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Success Stories

Success Stories

Hear from the youth, children and families we have strengthened

Read their stories

SBCS has been strengthening San Diegans since 1971. Our services and supports – based in the strengths of local communities – assist those throughout the region reach their fullest potential.


Four-year-old Veronica joined SBCS at Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool after returning to San Diego with her mom and sibling as a result of experiencing domestic violence in Northern California, where they previously called home. When we met them, the family was living in their car due to lack of resources and support.

During her first few days at Mi Escuelita, Veronica was quiet and withdrawn. However, with support and encouragement from teachers, she began to interact with peers and became vocal and playful. Veronica performed very well academically and continues to do so today while maintaining her naturally friendly and outgoing personality.

Not only the Mi Escuelita program, but also a variety of SBCS support services were critical to Veronica and her family’s healing and success. Her mom was connected with a Parent Partner, who assisted her in navigating systems and applying for financial supports. They were able to access motel rental assistance and free meals while Mom sought employment and permanent housing.

The family remained resilient and perseverant and are now able to rent a permanent residence while Mom goes on several strong job interviews, follows through with services and continues to be receptive to referrals for support.

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Jessica and her three brothers entered the foster system at very young ages after being exposed to domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and neglect. When they were later adopted, Jessica’s adoptive parents enrolled her at three other preschools that she had to be removed from before coming to Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool. Jessica struggled with following directions, adhering to daily routines, temper tantrums and displays of aggression toward peers and staff.

Upon Jessica’s arrival to Mi Escuelita, the same behaviors were observed. She became easily frustrated and was verbally and physically abusive toward teachers and other students. Within a couple weeks after enrollment, however, Jessica’s tantrums were noticeably less frequent and when she had them, she was able to work through them with patient, supportive and trusted staff by her side.

Jessica now happily attends school every day and is becoming a leader in her classroom. She is helpful and supportive with peers and is able to quickly redirect when feeling anxious or frustrated. Her parents also share that they have seen a decrease in aggression and temper tantrums at home.

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Lilly came to Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool from a home with severe domestic violence issues where she witnessed her mother being pinned to the wall by her father with a pen to her throat. She was diagnosed with autism and had been assigned an Individualized Education Program before arriving at Mi Escuelita.

In her first days and weeks at the school, Lilly was withdrawn and preferred to play by herself. While she and her mom were working with her program

therapist, Lilly disclosed an incident of sexual abuse by her father. In response, her therapist intensified individual and family therapy to help support Lilly and her mom through the healing process.

Although her mom struggled with finding employment, she did all she could to support Lilly’s well-being while navigating court and restraining order processes, and remained present and engaged in therapy.

Lilly continued opening up to her therapist and, with time, began integrating more and more with her peers. She is now a happy and lively child showing great social and verbal skills, recently graduated Mi Escuelita and is thriving in kindergarten.

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Allie was three years old when enrolled in Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool after experiencing significant trauma while living with her mom, who suffered from severe mental health challenges. Allie, her younger brother and mom were found naked but unharmed on the curb outside their home after her mom lit the house on fire.

Allie was quiet and withdrawn when she began attending Mi Escuelita. She appeared nervous and scared around other children and adults. School fire drills were a trigger for Allie — she would become very frightened when the fire alarm sounded. Teachers and therapists were always by Allie’s side during these drills and in other times of distress for her, making sure she knew she was safe.

Allie slowly began engaging with her teachers and therapists, who set the pace for things to evolve. Soon Allie was making friends and playing alongside them. She is now in Pre-K and considered a role model for other children. Allie takes new students under her wing and is nurturing with them, teaching them classroom rules and reminding them they are safe here.

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David and his younger sister and brother had been separated in different foster homes before their adoptive parents went through the challenging process of reuniting them and establishing their permanent home and family. David had been on the verge of being removed from his previous preschool program due to outbursts and aggression when the three children were enrolled in Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool.

Although some of David’s difficult behaviors persisted in the new setting, his parents and school staff worked together to assess and respond to his needs, and soon his outbursts lessened and aggression ceased completely. He began bonding with teachers, succeeding in the program and became a role model for other students. David is now in Pre-K and thriving.

