diverse. After specialized training, they are equipped to provide more equitable and inclusive services.

This trust allows CHWs to battle common myths and misconceptions about conditions and treatments that may exist in certain cultural communities. Mayra quoted a situation where she discovered that some community members believe that the diabetes treatment medication would make them go blind – when that is a risk of the disease itself. “The CHW knows our community, knows our culture, what we believe in, and what we do not believe in. They can actually come, get comfortable, and educate during a casual conversation, dispelling myths and misconceptions as they help access resources.”

The Spectrum of Work: What Do CHWs Do?

The scope of a Community Health Worker's focus can be expansive, varying by setting, healthcare system, and community. They might assist a diabetic patient in understanding their medication and monitoring blood sugar levels. They may also aid in appointment scheduling and running regular tests. 

CHWs go by various names, including health navigators and case managers. No matter the title, their focus remains on providing personalized, culturally sensitive healthcare support.

Who is a Good Fit for a Role as a CHW?

Typically, CHWs begin as individuals already recognized by their communities as trustworthy and proactive—people identified as "doers," "seekers," or "advocates." Mayra emphasizes that those who undergo training to become CHWs already possess a foundational skill set, which gets refined and directed through the program.

Reach Out's Training Programs

Reach Out (and many other organizations) actively train CHWs. We offer an 80-hour training program that not only covers health-related topics but also includes development of interpersonal and communication skills. Following the training, CHWs must complete 40 hours of field experience to get hands-on practice in the community, something Reach Out helps to facilitate.

New Funding Opportunities and Specialization

Funding is now being directed towards expanding the focus of CHWs to areas such as substance misuse. Dr. Davari and Mayra both emphasize that CHWs could play an essential role in de-stigmatizing substance misuse treatment and assisting individuals in recovery. The aim is to adopt a holistic approach, addressing not just the issue of substance misuse but also the factors that may be contributing to it.

Understanding Social Determinants of Health

CHWs are trained to be aware of the broader social determinants that impact health, including socioeconomic status, sexuality, and housing conditions. This knowledge allows them to provide services tailored to individual needs rather than taking a "one size fits all" approach.

The Future of CHWs

Public health departments are increasingly recognizing the importance of CHWs, especially as their services become medically reimbursable. CHWs can assist busy healthcare providers by taking the time to understand patients’ cultural and lifestyle nuances, such as food habits, thus enabling better healthcare outcomes.

CHWs and Reach Out are shaping the future of community healthcare in the Inland Empire by offering a blend of education, trust, and cultural understanding. As this role evolves, their contributions promise to make healthcare more equitable and accessible for everyone – a mission Reach Out shares. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Reach Out’s CHW training, learn more here and sign up!

A man receiving help with substance misuse issues

Substance Use Navigators (SUNs): Bringing Hope to Dark Places

Recently we chatted with one of our collaborative partners, Lisa Molina from Solid Ground Wellness in Riverside about the critical role that Substance Use Navigators (SUNs) play in the community. Lisa is the SUN trainer in the Community Health Worker training program here at Reach Out, and she is uniquely qualified to discuss the intricacies of helping those with substance use disorders. 

Lisa Molina started Solid Ground with her daughter and son-in-law after working for 24 years in one of the biggest treatment facilities in Riverside. The career she ultimately chose came on the heels of her own struggles with substance abuse. When Lisa tells her story, it’s emotional. She was pregnant and using before she found help, and her daughter was born on the heels of a purposeful overdose when Lisa believed maybe the world would do better without her. 

Her survival and her ongoing work has definitely disproven that idea. 

The SUNs that Lisa trains through her work with Reach Out are making a real difference to the populations of the Inland Empire, where substance abuse is a health crisis. The purpose of the training, she explained, is to give the SUNs the ability to “walk in and meet any situation with confidence. Many of the individuals that Reach Out works with are unhoused, and have substance use and mental health issues. So it's imperative for the community health worker to be able to evaluate first of all for their safety, but then also what the symptomatology is for certain substances. Is the individual displaying certain behaviors, is this a mental health disorder or is it a substance use disorder or a combination thereof?”

