Summer at City Hall
City of Rancho Cordova Summer at City Hall (S@CH) program combines classroom instruction with internships to teach youth about local government, careers in local government and how to advocate for community change. S@CH is a collaboration between the City of Rancho Cordova (City) and PRO Youth and Families (PRO) – a nonprofit organization that provides meaningful and life-changing opportunities for young people – with strong partnership from the Folsom Cordova Unified School District (FCUSD).
About the program
The program begins with a week-long professional development training. The students then spend four weeks, Monday through Thursday for two hours each day, in a classroom setting learning about the three tiers of government and three organizational sectors of community (pubic, private and not for profit). In the afternoon, students participate in work-based learning through internship placements in different City departments. The program concludes with students presenting their culminating projects.
PRO weaves evaluation into S@CH to inform program design and to create a dynamic and relevant program for Rancho Cordova students. The strong collaboration between, and the commitment of, the three partners led to the creation of the S@CH program and its expansion from years one to two.
S@CH is supported by champions at PRO, FCUSD, and the City through the support of elected officials, the City Manager and department heads.
- The combined knowledge and skills of the partners have led to a program that is implemented with high-quality youth development methods. The commitment and widespread support of each partner drive S@CH to positively engage youth through an educational program with an emphasis on public sector employment and civic engagement.
- In addition to Measure H funds, the City allocates staff time to plan and implement the program.
- The partners are guided by a clear vision and goals, but also incorporate evaluation throughout the program to gather the reflections of City staff and the youth participants to inform program improvements. These reflections led to the addition of a professional development training for the students in year two, as well as increasing the number of: internship hours, City departments hosting an intern, and the internships provided from 10 to 15.
- The partners are committed to providing opportunities for a diversity of students, as demonstrated in their recruitment efforts and commitment to providing internships for students that do not submit strong applications and resumes.
- The culminating project provides an avenue for students to infuse their voice in “real world” City projects and issues.
- The partners collaborate to deliver two programs – S@CH and Youth at City Council – that provide yearlong opportunities for youth to learn about local government and public-sector careers, get work-based learning experience, and learn the value of civic engagement.
The Summer at City Hall is a professional development and civic engagement program that includes work-based learning through paid internships with the City of Rancho Cordova. On an annual basis, the City and PRO provide the program for students that live in Rancho Cordova.
The partnership between the City and PRO began when Rancho Cordova Councilmember Donald Terry advocated for PRO to launch a program in the City that provided youth an opportunity to develop civic engagement skills and knowledge, while building networks with community leaders. Councilmember Terry was already familiar with PRO’s work with the City of Sacramento Summer at City Hall program and supported the organization’s youth development philosophy. With Councilmember Terry as a strong ally, and funding from the City of Rancho Cordova General Sales Tax, Measure H (see box on page 3), PRO launched the Youth at City Council (Y@CC) program in 2016. After graduating the first Y@CC cohort, the City Manager wanted to expand opportunities for Rancho Cordova youth by providing year-round, and work-based learning opportunities for youth through a summer program. In 2017 the City and PRO launched a second program, S@CH, with funding support from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Workforce Accelerator Fund 5.0 and Measure H.
S@CH is a five-week program for youth ages 13 through 18. The program includes a classroom component in the morning, internships in the afternoon, and a culminating civic project. The City has a strong vision for the program and begins meeting with PRO to plan the program at the start of each new calendar year. PRO staff take the lead on refining the curriculum and developing a program schedule. The City determines which departments will host an intern and identifies intern supervisors within each department. Both partners recruit guest speakers and coordinate the field trips. Program planning also includes the partners collaborating to select the topic of the culminating project. The partners are committed to assuring the program provides a meaningful experience for youth, while also having value for the city. To this end, the focus of the culminating project aligns with a project the City is working on. This ensures that the youth feel as though they have had a real and lasting impact, and that the City benefits by moving a project forward with input from local youth.
Program partners are invested in attracting a variety of youth to S@CH and thus cast a large net when recruiting participants, rather than focusing solely on students in accelerated academies. PRO takes the lead on recruiting students for the program by conducting in-class presentations at Cordova, George Washington Carver, and Kinney high schools, and at Mills Middle School, and promoting S@CH through the organization’s website and Instagram page. The City promotes the program through its e-newsletter, website, Twitter, NextDoor, Facebook and Instagram, and pays for advertising space in the local paper The Grapevine Independent.
Students complete an application to participate in the program and submit a resume if they are interested in an internship. PRO and City staff interview candidates as part of the intern selection process in order to get to know each student and their interests to inform the intern placements. The City is responsible for matching each student with an internship placement based on their interests and personality. For example, if a student is friendly and interested in community, they may be placed in the Communication and Public Affairs Department. Each year the City reserves a few of the placements for students who did not have a strong resume or interview performance to provide opportunities for all students, including those who typically may not be identified as top candidates based on traditional metrics. The interviews also serve as a skill building exercise because the students receive feedback on their interview performance and resume submission.