David’s younger siblings are also both doing very well and showing their unique personalities through tailored programming. Their parents are active participants in all parent engagement activities and maintain great communication with teachers and management to best support their children.

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When Alvin first arrived at Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool, his mom shared with staff that he often displayed physical aggression toward other children, ignored adults and struggled with toilet training. His family of four had recently moved into a studio apartment after fights and arguments with former housemates that Alvin and his younger sibling were exposed to. The Mi Escuelita team immediately referred his parents to housing, food, childcare, employment and education support services upon assessment of their needs.

Despite many behavioral challenges, Alvin could also be caring and helpful. He loved and excelled at sports. Alvin’s therapist worked with him and his mom to develop goals around improving his social skills, decreasing the time he needed to calm down and potty training. The team connected them to behavioral services, speech assessments and classes, vision and hearing screenings for Alvin. He was provided glasses and — along with other continued resources and support —Alvin seemed to become a different child.

Alvin began to ignore staff less, engaged in more verbal interactions, allowed them to comfort him and gave hugs often. Meanwhile, his mom became more engaged and involved as well. As a result of this collaboration, Alvin’s assessment scores began to increase. He became potty trained, moved up to the next classroom level, and has adjusted well with his new class and therapist. His academic scores are increasing, he has made respectful relationships with other children, and he smiles and chats all day long.

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Arturo and his younger brother, Zeke, came to Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool a year into their foster care placement. They were anxious at the beginning of their time in the program, fearing naptime, uncertain of being separated from one another and worried that their foster mother would not return for them.

The siblings’ Mi Escuelita therapist and teachers worked attentively with them on decreasing their anxiety through specialized curriculum and activities as well as group therapy. When Arturo and Zeke were eventually removed from foster care placement and returned to the home of their biological grandparents, their therapist collaborated with other social service providers to ensure they would continue services at Mi Escuelita. The boys’ grandparents are appreciative of the program and the care it has provided them.

Both children are now thriving and no longer present anxious behaviors. Arturo is kindergarten ready and preparing for graduation. Zeke has healthy eating habits now, plays with other children, and is known for his contagious laugher.

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Sandy called SBCS’ 24/7 Domestic Violence Response Hotline seeking assistance in fleeing from her husband and the father of her two daughters, who had tendencies for outrage and violence. On the morning Sandy and her daughters arrived at SBCS’ Casas Seguras shelter for victims of domestic violence, her husband rampaged from each of her family members’ homes to the next searching for them, destroying property and making death threats.

With the collaboration of four police departments and shelter staff, Sandy’s husband was arrested in less than 48 hours and she was able to breathe a bit easier. Their first day at the shelter, Sandy’s youngest daughter approached staff with a hug and said “Thank you for keeping my Mommy safe.”

During Sandy’s stay at Casas Seguras, she was able to work with a therapist and Parent Partner to focus on her mental health. Soon after, she returned to work and began saving money. After assessing for safety and with her husband still in jail, Sandy and her daughters were later able to return to their home and will soon be relocating to a different residence utilizing the rental assistance voucher the SBCS team was also able to provide her.

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Carmen entered SBCS’ Casas Seguras shelter for victims of domestic violence with her six children after fleeing from an abusive relationship with her husband.

New to San Diego, Carmen quickly found employment and transferred into the agency’s Casa de Luz Transitional Housing program, where she sought to save money, pay off an eviction, and work toward self-sufficiency.

Shortly after her transition to this program, Carmen — like many other working Americans — had her work hours reduced and was eventually a laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Determined to get her job back, she communicated diligently with her employer and was eventually able to return to work for a few hours per week.

Months later and back in her work routine, Carmen was fortunate enough to find a place to rent with the assistance of an SBCS rental support program, where her and her children now live. Carmen continues to work hard to provide stability and safety for her family.

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One evening, Ana frantically called SBCS’ 24/7 Domestic Violence Response Hotline during her attempt to flee from her abusive husband and the father of her young child. Ana was referred to SBCS by her neighbor who had previously benefitted from the agency’s services.

