Dennisha Marsh jumped feet first into volunteering a few years ago joining both the Community Advisory Council at the Bay Point First 5 Center and the Policy Council for the Head Start program her son attended.

Although she had never volunteered in this capacity before, she wanted to have a voice in both her son’s education and the type of classes and programs offered in her community.

That’s what being on a CAC at a First 5 Center is all about. Each site has a board made up of parents and other community members to conduct needs assessments, surveys, or focus groups to make sure the Centers address the needs of families in their community. Throughout this process, CAC members receive training and assistance to build leadership skills.

In Bay Point, Dennisha and her CAC colleagues interviewed parents and determined that the Center needed more parenting classes designed to build parental self-esteem, more classes to help children start kindergarten or preschool more prepared, and a stronger focus on neighborhood safety. Dennisha helped arrange workshops by the local Neighborhood Watch program, resulting in some neighborhoods starting programs.

“One of the things I got out of the CAC was networking relationships. We were like a tribe with the same goals and we built a lot of connections between families. It was like a network of support for each other,” Dennisha said.

Based on her work on the CAC, Dennisha was actively recruited to join the countywide Head Start Policy Council, the Family Economic Security Partnership, and the Economic Opportunity Council, to name just a few.

Her latest role includes serving as chairperson of Pittsburg’s Community Advisory Commission, providing community input and guidance to the City of Pittsburg. Her focus now it to get more programs in East County for African American children and more comprehensive services for parents raising school-age children.

“As parents, we can say what we want in our cities, and I do that for my son. I want him to have a better chance and better opportunities that sometimes we don’t have here. But you can get them in East County if you get involved. Everyone can have a voice.”

To learn more about Community Advisory Councils, contact Randee Blackstock: (925) 771-7326.

 

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