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2017 - 2018

Another Year for the Books.


The mission of Project ROOTS, formerly known as Girls Only! and Boys Only!, is to provide a quality group mentoring program that influences positive youth development by allowing students to learn, explore, achieve and discover through social and emotional learning and academic enrichment activities. Project ROOTS was implemented through a partnership between San Diego Unified School District, Project Concern International (PCI), and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office-Prevention and Intervention Programs at 12 San Diego Unified PrimeTime sites in 2018. The Boys and Girls Clubs- Encanto Branch has been an implementing partner since 2009.


Since 2009


The Project ROOTS curriculum is a gender-transformative, group mentoring program that aims to address the root causes of gender-based violence and unhealthy relationships that is based on the social cognitive theory and positive youth development framework. The toolkit aims to build protective factors in children to build their resilience to the rising threats of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), sexual harassment, bullying and negative cultural influences that perpetuate abuse and violence in our society. They are brought to question the cultural normalization of violence, their association to peers who tolerate it, the norms that valorize power, and the violence that surrounds them at home and/or in their community.

The first toolkit, the Girls Only! (GO!) toolkit was developed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and the City of San Diego’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention in 2009 to address girls’ increased gang affiliation.

Growing concerns of the commercial sexual exploitation of girls prompted Project Concern International’s (PCI) 2015 contribution which incorporated activities to mitigate this form of victimization. Disproportionate victimization and perpetration, particularly in CSEC, prompted an urgency to create a safe space for community mentorship where young boys could discuss issues that, at their core, paralleled those of their female counterparts. As a result, the first version of Boys Only! (BO!) was completed and piloted in 2017.

The Girls Only! and Boys Only! curricula were consolidated and updated based on input PCI received from 2017- 2018 implementing sites. The new District Attorney endorsed curriculum, Project ROOTS, officially launched on November 25th 2018





states & Countries







Project ROOTS’ Safe Spaces. 


Distinct from what an instructional setting can offer, Project ROOTS’ “safe spaces” provide opportunities for healthy youth development. They invite and encourage self-exploration, inclusivity, emotional freedom, and mutual satisfaction in relationships. This strength-based model is designed to bolster socially conscious youth who embrace and celebrate diversity and reject the objectification of both men and women. It incorporates reputably effective approaches to primary prevention including consistent mentorship, supportive peer-to-peer interactions, and activities that fortify a youth’s sense of self-efficacy to ultimately inspire youth to become resilient catalyst of change.

Meets Health Education Content Standards for California:

  1. Injury Prevention & Safety

  2. Mental, Emotional, and Social Health

  3. Growth, Development, and Sexual Health



Zambia dance troop, Barefeet  October 26, 2018

Zambia dance troop, Barefeet

October 26, 2018

Thank you to the San Diego Youth Empowerment Committee for coming together and providing your input throughout this process. A special thanks to Janet Ruiz and Jack Sabraw for their extensive research, compilation of the activities, personal insights and overall enthusiasm for this program. Important contributors also include JJ Anderson and Grace Liu with Prevention and Intervention Programs at the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and Bianca Morales-Egan with Project Concern International (PCI). Notable mention to our student staff that supported the creation of Project ROOTS, Eleonor Bartolome, Brittany Beisner, Luciano De Luca, Maya Shahar, and Doreann Wiley.

A whole-hearted thank you to Tom Jones for sharing your survival story and serving as our guiding light throughout the creation of this toolkit. Another huge thank you to the boys and girls from Lincoln High School for your insightful feedback and insight!  Finally, we thank the reviewers of this toolkit including Dr. Marshall Whiting and Amy Sunseri of PCI for their helpful input and expert critique.

Special thanks to the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation and the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund for funding the development of this toolkit and setting a precedent in building a community of resilient youth.


Bring Project ROOTS to your community.

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