Although a student may not be selected for an internship, all students that apply are accepted into the classroom component of the program. In the beginning of year two, PRO and City staff interviewed 36 students that applied for the 15 internship positions available. At the end of the second year, the five-week program served 19 students ages 13 through 18 who reside in the City of Rancho Cordova – 14 of whom completed the internship component of the program.
PRO delivers the classroom curriculum that focuses on the difference between, and intersectionality of, public service, government, and civic engagement. For the government section, youth learn the difference between federal, state and local government. Rancho Cordova City Hall and facility tours provide youth with a context for learning about the role of local government through understanding the function of different city departments, and the variety of services provided by a city. A series of guest speakers representing the private, nonprofit and public service sectors serve to inform students about what public service is, and how it differs from the other two sectors. A presentation from Rancho Cordova’s Mayor emphasizes the importance of community engagement and voting. Through the classroom component of S@CH, PRO guides the youth through the culminating project which includes a scoping meeting with City staff, conducting research, and developing and delivering the final presentations to elected officials, city staff and organizational partners. The 2018 S@CH cohort developed three different Civic Center design proposals to create a central hub or community core to connect the existing and undeveloped areas of the City.
Throughout the program, PRO staff make positive connections with the youth and provide the support necessary to ensure they have a successful program experience. This includes a dedicated staff person who checks in with each intern weekly to set individual program goals.
Intern Department Placements
- City Manager’s Office/City Clerk
- Economic Development
- Animal Services/Code Enforcement
- Building and Safety
- Community Development/Planning
- Communication and Public Affairs
- Public Works
- Human Resources
- Rhonda Staley-Brooks, Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program
- Nick Anicich, Soil Born Farms
- Deputy Bob Hauck, Sacramento Sheriff’s Community Impact Program
- Diann Rogers, President of Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce
- Aaron Davis, CEO & Founder of Concrete Landscape Services
- Sergeant Vanessa Johnson, Rancho Cordova Police Department
- Frank Pisi, Sacramento County Office of Education
- Chris Clark, School Board Member, FCUSD
- Linda Budge, Mayor of Rancho Cordova
Evaluation is part of PRO’s organizational culture, and they build evaluation into program delivery rather than treating it as an afterthought. For PRO, evaluation is a means to secure program funding and ensure that the S@CH program is dynamic and relevant to students and valued by City staff. PRO collects data about the S@CH program using the following six forms:
- Form Purpose Registration Form: Collect student demographics
- Sign-In Sheet: Track the number of students in attendance
- PRO Survey: (pre and post) Measure program outcomes
- READY Survey: Ensure program supports Positive Youth Development practices
- Reflection : Qualitative feedback from youth about the program
- S@CH Weekly Check-In: Monitor internship accountability and professional development
At the end of the program, PRO analyzes the data collected through the above methods and then meets with City staff to discuss the findings, and to identify program success and challenges. Based on these data discussions, the partners decide on program improvements for the following year. For the second S@CH program year, the partners added professional skills training, increased the number of intern placements from 10 to 15, and extended the internship hours based on data obtained through the evaluation forms.
Measure H | City of Rancho Cordova General Sales Tax
Voters approved the Measure H General Sales Tax in 2014. The measure authorizes the City to impose an additional sales tax at a rate of 0.5 percent. The revenue goes into the City’s general fund and is unrestricted. Through Measure H, the City collects approximately $7 million dollars annually and allocates $676,600 for community grants to support educational programs. As part of Measure H, the City convenes the Superintendents of the four school districts within the City’s boundary on a quarterly basis. These meetings provide an opportunity for all parties to establish educational priorities and discuss the allocation of Measure H funds towards those ends. PRO receives a grant through this allocation of resources to support S@CH. The City also supports S@CH through the provision of staff time for planning the program, coordinating and supervising the interns, and facilitating the City Hall and facilities field trips.
Youth at City Council (Y@CC)
The Rancho Cordova Y@CC is a nine-month program that takes place during the school year, where youth learn: the difference between federal, state and local government; the three organizational sectors of society (public, private and not for profit); the importance of being an informed and engaged citizen; and 21st Century skills. The youth also attend a City of Rancho Cordova City Council meeting in preparation for conducting a mock City Council meeting where the youth present their culminating projects. The 2018 Y@CC cohort researched and presented on three topics: gender neutral bathrooms, replacing or banning plastic straws, and Promise 2.0, a proposed tax measure to fund college scholarships. The Mayor attended the Y@CC mock City Council meeting and was so impressed with the student presentations that she invited the students to present their projects at a City Council meeting.