The SUNs that Lisa trains are able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a variety of issues and symptoms of specific substances, and they’re also trained in how to recognize an overdose. The SUNs are equipped with Narcan, and because of the urgency of the situation, they’re often the ones who prevent the loss of a life from overdose. 

Who Are Community Health Workers? 

According to Lisa, Community Health Workers, or CHWs are a bridge between medical services and the community. 

“A CHW could be anybody who wants to have a community impact.” CHWs are lay people who help with everything from accessing pharmacy services to actually scheduling appointments on a patient’s behalf when that patient might not know how to do so. “A Community Health Worker is really somebody that just walks alongside the patient and assists them with hands-on resources that the individual may need.”

There is a growing need for CHWs in the Inland Empire, and Reach Out is working with the counties to meet that need. Cohorts are forming for new CHWs and classes are taught in Spanish and English. 

Once an individual becomes a CHW, the Substance Use Navigator is another layer. This additional training consists of a 20-hour education piece delivered over 10 weeks, two hours each week. And it provides everything from the ethical responsibilities of somebody that's providing any type of substance use treatment to help identifying cultural barriers and bias.

Individualized Care in Riverside Through Solid Ground

In addition to training SUNs for Reach Out, Lisa and her family provide individualized care to individuals in Riverside who are seeking outpatient substance abuse treatment. Solid Ground also serves individuals who are waiting to go into a residential site who need support and resources while they're waiting to go in. 

“I think our unique backgrounds - knowing that we’re intimately familiar with substance abuse and criminal involvement in our pasts - that gives hope and inspiration to clients when they know that we've been where they're at and have come full circle.”

Solid Ground also finds success working with younger clients. “Working with youth is a wonderful spot because the counselors are younger than the client's parents, but older than the client. So they're able to give the lingo and connect with them where the parent wouldn't be able to. The counseling staff is at that prime age to be able to do so.”

In a situation where so many wouldn’t want to share their story, Lisa and her family take pride in their background because it’s what enables them to help so many people in their community. “My daughter’s father ultimately died from an overdose, and she saw him using, and knows what that is like, and what it did to our family.” That experience has been turned on its ear, and used to bring so much good to so many people. 

Lisa encountered numerous barriers in her own journey to treatment, and the goal behind Solid Ground is to make treatment easy to access for those who need it. “I want to make sure that the barriers are not there for anybody that contacts us, and that we're able to help,” Lisa says. 

If you’d like to learn more about drug treatment in Riverside or San Bernardino Counties, please access the following resources:

Substance Use Disorder and Recovery Services San Bernardino

Substance Abuse Resources Riverside

Solid Ground Wellness - Riverside 

And if you’d like to learn more about becoming a Community Healthcare Worker or a Substance Use Navigator, please contact us. 

Teenagers laughing togehter

The Science of Substance Abuse Prevention

How We Can Help Adolescents Avoid Drugs and Alcohol Abuse

Substance abuse is a complex issue that affects not just individuals, but entire communities, and it’s a key focus of Reach Out’s efforts across the Inland Empire. Dr. Robert LaChausse, an expert in the field, has been a long-time partner of Reach Out, and we recently met with him to discuss evidence-based approaches to substance abuse prevention.

Dr. LaChausse is a professor at California Baptist University who runs the Program Evaluation and Prevention research lab in the Department of Public Health Sciences there. A developmental psychologist by training, he explains that his interest for the past 30 years has been focused on why people do what they do as it relates to their health. Primarily, why do children and teenagers do certain things that they know are not beneficial to their health? 

The Problem with Traditional Approaches

Dr. LaChausse is quick to point out that traditional prevention methods, such as bringing in police officers or members of Alcoholics Anonymous to talk to kids, are ineffective, based on 40 years of evidence demonstrating that these efforts have little effect. Scare tactics, which aim to frighten individuals into abstaining from substance use, have been shown to be largely ineffective. Similarly, the "Every Fifteen Minutes" program, which involves staged car crashes and mock funerals to dramatize the consequences of impaired driving, has faced criticism for its lack of long-term effectiveness. 

Dr. LaChausse's point is clear: prevention strategies need to be evidence-based and multifaceted. Relying solely on scare tactics or dramatic presentations can divert resources away from more effective, science-backed methods of prevention. Therefore, it's crucial to focus on what actually works, such as community policies, school-based programs like Project Alert, and law enforcement involvement in enforcing ordinances and conducting tobacco sales checks, to make a real difference in combating substance abuse.

