Past Work & Achievements

Here is a snapshot of California Center for Civic Participation's work over our 38 year history, always guided by our mission: to empower youth to be active and valued participants in decision making processes at all levels.

Throughout this page you'll also see quotes from youth interviewed about their experiences with the California Center. We welcome you to hear first-hand from our most important constituents!

Capitol Focus (1982-2010)

Our longest running program, Capitol Focus is a three day journey into the world of California politics. Participants get a first-hand look at how government works.  


From the start, interactive activities get our participants thinking and acting. They learn the language of politics and quickly put it to use by interviewing experts who hold a wide range of views on the current issues. Working individually and in collaboration, our participants think through contrasting perspectives and get to express their support for, or opposition of, real legislation currently under debate by lawmakers.


Our presence in Sacramento and our lasting relationships with the players in state politics allow us to offer a unique experience to youth. We have access to a rich pool of supporters who lend their expertise to our programs. Capitol Focus gives young people a chance to see, up close, how politics and public policy work. We aim to foster life-long enthusiasm for the democratic process and to give youth an opportunity to visualize their own possibilities in this world.

“Meeting the legislators was something that really opened my eyes. I was never into politics, but now I‘m thinking about it. Just the fact they were talking to us and hearing our opinions, that was huge: that our voices still mattered...and to get the tools to help make our voices matter. So now I’m looking at trying to be the leader of something positive for people, to help them work toward their future. ”

HEAL Zones (2004-2015)

The HEAL Zones are a Kaiser Permanente program designed to help make healthy choices more accessible to people in underserved communities.


Inspired by its mission to improve community health, Kaiser Permanente developed the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Initiative program in 2004 to support healthy behaviors and reduce obesity through clinical practice and sustained community-level change. In 2005, the HEAL initiative grew to include place-based work. 


The California Center for Civic Participation worked with the 10 Southern California HEAL Zones to support youth leadership in local policy and systems change work that will ensure youth have access to healthy foods and opportunities to be physically active in their schools and communities.  


The California Center provided one-on-one technical assistance to the sites and coordinated trainings. We worked with adults, trained them to build strong youth-adult partnerships, and provide tools to help communities fully engage youth in their work.  We work with the youth, training them in youth-adult partnerships, state and local policy advocacy and youth organizing. Participating sites have made tangible changes in their nutrition and physical environments including healthier options in vending machines and enhanced walking and running paths in community parks. The youth also have the opportunity to visit the State Capitol to learn how change can move from the individual, to the local, to the statewide policy making level.

“CA Center has a process, regardless of what issue the youth is interested in, to engage them in an authentic way. Others work on specific issues, but CA Center has a framework for getting them involved and leads to sustainable change. ”

Health Policy Leadership Programs (2004-2010)

Our Policy Leadership Programs trained youth in community engagement and public policy.  During the school year, youth attended two statewide trainings, conducted research to assess local needs, and became active participants in the public policy process by developing and implementing projects in their communities.  They gained support from partnerships with community based programs; spoke at state and national conferences; and conducted outreach to educate their communities, local policymakers, and state officials about the importance of adolescent health issues.


From 2007-2010 the Young Women’s Health Leadership Program (YWHLP) empowered young people throughout California to serve as advocates improving the health conditions of women. 


From 2004-2010 the Policy Leadership Program in School Health ensured that youth from throughout the state worked to improve access to health services including school based health clinics, school nurses and health education on their high school campuses.


From 2004-2010 the Statewide Youth Board on Obesity Prevention engaged youth in improving access to healthy foods and physical activity options in their communities and beyond.

“I remember us all going out to dinner together. They knew all our names. That connection, not all programs take the time to learn about people outside of the actual program...and you really stay close. From that program you don’t just walk away, you maintain a relationship between the Center and you. ”

Youth Worker Safety (2004-2006)

For 3 years the California Center partnered with UCLA, UC Berkeley, the Commission on Health, Safety and Worker’s Compensation to host the annual Young Worker Leadership Academy. The goals of the program were for young adults to become leaders and advocates for teen labor rights and health and safety. Participants became familiar with young worker safety issues, learned about the policy making process and developed collective statements reflecting their perspectives on how to address young worker safety issues.

Catapult (2002-2005)

Catapult, a project in partnership with the Great Valley Center, trained youth from 18 counties in the Central Valley in leadership, service projects, and policy and advocacy. It also promoted the practice of youth development within local communities as a strategy for engaging youth in policymaking and community building.  Participants worked together for a school year to dive into the issues that affected youth in their areas and developed community driven approaches to improve communities. They conducted local projects, advocated for local policy changes and educated local youth and adults.

“ gives them a chance to see public officials in a setting that you’re not used to, a more comfortable setting, and it allows them to feel more a part of that government is doing so they know how they can actually interact with it.”

New Partners for Smart Growth
Youth Delegate Track (2002-2003)

For 2 years the California Center supported a cadre of 30 youth who attended the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference.  By hosting a pre-conference meeting and tailoring activities to ensure youth had the opportunity to actively engage in conversations, California Center ensured that youth felt they had a voice and a complete understanding of the issues being discussed at the conferences.

Political Discovery (2001-2006)

Political Discovery was an annual political awareness conference open to eighth graders. During lively interactive sessions with professionals representing the legislative branch, lobbying organizations, businesses and the media, participants examined current statewide issues from a variety of perspectives, then cast their own votes.  The overall goal of the program was to develop enthusiasm for the democratic process, along with knowledge, confidence, and critical thinking skills necessary for effective participation in the system.

City of Los Angeles Charter Revision (1998)

California Center facilitated the youth input into the 1998 revision of Los Angeles’ City Charter.  By convening groups of youth from throughout the city and training them in the language, purpose and intent of the charter, the Center was able to engage youth in creating, administering and interpreting surveys of youth in the city which lead to young people presenting the youth perspective to the body of city officials, residents and consultants who were charged with drafting the revision.

Computational Science Program (1993-2001)

During these 2-day conferences youth of color were provided first-hand exposure to the science, math, and technology of computers and associated careers. In partnership with Cal Tech in Pasadena youth were exposed to the people who worked in the field, assured there was a place for youth of color in the world of computer sciences and introduced to the challenges and rewards of a career in computer sciences.

Community Perspectives (1987-1997)

Community Perspectives was a program designed to focus on local city and county issues in 6 communities in California. In each community a local planning team partnered with California Center to plan a 3-day long conference for high school students. The conferences included forums focusing on local issues during which students met with city and county officials. They also had workshops and debates on ballot measures that were local and specific to their municipalities. Students completed mock ballots and reported to local officials their results.

Elections (1988-2006)

Annual 3-day Elections conferences trained teams of youth and adults from communities across the state to conduct their own conferences in their schools and communities. The teams hosted these conferences where they distributed materials and hosted debates in order to inform their schools and communities about the issues and candidates on the ballot.  Participants received reference materials, activity plans, manuals, samples and ongoing assistance in planning and implementing their local conferences.

...and a few others

  • Young Planners Network: Building Bridges to a Sustainable Future (2009)

  • North American Youth Leadership Project for Sustainable Futures (2008)

  • Youth Leadership Academy on Mental Health Policy (2005-2006)

  • Sacramento City Unified School District Reform Youth Engagement (2000-2001)

  • California High School Environmental Policy Leadership Program (1998)


Climate Adaptation Storybook (2016)

Green Focus was featured in the California Natural Resources Agency’s Climate Adaptation Storybook in the fall of 2016 as a return on investment program, preparing the next generation to address the environmental challenges brought on by climate change. We are thrilled to have been a part of these climate adaptation stories and we are proud that many of our youth have embraced sustainable living and political advocacy as they grow into into adulthood. Download the Storybook to learn more, and click here for more information on our Green Focus program.

SACOG awards Sacramento Youth Council for Sustainable Communities

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) bestowed its Mary Brill Youth Excellence Award on the Sacramento Youth Council for Sustainable Communities in 2011. The Youth Council is comprised of young people focused on promoting healthy and equitable land use, transportation and food systems and ensuring that youth voice and action are the norm of planning and policy decisions. The students have collaborated on design of complete streets at two Sacramento high schools, canvassed neighborhoods regarding the siting of a fast food restaurant, worked on community garden initiatives, and are working on a pilot program to test a cargo bike to deliver CSA boxes to low-income neighborhoods.

Launching the President’s Youth Council (PYC) at The California Endowment

The CA Center has a very special history with the PYC. As a recognized “Anchor Partner” of the CA Endowment, we collaborated in launching the project and establishing members of the President’s Youth Council back in 2012. Since then, Movement Strategy Center has taken the reigns as the lead organization supporting this group, but the CA Center played a central role in the project in the formative years, guiding the youth in their efforts to advocate their priorities to Dr. Ross. The CA Center was charged with assisting PYC members in this process and made space for them to shape their message to executive staff at TCE.  

Since then, these young people have stepped up as lead thought partners who have begun to change the narrative about what youth can do when they organize and think critically about how to transformation systems that require deep-seated change, so that youth and their families can thrive. As a result of their hard work, leadership and commitment, they have increased the CA Endowments awareness and capacity to respond to the needs of youth throughout the state with initiatives and programs. They have also helped shape the priorities of the CA Endowment and its affiliated partners to include youth in more decision-making processes at the local and state level. More recently, the PYC has recruited new youth members to the Council and intends to engage them in today’s most pressing issues affecting youth in every community of California.

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Phone: 916.443.2229  |  Fax: 916.443.2297

California Center for Civic Participation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.