Although SBCS’ Casas Seguras shelter for victims of domestic violence was full at the time, the team was able to place Ana and her son in a hotel using grant funds. When a unit became available, Ana and her son moved into Casas Seguras.

Ana was initially very frightened and timid, aware of few resources and, with her native language being Persian, challenged to navigate information on her own. Still, she worked diligently with a case manager while at the shelter and took advantage of every resource extended to her.

Eventually Ana transferred to SBCS’ Casa de Luz Transitional Housing program, where she was able to gain employment and provide stability for herself and her son. Later, Ana was connected to SBCS’ Rapid Rehousing program and found a rental of her own with the assistance of SBCS partner-funded housing support. Throughout her time with SBCS, Ana also enrolled her son in the agency’s Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool, and participated in Community Services for Families parenting classes. Thanks to Ana’s determination and resilience and the aid of SBCS resources, she is now living a safe and stable life with her son.

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One of a number of new challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought on for victims of domestic violence was the decision to make a number of local inmates eligible for early release. SBCS’ domestic violence advocates acted quickly to encourage clients to ensure they were registered with the Department of Corrections’ Victim Services inmate release notification system in order to receive notification if their abuser became eligible for early release.

Jane was one of many SBCS clients impacted by the early release policy. She had done everything necessary to keep herself and her four children safe, but received notice that her abusive husband who had threatened her life and still had four more years of his sentence to serve was scheduled to be released within a couple short months due to COVID-19.

This news sent Jane into a panic as she didn’t have the money saved or support needed to move. She could not think straight or eat, and claimed she felt as if she was losing her mind imagining seeing her husband at her front door.

SBCS’ domestic violence advocates stepped in to help, securing the deposit and part of first month’s rent for a new place, as well as some furniture and décor to make the apartment feel more like home. Jane moved, filed her order of protection and worked with staff to complete the “Safe @ Home” application process to keep her new address confidential.

Now safely in her new apartment, Jane says she’s not feeling like she’s walking backwards anymore, but rather forward towards a brighter future; which she states that she and her four children all owe to the care she received from SBCS.

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An SBCS domestic violence advocate responded to a call to SBCS’ 24/7 Domestic Violence Response Hotline from Gloria, a client in distress, reporting that she was the victim of a physically and verbally abusive relationship with a well-known criminal and in the process of escaping.

Gloria was open to hearing about any and all resources and eager to move forward with services. She was not from San Diego and had no family or support system nearby to lean on. The SBCS advocate arranged a three-week hotel stay for Gloria and also assisted her in obtaining medical insurance, arranging for counseling and obtaining full-time employment.

Gloria is now staying with a friend she made through her new job while looking for an apartment to rent with the help of one of SBCS’s voucher rental subsidy programs for victims of domestic violence. Gloria’s Family Violence Support Services liaison will continue to connect her with local resources and support through the process of healing and finding safe and stable housing.

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When SBCS’ Domestic Violence Response Team received a call from law enforcement requesting their support in responding to an incident between Gemma and her boyfriend, they arrived on the scene to learn that her boyfriend had been taken into custody for felony domestic violence and Gemma was in great need of a number of services.

Although fearful and unsure about speaking with authorities, Gemma eventually disclosed that she struggled with bipolar disorder and her boyfriend often hid her medication from her; had beaten, strangled and suffocated her in many unreported instances throughout their three-year relationship; and kept weapons in the home. Gemma’s SBCS domestic violence advocate worked with an officer on the scene to issue her an Emergency Protective Order upon Gemma’s decision to seek one and helped her arrange to stay with her brother for the night, before following up the next day to collaborate on a strategy to leave San Diego for her safety.

Gemma had many family members and friends in Utah, including one welcoming her to stay with them. Gemma’s SBCS advocate helped her apply for travel assistance as well as refill her medication, obtain a Temporary Restraining Order and get in contact with her mother, who also lived in Utah. The advocate also connected her to another victim’s advocate at the District Attorney’s office to support with applying for additional compensation and inform her of the status of her boyfriend’s case — he was being held with no bail.