A lot of the familiar programs “feel” like they should be effective, and seem like common sense, which is why educators and legislators continue to fund them. But Dr. LaChausse makes an interesting observation about the fact that medical interventions require trained and licensed professionals – shouldn’t behavioral and psychological interventions as well? He says, "I think one of the institutional and cultural problems we have is that these police officers, firefighters, those people are not trained in prevention."

What Actually Works in Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention

Drawing from his extensive research and experience, Dr. LaChausse calls for a more scientific approach, and he is not the only voice asking school boards and legislators to reconsider their methods. The National Institutes of Health advocates for evidence-based programs as well, citing decades of research. 

Teaching kids specific skills and giving them the opportunity to practice those skills is a proven method for reducing susceptibility in situations where adolescents may encounter drug and alcohol use. Learning to recognize, manage, and avoid situations where risky behaviors are going on is one skill, while employing the skill of assertive communication is another Dr. LaChausse suggests. 

"We have to give them the skills so that when they encounter a risk situation that can lead to alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, they can employ those skills that they've learned, maybe in school or in a community-based agency or a church, and they'll be less likely to use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs."

The Role of Parents

Parents can play a significant role in prevention, and Dr. LaChausse suggests that they should be actively involved in their school's PTA and attend school board meetings to advocate for evidence-based prevention programs. He also emphasizes the importance of parental monitoring, stating, "the best predictor of whether or not a teenager will use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs is whether or not their parents are effective monitors of their behavior."

Community Policies Matter

Dr. LaChausse highlights the importance of community policies in supporting prevention efforts. For example, he mentions the implementation of a social host ordinance in the city of Jurupa Valley, which penalizes those who provide alcohol to minors. He says, "So in Jurupa, you have stuff directly going on with the school in terms of an effective drug prevention program with kids, but you also have policies that reduce youth access to alcohol." Reach Out has been pivotal in getting several substance use related ordinances passed throughout the Inland Empire that strengthen safety for all youth. 

According to Dr. LaChausse, a multifaceted and multi-level approach to prevention is essential. This involves schools, parents, community organizations, and policymakers all working together.

"Successful prevention of the consequences of substance abuse is going to take this multi-pronged approach from a number of different entities and people in order to really be effective."

And the first step, he notes, is to make sure that those funding current programs are really asking questions about whether or not they work. The Every Fifteen Minutes program requires an enormous outlay of resources – and in a country where we spend ten cents on prevention for every seven dollars spent on rehabilitation, arrest, adjudication, and incarceration, that money is hard to come by. 

Communities and Local Government Stand to See Economic Benefit from Effective Prevention

Lastly, Dr. LaChausse points out that effective prevention not only keeps kids on a healthy developmental trajectory but also has economic benefits for the community, given the enormous costs of substance abuse described above. He says, "So if you can go to somebody and explain that implementing an evidence-based prevention curriculum in a school district might save a community a half a million dollars, that's going to get the attention of policymakers."

Dr. Robert LaChausse provides a comprehensive look at the importance of evidence-based approaches to substance abuse prevention and makes a compelling case for a multi-pronged strategy involving parents, schools, and community policies. As he aptly puts it, "We will not be able to adjudicate and arrest our way out of the substance use and abuse epidemic." 

It's time for a more scientific, evidence-based approach to make a real impact.

Learn more about a variety of evidence-based substance abuse prevention initiatives.

Give Them the Tools

An innovative program empowers our youth to reclaim their mental health

In recent months, we’ve shared a lot about the state of mental health of the young people in our country and here in the Inland Empire, where Reach Out operates. It’s undoubtedly a crisis, as pointed out by Dr. Rocha in her talk at this year’s National Innovative Communities Conference, and the statistics are chilling. Numbers like these (suicide is the second leading cause of death among those 15 -24 years old; nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide) lead most reasonable people to ask one question: What can we do? 

Reach Out is working hard on the answer to this question, and that work has culminated in the launch of their Intervention Specialist program, currently entering its second year of active work in the Chaffey Joint Union High School District. 

What is an intervention specialist? 

