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Stockton, California

This success story was originally published as a 2018 All-America City Award project description and is reprinted courtesy of the National Civic League. Learn more about the award program here.

Stockton’s efforts to build a culture of engagement have resulted in community-based programs and systems that are healing decades of trauma for individuals and communities, empowering students who have been historically marginalized and providing new pathways to higher education.

The Stockton City Council recently approved a Diversity Audit study looking at city procurement and employment diversity to identify gaps as well as next steps. The Office of the Mayor commissioned the first “Report on the Status of Women in Stockton” to identify gaps in gender equity in the city. Additionally, all police officers are trained in procedural justice and implicit bias, and the police chief has hosted over 70 reconciliation sessions and use of force listening tours, listening to various community members speak about harms done to them by the police department and ways the department can rebuild community trust.

A new culture of engagement—beyond the official boards and commissions—has started to take hold, and much of the new civic engagement has come from South Stockton, the part of town that arguably suffered the most from the prejudice of past policy. Efforts to have South Stockton designated as a Promise Zone by HUD included bi-weekly community meetings with attendance by more than 40 different nonprofits and government agencies; these meetings created a platform for community members to speak directly with anyone from police officers to school district personnel. Many nonprofits have begun to see community engagement as an opportunity to improve their services.

Three project examples showing how this community leverages civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues

1. Healing South Stockton
The neighborhood of South Stockton has suffered trauma and chronic stress caused by decades of neglect in education, economic investment, job opportunities, healthy food choices, and others. While groups have worked to address these specific issues, there has not been a coordinated effort to address trauma collectively—until now. Healing South Stockton (HSS), is a collaborative focused on connecting with residents who have experienced trauma and linking them to culturally appropriate behavioral health services and community supports.

HSS began by working with organizations, schools and faith-based groups to engage residents in focus groups about what they feel contributes to trauma in Stockton and what kind of support is needed, beyond existing services. Based on input from community members and a collective of partners, HSS is mapping the assets of the community—partners, programs, and physical resources—around trauma and social supports. The Stockton Trauma Recovery Center (STRC), run by Fathers and Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ), is working to create a referral system to reduce violence and promote culturally-relevant treatment of trauma. Since 2015, STRC has enrolled over 500 non-duplicated clients into the program and educated more than 1,000 individuals on the benefits and the process involved in acquiring trauma recovery services.

Healing South Stockton has also funded organizations in targeted areas to hire local residents to become “trust builders,” who reach out to residents to share resources, plan community events, and connect people to dedicated neighborhood case managers for additional needs.

2. Us History

In Stockton, like many cities, the legacies, histories, contributions and cultures of people of color have frequently been forgotten and marginalized. To combat this problem, in 2016, the Little Manila Rising started the ethnic studies-based “Us History” after school program. The goal was: “Putting ‘us’ back into U.S. History.” The program met once a week through the 2016-2017 school year and focused on Mexican American, African American, and Filipino American histories and cultures.

The program included discussions of the Chicano Movement, Black Feminist Theory, redlining, and issues facing the undocumented community, among other topics. In April 2017, the Stockton school district discussed adopting Ethnic Studies as an elective. “Us History” students attended the meeting and spoke about what Ethnic Studies meant to them and what it could mean for their community if it was part of their school’s curriculum.

One student said, “In Us History, we were more than educated. We were empowered by our legacy and the legacy of others.” By the end of the night, the motion passed by a 7-0 vote.

However, the district was unable to provide training to teachers, raising concerns that the effort might fail from lack of support. Teachers from “Us History” stepped up to help develop the curriculum. With adoption of Ethnic Studies at the district level, the after-school program serves as more of an incubator, creating space to create an example for new Ethnic Studies teachers and providing no-cost training, since the district cannot.

3.  Stockton Scholars
Higher education has for centuries served as both a gateway to the middle class and a vehicle for socioeconomic mobility. Launched in 2018, Stockton Scholars, is a research-informed, collective impact strategy anchored by, but not limited to, a city-wide college scholarship, modeled after successful Promise Programs in Long Beach, Pittsburgh, and Oakland.

The goal is to triple the number of Stockton students who enter and complete college or university over the next decade. Launched with a $20 million donation from the California Community Foundation, Stockton Scholars makes a simple commitment: if you want to pursue higher education, tuition and fees will not be a barrier. The initial donation provides a scholarship to every Stockton Unified School District graduate for the classes of 2019-2026.

Stockton Scholars recognizes that money is not the sole impediment to degree attainment; as such, the scholarship will be supplemented with the following wraparound services and programmatic initiatives:

  • Approximately 90% of high school seniors who complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms attend college after high school, compared to just 55% of those who do not. To ensure all available federal dollars are accessed, Stockton Scholars will aim for 100% FAFSA completion by 2023.
  • Code HS and the Office of the Mayor are launching Code Stockton, an initiative providing all high schools with an “Introduction to Computer Science” course.
  • The Reinvent Stockton Foundation will provide the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 595 with a $10,000 grant to establish a toolbox fund, providing students pursuing an apprenticeship with money to purchase tools and supplies.

Additional Resources

Meet the Manager


Kurt Wilson

City Manager
Kurt Wilson joined the city of Stockton as deputy city manager in 2012, less than 10 weeks after the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. On January 28, 2014, Wilson was appointed city manager after serving just three months as interim city manager. Following a successful end to the city's bankruptcy, Kurt looks forward to a renewed focus on economic development, the institutionalization of public safety enhancement, and implementation of permanent financial control measures to ensure the city never returns to the dark days of the recent past. In addition to a private sector and nonprofit background, Kurt brings more than two decades of public sector experience serving in both elected and senior staff capacities for four cities and two state agencies. He holds two masters’ degrees, one in business administration and the other in education administration, with a variety of post-graduate and professional certifications, including project management, labor relations, human resource management, real estate, leadership, and licensing as an emergency medical technician. Additionally, Kurt was a founding member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and continues to donate time to provide medical services on rare occasions. Excerpted from the Stockton, California, website: