A city with a strong tourism industry and a reputation for a relaxed beach culture, Santa Barbara is an ideal vacation destination for families. Beyond that, the residents who call this central California coastal city home have the opportunity to work, play, and live in a municipality that values sustainability, healthy living, and the natural beauty of the earth.
Santa Barbara is also known for being home to a significant number of nonprofit organizations, with the industry generating 8.4 percent of the county’s gross domestic product. Additionally, Santa Barbara County ranks second to only Marin County in Northern California in having the greatest number of nonprofit organizations per capita in the state. Of the many demographics that this sector caters to, one of the largest groups to benefit is the city’s youth, with foundations, centers, and programs that focus directly on improving the lives of local teenagers.
The Parks and Recreation department of the City of Santa Barbara has established a number of free programs to educate and engage its teenage residents, including the following five programs listed below.
1. Teen Culinary Arts Program
The Teen Culinary Arts Program helps prepare local students in grades 11 and 12 for adult life through lessons on cooking and meal preparation. During the 18-week program, students attend after-school classes to learn about subjects such as nutrition, food health and safety standards, fruit and vegetable canning, cake decoration, and basic cooking.
In addition, students can participate in field trips and special activities during the program, including a tour and presentation led by a chef at a local 4-star hotel, an excursion to an organic food market, and the opportunity to cater a special event. All classes are held at the Franklin Neighborhood Center on Santa Barbara’s east side.
2. Franklin Youth Drop-In Center
For local teenagers looking to spend time socializing with kids their own age, the Franklin Youth Drop-In Center provides them with a free, safe environment in which to do so. Amenities available at the center include recreational activities such as foosball and pool tournaments, free internet access at the center’s computer lab, a movie room, and materials for making arts and crafts.
Teens who choose to spend time at the center may also participate in fun community service projects such as mural painting or neighborhood cleanups, which teach them about the value of civic involvement. Older teens who are ready to enter the workforce can participate in workshops which teach them job skills. Topics covered during these workshops include resume writing, interviewing, and workplace readiness training.
3. Santa Barbara Arts Alliance
The city takes on the challenge of youth-on-youth violence and vandalism through year-round initiatives that combine art and learning at the Santa Barbara Arts Alliance. In this program, teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21 can attend art-based workshops and field trips and engage in tasks that reduce graffiti in the community. This is done primarily through the creation of murals by students in locations regularly targeted by vandals.
Over the last ten years, the Santa Barbara Arts Alliance has provided more than 500 adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds with the opportunity to earn leadership skills and indulge their creativity in a way that helps them reconnect with their communities. Teens who participate in the program are also able to find supportive mentors in the adults who volunteer with the organization.
4. Santa Barbara Youth Council
The City of Santa Barbara gives its younger residents the ability to participate in local government through the Santa Barbara Youth Council. This legislative group is comprised of students between the ages of 13 and 19 who attend public, private, or alternative junior high or high schools in the area. Among the council’s duties are gathering input from Santa Barbara’s youth on local issues, recommending changes to policies that affect teens in the city, and encouraging civic engagement through public forums, workshops, and conferences.
In order to become a member of the Santa Barbara Youth Council, teens must be appointed to one of 15 available seats by the Mayor of Santa Barbara and the City Council. Once appointed, council members hold their seats for two year terms, but are eligible to be reappointed. In order to maintain their seats on the council, students must commit to at least 10 hours of community service each month.
5. Youth Volunteer and Job Apprenticeship
Rounding out the city’s available programs for local teams are many youth volunteer and job apprenticeship opportunities designed to help teenagers develop useful life skills. The youth volunteer programs meet at one of the city’s three neighborhood centers, and help adolescents connect with their peers while bettering their communities through civic engagement.
Through the job apprenticeship program, local adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds can earn the opportunity to learn job skills meant to deter them from choosing violence-oriented lifestyles. Resources provided by this program include workshops that focus on job readiness and workplace skills, as well as paid training for positions within departments of the City of Santa Barbara’s local government.