Toberman Neighborhood Center Hero

Toberman Neighborhood Center

Strengthening Families to Help Youth Overcome Adversity

Helping Build Resilient Communities

It’s not easy growing up in San Pedro, California.

According to the youth service organization Toberman Neighborhood Center, the community has approximately 30 active gangs and a high crime rate. Ninety-four percent of the families involved in the organization live below the poverty line; 64% of those families earn $17,000 or less annually.

Many of the youth the center serves have family members who are affiliated with gangs, and almost a third of them are doing poorly in school, according to the center.

Clearly, San Pedro youth are growing up facing challenges and barriers to success. That’s where Toberman Neighborhood Center comes into the picture. The nonprofit has fostered a strengths-based approach to build trust and provide young people with safe environments and skills to develop resilience in the face of the community’s challenges.

Building from Within

Toberman Neighborhood Center hosts gang prevention and intervention services staffed by individuals who were formerly affiliated with gangs. This approach builds trust between youth and staff. These staff members lead by example, showing young people that there are multiple paths to success in school and life. The after-school programs provide safe passage to the center, by a carpool service or accompanied walking. Young people learn academic skills, conflict resolution techniques, and explore career paths. In this atmosphere of growth and trust, the young people flourish. “They count on us,” says CEO Dr. Linda Matlock.

This program and other components of the Toberman Neighborhood Center are guided by research and tools from Search Institute.

A Fruitful Partnership

Toberman Neighborhood Center is a longtime partner of Search Institute. Since the late 1990s, Toberman has demonstrated the success of the developmental assets framework, 40 research-based, positive experiences and qualities that influence young people’s development and help them to become caring, responsible, and productive adults.

Every Toberman staff member completes 12 sessions of intensive training in the developmental assets framework. The framework, and its intentional, positive approach, are deeply embedded in the work and culture of the center.

That’s why Toberman was a natural fit for a Search Institute pilot study on engaging families.

Piloting a Program for Families

Guided by Search Institute researchers, the Toberman Neighborhood Center implemented Keep Connected, a 7-session interactive workshop for families looking to strengthen their relationships with young people as they transition to adolescence.

Keep Connected is based on Search Institute’s research on family strengths and the developmental relationships framework, which identifies five key elements that make relationships powerful in young people’s lives: Express Care, Challenge Growth, Provide Support, Share Power, and Expand Possibilities.

The program uses this framework to help families learn to navigate the teen years. It shows how parents can help mitigate risk behaviors in youth by strengthening family ties and giving young people a say in their future.

Because time together is difficult to find in busy, working families, the program sets aside time for parents and children to give each other attention.

“The Search Institute staff were absolutely delightful people,” says Matlock. “The positivity and kindness they put in their work comes back tenfold.”

"The Search Institute staff were absolutely delightful people. The positivity and kindness they put in their work comes back tenfold"
Linda Matlock, CEO Toberman Neighborhood Center

Keeping Family Relationships at the Center

Search Institute’s partnership with Toberman Neighborhood Center demonstrates the power of putting young people’s voices and family strengths at the center of youth-serving organizations.