Neither teacher nor staff member, nor technically a therapist, Intervention Specialists are specially trained counselors who staff on-campus wellness centers. These specialists are equipped with a wealth of information and knowledge about the variety of situations that teens might bring into the centers with them, and while they are not licensed therapists, they are trained to refer serious issues to appropriate personnel. 

Sophia Juárez, director of the program for Reach Out, explained the need the wellness centers address in the nine high schools where they are currently active. She explained that during the lockdown period of the pandemic, many youth in the IE experienced isolation, violence, abuse, or grief at home. Many of our kids returned to school dealing with issues they didn’t have the tools to address on their own, and these kinds of big feelings can turn into anger issues, depression, substance abuse, and even violence. 

“Our intervention specialists are there to help them learn to self-soothe and teach them how to manage their anger issues. And this is an opportunity for the kids to go in and learn, where they're given the tools to properly handle their emotions, so then they can go out and navigate in the moment without one of our intervention specialists holding their hand. One of the philosophies I like to use is: we educate them to equip them to empower them.”

Modeling Healthy Adult Relationships

Sophia, along with Intervention Specialist Program Managers Alyssa Montano and Josh Davis, talked about the wellness centers and those who staff them as adults offering the teens on campus a safe space. For some, it may be enough to just come in and sit, taking time to breathe and unwind. “We really work to make the centers welcoming to kids,” Alyssa noted. “We’ll have bean bag chairs and music playing, there are different activities and spaces where kids can read or journal.” 

Not all kids come in ready to unload their issues, and for many of them, trust is a key factor. “The program really puts the power back in the kids’ hands, and we let them know that we’re there if they want to talk, but that they also have the option of just getting a break. In fact, letting a kid who’s clearly struggling know that they don’t have to talk is often the key to unlocking that closed door,” Alyssa said. “Just letting them know they have that opportunity is critical. Especially if they never created a connection with a teacher or a counselor, because their trust in adults may have been broken in the past. We work hard at creating that place for them to just have that space and use it how they'd like to. Most of the time, once trust is established, kids are eager to talk. They need to.”

Sophia agreed, “I say this often to the staff, but this could potentially be the only healthy relationship these kids have with an adult.”

Intervention Specialists See and Hear the Kids of the IE

The heart of this program lies with the intervention specialists themselves. Each specialist goes through a comprehensive training and participates in ongoing training weekly, sharing best practices and key strategies. But beyond training, these are people who really want to make a difference to kids, who really believe in the impact they can have, one life at a time. 

“Sometimes,” Josh Davis noted, “It’s as simple as breathing. Giving a child the means to self-regulate, to know that they’ve got the tools to handle whatever they’re facing, is something that brings joy to these specialists. And beyond that, it’s about letting each individual know that their voice is heard, regardless of their truancy or substance abuse, or whatever issues they’ve got going on. Those issues don’t define them.”  

“We want to focus on letting kids know that their feelings matter, that they matter, and on giving them a safe space and tools to work through some really difficult challenges,” Sophia said. 

Via individualized conversations, a safe space to unwind, and a focus on arming small groups of students struggling with similar issues with tools to address those problems, the intervention specialists are making a real impact on the population of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District. According to last year’s records, more than 1500 members of the student population in the district signed into a wellness center at least once, with a total of more than 5,400 total visits. That’s an astounding amount of impact for a first-year program, and those at the helm of this effort expect to see that number increase. Via focused assessments geared toward generating data about issues and usage, Reach Out is working to build definitive proof that this program changes - and saves - lives. 

The Need is There

There is no question that the need for this type of resource-building intervention is there, and the number of students touched in year one only serves to emphasize that reality. 

“Sadly enough, we see so many things, so many situations come in and out of our wellness centers. But the best part is that we know that what we're doing is potentially impacting these lives long term,” Sophia said. 

And for the kid whose life is impacted for the better? That should be evidence enough that this program is working. 

Still, there are many more kids than there is funding for this program, something Reach Out hopes to help change. “We’d love to see funding for this program to expand to other districts,” Sophia noted. “And we’re working on it.” 

To learn more about the Intervention Specialist program and other efforts Reach Out is making on behalf of the kids of the Inland Empire, click here.