South Bay Community Services.

Every year, preschool-age children who have been impacted by domestic violence or abuse are waitlisted for a school that specializes in helping them heal from trauma. But beginning next year, more children will have the opportunity to begin to thrive thanks to a $1.7 million grant to expand classrooms at the therapeutic preschool in Chula Vista.

Mi Escuelita, one of many programs offered by South Bay Community Services (SBCS), was recently awarded one of four grants totaling $13.8 million through the Guy C. Clum Fund at The San Diego Foundation dedicated to strengthening early childhood education opportunities as well as bettering the overall health of the region. The expansion will decrease the school’s annual waitlist, allowing SBCS to serve nearly 100 children and their families at one time, having a profound effect on their future.

Children exposed to trauma and not treated for it puts them at a greater risk than their peers for getting into trouble with law enforcement, doing drugs, and even more susceptible to human trafficking. It also delays their development and adversely affects their mental health. “If we don’t address the trauma early on we are going to deal with it at some other point in their life,” said Pam Wright, the clinical director at South Bay Community Services.

Mi Escuelita offers free, year-round full-day preschool for students referred by Child Welfare Services, health centers, law enforcement or community-based programs. With full-time therapists in each classroom, specialized staff and curriculum, the preschool's holistic approach supports both child and caregivers to help with behavior challenges and learning opportunities in and away from the classroom. Nearly half of Mi Escuelita students are in foster care.
The education component is also very important. Mi Escuelita helps children prepare for a seamless integration into elementary school. Mi Escuelita graduates, who were previously two years behind academically, actually prove to outperform their peers at the elementary school level. “There is a hope after leaving Mi Escuelita and there is a looking forward to the future,” SBCS President and CEO Kathy Lembo tells Giving Back MAgainze. “It changes their whole path and now they know different… things are going to be OK.”

Ultimately, the hope is to have more Mi Escuelita programs throughout the county and continue to become a beacon of hope in communities.

For more information please, visit or contact Patty Chavez at (619) 420-3620.

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