A few weeks later, Gemma received the travel assistance and went home to Utah to stay with her friend and mother. She checked in periodically, updating her SBCS advocate on her renewed relationship with her children and the stabilization of her disorder. With advocate and family support, Gemma felt strong enough to eventually return to San Diego to testify in court. Her ex-boyfriend was sentenced to three years in jail and she was granted a Criminal Protective Order. Gemma is currently employed in Utah and has regular visitation with her children.

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Another local agency placed a call to SBCS’ 24/7 Domestic Violence Response Hotline seeking help for Mary, a 40-year-old mother of three attempting to flee her emotionally abusive and highly controlling husband. Mary’s husband had isolated her and prevented her from returning to her home country while also refusing to allow her to learn English, work or have access to money.

Mary only spoke Arabic and this was a significant barrier for her. She struggled to communicate her needs to service providers and had not been able to access help despite having reached out to many other agencies. SBCS staff utilized translation resources and learned that Mary had no car, was not allowed to work, had no friends or family in the United States and did not understand any of the resources available to her. In addition to her husband being abusive, one of Mary’s teenage children was also physically abusive toward her and it was not safe for her to return home.

SBCS staff reached out to a local organization working specifically with Middle Eastern refugees to collaborate and effectively support Mary. Through this collaborative effort and a translator, SBCS was able to offer Mary shelter in a hotel where she stayed safe while her case manager worked to identify appropriate resources for her well-being and healing.

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Liz and her one-year-old daughter entered SBCS’ Casas Seguras shelter for victims of domestic violence after fleeing physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband. She had previously sought refuge at another local shelter, but there her husband continued to stalk and harass her and she was asked to leave. Liz ultimately found a safe home for her and her daughter at Casa Seguras.

Despite the trauma she had experienced, Liz was highly motivated to make positive changes for herself and her young daughter. While staying in the shelter, she started a culinary training program with Kitchens for Good and applied for nutrition and financial assistance. Eventually, she transitioned to SBCS’ Casa de Luz Transitional Housing program, completed and graduated from the culinary training program and secured a job in the food industry.

Liz’s commitment to becoming self-sufficient made her an ideal candidate for SBCS’ Rapid Rehousing program. With the support this program and staff provided, Liz was able to finalize her divorce and obtain full custody of her daughter. Most recently, she was promoted to manager at her work. Liz successfully completed the Rapid Rehousing program and plans to continue renting her current home. She no longer receives public assistance and is well on her way to self-sufficiency.

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Fleeing domestic violence and an unsafe home life, Ayona found herself in San Diego. She was connected to SBCS by Southwestern College Student Services and provided safe and stable housing in a small studio, as well as a,number of supportive services, through SBCS’ Transitional Living Program for youth experiencing homelessness.

Ayona enthusiastically engaged in financial literacy classes and mental health services. She opened a bank account and began to save the money she earned as a tutor, soon even receiving a $500 savings match through the Community in Action program. She took advantage of opportunities in her fields of interest, including internships with local government campaigns, leadership roles at Southwestern College and in SBCS’ Youth Action Board focused on elevating the voices of youth in the South Bay who have experienced homelessness.

Ayona’s longtime dream was to attend a four-year university and serve her community through law and public office. While in SBCS’ program, she completed and submitted all of her university applications and graduated with an AA in political science. Ayona was accepted to UCLA and awarded financial package that covered her student housing, recently moving in and beginning her first semester. She has already become UCLA Student Government’s Chief of Staff of Operations for the Office of the President, a position rarely offered to a first-year transfer student. She continues to lead SBCS’ Youth Action Board efforts from afar.

Ayona says, “Without SBCS and its Transitional Living Program, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my associates and transfer to my dream school. They provided me the resources and stability I needed to succeed.”

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Jasmine has been involved in SBCS programs since she was a teenager. With our help, she was able to gain employment skills, practical skills for independent living and home management, and mental health support all while furthering her education as she transitioned out of high school and onto Southwestern College.

At 21 years old, Jasmine has been able to manage her home and finances responsibly, purchase a car, and develop interpersonal skills valuable to both professional and personal settings. She has worked as a caregiver for adults with disabilities and discovered a passion for helping others.

