Ravenswood Initiative Update
Program Manager, Dr. Jen Coloma, explains the goals of this meaningful initiative.
Meet Dr. Jen Coloma
What is the Ravenswood Initiative for More Kids?
Through the Ravenswood Initiative for More Kids, CHC has expanded our reach into East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park by channeling services through partners like Ravenswood City School District, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula After School Programs, Eastside College Prep, and the list is growing. We’re working with these partners to help fill gaps in support and services so students do not fall through the cracks. It’s one of our agency goals: to help more families by making services more accessible. This means reaching deeper into the community and meeting families where they are—literally and figuratively.
Our approach includes closely examining and addressing the behavioral, emotional, and learning barriers that may be interfering with a child or teen’s potential for success. In Ravenswood, 95% of residents are considered low income, 54% of parents are not high school graduates, and 72% of students are English language learners. Despite a vibrant community, rich with culture, history, and potential, stressful conditions create a collective sense of heightened anxiety, fear, grief, and trauma—all barriers to learning and thriving.
What is your role?
Since 2014, I’ve been working as the Initiative’s Program Manager. I’m a licensed community psychologist, and because I’m bilingual I can work with families and kids in their native language. I lead teacher and parent workshops on topics like conflict resolution, managing difficult behaviors, and social-emotional learning. I also meet 1:1 with parents and teachers to discuss concerns. In some cases the child/student in question just needs a “lift” in order to succeed. But some kids are high risk and need a lot of support. Through our consultation model, we can address the needs of both scenarios. A “lift” could be some skill-building and psychoeducation, while we may have to link a higher risk kid to other appropriate services. In my role I am both proactive and preventative as well as reactive and supportive.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Every day is different, and every day we make a difference. I am constantly inspired by the voices of this unique and vibrant community. Whether it’s working with a child with ADHD who is disruptive and about to get expelled, offering support to a child and their family after experiencing a loss or trauma, or being there for a depressed single mother whose kids end up in my office because they were in a fight at school— it’s an honor to hear stories and reflect back the potential we see with every kid, every teacher, every parent. Together we are weaving a fabric of hope for the community.
How do you know your work is having an impact?
I’d like to say we can tell we’re having an impact because so many more schools and youth programs are contacting us to see if we will help them. The workshop/consultation model we’ve piloted at Ravenswood schools and after school sites has been so successful that we now have an office onsite at Belle Haven Community School. We also meet with the mental health team and principal biweekly (to discuss kids and trends), and have hired a bilingual care manager to manage the volume of consultations, meet with parents who need immediate help, provide case management services, and reinforce evaluation efforts. Since fall 2015, our program has directly served 250 parents and 330 teachers in the Ravenswood community through workshops and 1:1 consultations. We’ve provided consultations for 110 students (and the indirect impact is far greater!). Half of these students present with three or more concerning behaviors that serve as barriers to their learning and success. CHC provides a combination of psychoeducation, skill building, and case management services to help improve student outcomes. It’s easiest to express the power of the Ravenswood Initiative through the words of our partners: