Outreach Mentors Make Lasting Impressions on Students

 Outreach Mentors help improve student attendance, academic success, and personal development

As a student in Santa Maria in 1988, Danielle Calvo began seeing an Outreach Mentor in first grade.

“I was excited when I was able to spend time with my mentor, Gail Burgess,” said Danielle. “My parents were separating, and Gail encouraged me to talk through my experiences, but she made our time together fun through games and activities.”

Years later, even into her adult life, Gail’s impact left an incredible impression on Danielle, inspiring her to also be that role model for children who were just like her. When Danielle stumbled across a job opening and Gail’s name was listed as the supervisor, she knew she had to apply. After a heartfelt reunion, Danielle is now supporting young students in Santa Maria as she once was nurtured.

Like Danielle, if you grew up in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District (SMBSD), more than likely an Outreach Mentor has touched your life. Through a range of services and activities, Outreach Mentors from the Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center (SMVYFC) have made a lasting impression in the lives of students and families throughout the region, nurturing personal development, educational success, and community involvement.

This year marks the 50th anniversary for SMVYFC, which merged with Family Service Agency (FSA) in 2017. It is a time to reflect on the growth and impact of various programs within the organization.

“Outreach Mentors have a vital role in supporting and advocating for students and parents alike,” said Outreach Mentor Program Manager, Gail Burgess. “They act as a bridge, connecting students and families to essential resources necessary for their well-being and progress. We take a holistic approach to educational support, ensuring that all aspects of their life can create an environment for growth and success.”

[caption id=”attachment_56559″ align=”alignnone” width=”600″]1.Outreach Mentors from the 2022-23 school year recently gathered to celebrate their efforts and the end of the school year. Outreach Mentors from the 2022-23 school year recently gathered to celebrate their efforts and the end of the school year.[/caption]

The Outreach Mentor Program is funded by SMBSD and has provided short-term, school-based support to youth and parents within SMBSD for 48 years. The Program was first established as a Dropout Prevention Program providing academic and emotional support for early educational levels. The goal was to create a positive and successful feeling at school which would lead to staying in school in their later years.

The impact of the Outreach Mentor Program is evident in the positive changes seen in the students. More than 70% of youth experiencing behavioral issues show improvements after the program’s intervention: increased school attendance, academic success, and overall personal development.

Through educational opportunities, Outreach Mentors empower students to make positive choices and navigate challenges they may encounter in and out of the school environment. Initiatives such as Too Good for Drugs and The Bully-Proof Kit help students develop decision-making abilities and conflict resolution strategies. Activities like cross-age tutoring and Career Day, expose students to positive role models who inspire and guide them. These interactions help foster lasting bonds, increase self-confidence, and instill a sense of purpose in students’ lives.

“The program’s contribution to community empowerment and the cultivation of positive school environments further solidifies its importance within Santa Maria,” said FSA CEO, Lisa Brabo. “The Outreach Mentor Program continues to transform the lives of children and teens in our communities, supporting a generation of resilient and successful individuals.”

For more information about the Outreach Mentor Program visit fsacares.org/outreach-mentor/. To learn about other SMVYFC programs and a look at a 50-year timeline, visit fsacares.org/smvyfc/.


Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara County (FSA) is a nonprofit social service agency that has served the people of Santa Barbara County since 1899. Operating as Santa Maria Valley Youth and Family Center (SMVYFC) in Santa Maria and Little House By The Park (LHP) in Guadalupe, FSA helps the community’s most vulnerable children, families, and seniors meet their basic needs while simultaneously addressing mental health needs. Through this holistic approach, FSA improves the strength and well-being of our community. All services are provided free or on a sliding fee/donation scale and no one is denied assistance because of an inability to pay. Visit fsacares.org or call (805) 965-1001 for more information.

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