Jasmine repeatedly comes back to staff to talk about how she now understands how they were able to be so patient with her and values all the lessons they taught her over the years. She frequently shares, “I remember when you told me not to quit a job until I have another one lined up. It’s called having a plan” and reiterates lessons learned like, “I need to take a breath and calm down, it is not good to just react to things.”

Jasmine now demonstrates a deeper level of understanding when it comes to her mental health and the positive impacts of therapy. She works hard to ensure she doesn’t miss any sessions and actively practices coping skills to help her better manage both positive and negative events in her life.

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As a participant in SBCS’ Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential program — which supports youth with high school graduation, enrollment into postsecondary programs and access to work experience and employment — Tania disclosed that she was experiencing homelessness as a result of family members that it was unsafe to be around. Her fiancé was in the Navy but was deployed, leaving her nowhere to live.

Tania was connected to SBCS’ Transitional Living Program for youth experiencing homelessness and instantly became a leader in her home there. As her confidence grew, Tania was able to successfully focus on personal goals, including medical care to treat pain she had been experiencing for years; mental health services and obtaining an emotional support animal; and career exploration. Tania had always had interest in working with children and considered pediatric nursing.

While in the Transitional Living Program, she began volunteering at Castle Park Elementary School and successfully completed a job training program offered by Kaiser and SBCS. She then re-enrolled in college with hopes of majoring in Child Development.

When Tania’s fiancé returned to San Diego eight months after she moved into transitional living, they planned a civil ceremony. Tania expressed her sadness that she had no family who would be part of that. When she arrived home from the courthouse, she was welcomed by a party thrown by her peers in the Transitional Living Program.

Tania says that the best thing about SBCS’ Transitional Living Program “is that it is a safe environment for youth who are struggling in the real world. In this safe and caring environment, I was able to expand my decisions to create the life I really want.” Tania is now living with her husband in Navy housing.

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Living with his siblings and father in their car after his father lost his job, Francisco experienced unsafe conditions and food insecurity, and missed about two years of school. Upon learning this, Francisco’s counselor connected him to SBCS’ Transitional Living Program for youth experiencing homelessness.

While in the program, Francisco completed his credits and earned his high school diploma. He was connected to various educational and employment readiness programs, including SBCS’ Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential program, which supports with high school graduation, enrollment into postsecondary programs and access to work experience and employment. With the help of these resources, Francisco gained independent living and financial literacy skills. He also enrolled at Southwestern College as the first in his family to go to college and obtained his first job in the school’s cafeteria.

After eight months in SBCS’ Transitional Living Program, Francisco transitioned to the agency’s Rapid Rehousing program that provides housing placement, rent and move-in assistance, and case management. A year later, Francisco is now working full-time at Vons and paying 30 percent of his income toward rent for the apartment he secured through the program.

Francisco says “TLP has a lot of resources. I have built another family for me that I was comfortable with and that I could trust. I learned to never give up. No matter how hard the circumstances are, there is still hope for your dreams.”

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Nehemias Pedroza first learned about SBCS’ Academic Advocate program during his senior year at Castle Park High School in 2014, via our Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood. Throughout the school year, the team helped Nehemias explore career paths and universities that aligned with his goals. Nehemias’ hard work and commitment came to fruition when he was accepted at San Diego State University.

After starting at SDSU in fall 2015, Nehemias continued to take advantage of every opportunity to ensure academic success. He remained connected with the Academic Advocate program, including serving as a college ambassador for his school. He shared his college experience and learnings with seniors at Castle Park High School and Hilltop High School.

As time went by, Nehemias and his advocate began discussing plans after graduation. After weighing his options, Nehemias decided to pursue paralegal program at the University of San Diego and began shortly after earning his Bachelor’s degree in political science.

During his last year of paralegal program, Nehemias networked and earned an internship position with the City of Chula Vista’s City Attorney Glen Googins and gained first-hand field experience over the course of three months. Since completing the first internship, Nehemias was connected to another internship through SBCS with Meyers Nave, where he was then hired as paralegal!