| The Children's Outreach Center, East Palo Alto, CA
| Karen Sue Kepney, Director: (650) 325-1873
| To provide children and young mothers with a renewed sense of self-esteem and parenting skills
After recovering from 15 years of living on the streets, Karen Sue Kepney, an African American woman based in East Palo Alto, was determined to offer young people support and guidance to keep them from repeating her own mistakes. She and her friend, Alicia Manuel, began to raise money through fish-frying dinners and bake sales. In 1997, they created the Children's Outreach Center as a place where young mothers could bring their children and attend workshops on parenting.
The Children's Outreach Center takes children on field trips to museums, nature and science hikes, and music lessons in order to expose them to different cultures, and the children attend sessions on character building. The center is open to children of all races, although it currently serves primarily African Americans. In addition to the children, the center assists mothers who are leaving welfare or returning from incarceration in becoming self-sufficient and creating the stable life necessary to provide for their children and break away from old behavior patterns. At the center, the children and mothers participate in the Rituals of Transformation Course, a program that promotes changes in attitude, behavior and speech through rituals. (Psychologists in the Oakland/Berkeley area and other cities have conducted the program for the past decade.) The class meets twice a month for 11 months, using skills such as reading and comprehension, emotional intelligence and character formation. Low grades, budding delinquency, inability to focus and low self-esteem repeatedly have been documented as challenges in the East Palo Alto community. Therefore, the Children's Outreach Center finds the Rituals of Transformation Course to be ideal, since it strives to profoundly alter destructive attitudes and behaviors.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
An evaluation program is in place to determine the success of the children's participation in the Rituals of Transformation Course. Participation in the center has grown from 25 to 50 children in one year. The center plans to open the first of several shared-housing and childcare co-operatives within the next three months, and attendance is expected to increase to 120 with the addition of the new facility.