Stanford’s Office of Community Engagement announced the recipients of the 2022 Stanford Community Partnership Awards today. The awards recognize collaborative efforts between the university and organizations that tackle real-world problems and advance the public good.

Members of the youth advisory group in front of allcove Palo Alto on opening day, June 21, 2021. (Image credit: Courtesy allcove)

“Health needs have been foremost among community needs during the pandemic, and these awardees embody the way successful partnerships meet the moment,” said Megan Swezey Fogarty, associate vice president for community engagement. “They have pulled together to alleviate people’s distress at a critical time.”

This year’s award winners are Avenidas-Stanford Elder Care Partnership, Promotoras de Salud Community of Practice and the allcove Integrated Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Programs.

The awardees were nominated by the campus community and selected by a committee made up of university and community representatives. The selection criteria included meeting a need in the region; creatively connecting campus and community; engaging faculty, staff or students in service; and “meeting the moment.” Strong relationships, trust and commitment to the common cause were characteristics common to all of the award recipients, Swezey Fogarty said.

The Community Partnership Awards were established in 2004 to recognize partnerships between Stanford and community organizations that benefit the local region. That same year, the Roland Volunteer Service Prize was established by a gift from Miriam Aaron Roland, ’51, to recognize outstanding faculty who inspire and engage students in integrating academic scholarship with meaningful and significant volunteer service to society.

Elder care that pivoted

Paula Wolfson, LCSW and manager at Avenidas Care Partners, consulting with a client. (Image credit: Veronica Weber)

The nonprofit Avenidas was established in Palo Alto in 1969 to help older adults find critical programs and services. The Avenidas-Stanford Elder Care Partnership grew almost organically from that original organization thanks to participation from members of the Stanford community, and eventually a contract between the university and the nonprofit was established. Years of established interactions proved to be the foundation for a nimble and significant pivot during the pandemic to help Stanford families and elders cope with the sudden challenges presented by a deadly new virus.

Child and Family Resource Coordinator Mona Hartmann in Stanford’s Worklife Office said her frequent communication with Paula Wolfson, LCSW and manager at Avenidas Care Partners, allowed for nuanced responses to emerging issues when the pandemic hit, from offering health care services to help with financial and legal matters to help with the stresses of caregiving, isolation and separation.

Getting COVID-19 information to a vulnerable community

Esperanza Garcia, Solandyi Aguilar, Teresa Garcia and Cynthia Colmenares, who worked as promotoras de salud, or community health workers, at Emma Prusch Park in San Jose, where they were distributing information about COVID-19 prevention. (Image credit: Cynthia Colmenares)

Patricia Rodriguez Espinosa, the associate director of research at Stanford School of Medicine’s Office of Community Engagement wanted to help get COVID-19 vaccine and testing information to Spanish-speaking residents in the most impoverished ZIP codes in San Jose. As part of the CEAL-NIH study, her team joined forces with  the ¡Si Se Puede! Collective, an alliance of five community organizations. Central to their project was the work of the promotoras de salud (community health workers) who formed a community of practice with Stanford support.

Throughout the pandemic, members of Promotoras de Salud Community of Practice walked door-to-door and staffed tables in front of neighborhood businesses and schools distributing information sheets, masks and sanitizer. The work of neighborhood engagement, combined with the regular feedback and capacity-development meetings, fed a continuous loop to provide timely, culturally appropriate and research-based information on COVID-19 prevention and vaccination, as well as self-care for the promotoras and best practices for engaging in discussions when community members might be hesitant or hostile, Rodriguez Espinosa said.

“My community doesn’t have information. There is a lot of misinformation,” said Teresa Garcia, a promotora, in Spanish. She added that she sees it as her calling to bring reliable information from Stanford research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I think it is very important to let the community know the importance of vaccination. If one out of five understands, I feel like I have succeeded.”

Partnering to support youth mental health

The third partnership, a multi-dimensional collaboration several years in the making, traces back to the community’s response to a painful period of suicide clusters among young people that began in 2009 in Palo Alto. Its centerpiece is a result of Santa Clara County, its elected officials and nonprofits coming together to create a new approach to supporting youth.

The allcove Integrated Youth Mental Health Center opened its doors in both Palo Alto and San Jose on June 21, 2021. The name, which is lowercase to reflect the equal standing of all who enter, was conceived of by a youth advisory board and refers to the cove-like nooks that create a feeling of safety. The youth-centered space, which works as an initial point of contact for mental and physical health access and other services, is a model for the state and the rest of the country, said Steve Adelsheim, director of the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The need was well-documented, but shepherding the allcove project into fruition, from finding money to leveraging expertise, took commitment to continually work toward a common goal. “A university and a county are pretty challenging bureaucracies,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. “Each has to respect the culture of the other and see the opportunity to work together not so much as a challenge, but as an opportunity.”

More on the 2022 awardees can be found here.

Vice Provost for Institutional Equity, Access and Community Patrick Dunkley will present the 2022 Community Partnership Awards at a luncheon on March 4, and Provost Persis Drell will present the Roland Prize at the event. This year, Abby C. King, professor and vice chair for academic affairs of epidemiology and population health and professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, is the 2022 Miriam Aaron Roland Volunteer Service Prize recipient.