Top 5 UrbanLife Highlights from 2016

by Sarah Carter, UrbanLife Executive Director

I love the end of the year.  The chance to remember all the great things from this past year and also look ahead to a fresh new year, full of potential! As the last days of 2016 slip away, here are my top 5 UrbanLife moments from the year: 

1. UrbanLife ROBOTIX

One of our Robotix teams assembling their robot. 

One of our Robotix teams assembling their robot. 

Through a donor's imaginative idea and generous donation, we launched our first UrbanLife Robotix camp for 4th-8th graders this summer. In our neighborhoods affordable summer activities are scarce and STEM learning is badly needed, so UL Robotix was a perfect fit! My favorite moment was when Robotix students and their families crowded around pairs of robots that the students had built and then programmed to battle each other, sumo wrestling style. The chaos in the room was pure joy. 

2. the UrbanLife Celebration Banquet
featuring: the Tables Culinary Competition

Josslyn from Team Harvest Kitchen plating their amazing Poached Beet Stack 

Josslyn from Team Harvest Kitchen plating their amazing Poached Beet Stack 

This year's banquet featured our brand new initiative, UrbanLife Tables, by pairing up our culinary students with top San Diego chefs and competing for guests votes throughout the night. It was a fun, delicious party that celebrated UrbanLife and our amazing supporters. Alex Carballo and Fred Miller of Team Moto Deli walked away with the win, but all of us won as we got to taste some true culinary delights and hear amazing student stories of transformation.

3. Crawford Colts for the win!

Crawford runners taking an ice break

Crawford runners taking an ice break

This was the first year that City Heights Runners coached and supported a new running program at Crawford High School, and the men were League champs! Story after story from the new teams at Crawford are both impressive and moving. These athletes worked hard on and off the track, as many of them participated in our UrbanLife College Achievement Network (UCAN) tutoring program, focusing on English remediation and ESL programs to help get students back on track (figuratively and literally)!  

4. UL Farms grant gets fresh veggies into students' homes

Student's social media posts about their cooking

Student's social media posts about their cooking

This fall, UL Farms received a grant from the Kaiser Foundation that enabled us to not only sell our veggies outside our neighborhoods through our CSA program, but also to send a bag of veggies home each week to our student crew. The students received nutrition and cooking classes to learn tasty ways to use what was in their bags, and challenged to post pictures cooking and eating their food on social media. This brought our UL Farms program to a new level of impact... not just providing first-time job experience and hands-on nutritional education as they grew food, but actually getting the produce into students' homes and teaching them how to use it. 

5. UrbanLife Strategic Plan

Strategic plans may not be the most exciting of highlights, but as an Executive Director, this definitely makes my list! In 2016, UrbanLife embarked upon our first ever strategic planning process with Board member and brand strategist Denise Yohn leading the charge. Through surveying, analyzing and countless hours of meetings, UrbanLife emerged with a focused strategy for the next three years: aligning programs and resources towards youth leadership developing in our neighborhoods. We are more committed and focused than ever to invest all our time and resources to raise up these young, talented, diverse leaders... believing that these transformed young people can and will transform our neighborhoods. That's pretty exciting, right?! 

Thanks for helping make all these moments happen! We are grateful for every volunteer, supporter, and prayer partner as we create safe spaces for students to encounter God and be developed as a leader! 2017 is guaranteed to be as full as this past year, and we can't wait to get the year started. 

Happy New Year from our neighborhoods to yours!