We Are the City Spotlight: Real Options for City Kids (R.O.C.K.)

By Curt Yagi, Executive Director of R.O.C.K.

For over 27 years, Real Options for City Kids, or R.O.C.K. for short (we love our acronym), has provided positive opportunities for children, youth, and their families in Visitacion Valley. While we take pride in our ability to provide active-based programs (e.g. sports, outdoor adventures), we knew from our inception that to have the most impact with our youth, we need to meet them where they are — at their schools. We are the lead nonprofit partner for all public schools in our community where we align to the vision of each school principal and fill as many gaps as possible with high quality programs. With decades of experience solely in the Visitacion Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, we have literally seen our kids grow up to be highly successful and productive adults, many of whom have become staff members, volunteers, and even donors.

When Shelter in Place went into effect back in April of 2020, we were scrambling to find a direction, just like everyone else. Once we got our footing, I was proud of how my staff responded to meet the needs of our students and families in very meaningful ways: wellness checks, virtual support, an in-person Community Hub, financial assistance, food distribution/delivery, and more.

With so many months of isolation, depression, and grief, not to mention our societal challenges, we knew there would be issues once activities could resume in person. We decided to conduct extensive research during this time and released a report titled “Returning Stronger,” which identified key deficit areas that needed to be addressed among our constituency upon returning to in-person activities. We are proud to have used these results to guide our work with our schools, and as a result have provided new programs that fill the many gaps of need.

One of our highlights has been bringing Stanford’s mobile health clinic to our middle school where they conducted 18 sports physicals so that our soccer and softball teams didn’t have to forfeit any more games. It gives me great pleasure to be able to listen directly to the needs of our community and respond swiftly with meaningful solutions. Being a small yet mighty organization gives us the means to do so.

San Francisco is such an iconic city with so much to offer our families. What has been apparent throughout the pandemic is the City’s desire to continue investing in resources for our children, youth, and their families. I was blown away by the Summer Together initiative, as I saw firsthand the dedication and commitment that San Francisco gave to our kids. With the amount of resources available, we had quite possibly the best summer program we have ever had. It was a joy to see in-person smiles and laughter return after so many long and challenging months. I look forward to so many more activities and adventures for our kids once we are finally beyond this pandemic.

What has become apparent throughout the pandemic is that it can be challenging to raise children in San Francisco. San Francisco has so many resources to offer for all stages of life, and as long as those resources continue to exist and evolve, and our families take advantage of them, our families will succeed. The City does a great job of keeping its finger on the pulse of what is happening at the ground with our families, and as long as this continues to happen, our families will be happy and healthy.

Desirae (R) with Renel Brooks-Moon of the SF Giants