The Empowerment Center in Temecula adjusts to serve kids, families – Press-Enterprise

A Temecula nonprofit group pivoted its services to increase advocacy on behalf of children and their families while building their resilience during challenging times.

The Empowerment Center was founded in 2005 to provide education, training and resources to underserved kids. As a Gallup-certified strengths coach, founder Tiffany Baker brought her expertise in strengths coaching to give participants tools to overcome generational cycles of abuse and poverty.

Teresse Lewis, left, and Tiffany Baker are seen at TEDx Temecula.(Courtesy of The Empowerment Center)

The organization’s Youth Leadership Academy continues to use the lens of individual strengths to give youths social and emotional skills to help them become community leaders. The organization was working with 152 at-risk children in Temecula schools, many of whom Baker said were suicidal when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Forced to shut down in-person programs, the organization scrambled to find ways to continue helping these children, shifting services online and working with the children’s teachers and principal.

Teresse Lewis, the center’s executive director and a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, dove into offering free online therapy, providing social and emotional work for struggling families. The organization created free parenting courses. In addition, it offered online mentoring for kids, creating a safe place for them to connect with one another and a place to ask for help when they needed it.

Their work was noticed by the city of Temecula, which asked Baker to join its Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Commission. The commission makes recommendations on diversity and inclusion within city services, policies and programs. As chair of the commission, Baker said she was able to speak to family dynamics and how to build resilience in children and their families.

“We were called to be leaders in a time we didn’t think we had the skill set,” Baker said. “We felt we were called to children no matter their race and now we have to stand in courage to make sure representation matters.”

Working with small groups of children one-on-one is at the heart of the center’s mission, but Baker and Lewis realized their organization can have a broader impact by doing more restorative work with the school district, creating curriculum to support parents, administrators and teachers. In the past two years, the organization has reached more than 7,000 children, community members and organizations.

“We are bringing solutions that are effective, realistic, practical and helping families where they are,” Lewis said. “I’m proud to say we’re doing that on a systemic level now.”

Barker said their work is critical for youths and families. In partnership with the Temecula Valley Unified School District, the center offered a monthly Family University Series, which helped parents with strategies to maintain family bonds, create predictability at home, build personal resilience and foster connections.

Recently, the organization received a grant from the IE Black Equity Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The grant will support The Empowerment Center’s evidence-based work to support families, youths and service providers through trauma-informed practices and solutions.


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