Five Californians will receive the 2012 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards today for applying proven, innovative approaches to some of the state’s most difficult problems. Now in its seventh year, the Awards aim to uncover and spotlight breakthrough solutions that have the potential to better the lives of more Californians if policymakers and others expand and replicate these approaches.

The recipients, described below, each receive $125,000 in organizational support. In addition to recognition by legislators at the State Capitol today, recipients will receive their Awards from elected and appointment officials at an event at Sacramento’s Sheraton Grand Hotel.

Award Recipient Presenter
Patricia Dennehy, GLIDE Health Services, San Francisco State Senator Bill Emmerson (R-37th District)
Christa Gannon, Fresh Lifelines for Youth, Milpitas Secretary Matthew Cate, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation
Carolyn Laub, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, San Francisco Tom Torlakson, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Craig McNamara, Center for Land-Based Learning, Winters A. G. Kawamura, former California Secretary of Food and Agriculture
Olis Simmons, Youth UpRising, Oakland State Senator Curren Price (D-26th District)


“In difficult times, we must not lose sight of the creative solutions and transformative results that Californians are achieving on some of our most significant problems,” said Jim Canales, president and CEO of the Irvine Foundation. “We want to shine a spotlight on these inspiring leaders, and we want to encourage others to help grow and replicate their successful models for an even greater impact on our state.”

For more information on this year’s recipients — including videos, longer summaries and photographs — visit:

Nominations for the 2013 awards — which include $125,000, plus assistance in sharing program models with policymakers and others — are open until March 30, 2012. Submit nominations at:

The recipients of the 2012 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards are:

Patricia Dennehy, GLIDE Health Services, San Francisco
GLIDE Health Services, a nurse-run clinic and part of San Francisco’s safety net, is offering a solution to a major dilemma. Within two years, if federal health reforms proceed as expected, some 7 million uninsured Californians will acquire coverage and seek providers. But with an increasing shortage of primary care physicians, many patients will not find the care they need. Under the direction of Dennehy, GLIDE Health Services shows how nurses can fill that gap. Each year the nurse practitioners — nurses with advanced training and degrees — treat 3,200 patients in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, which has high rates of poverty, joblessness, homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse. Despite these hardships, the clinic’s results compare favorably with those of mainstream doctors — and save money. A 2010 study in the Journal of Pediatric Healthcare found that nurse-run clinics save money by reducing visits to the emergency room, where many low-income and uninsured individuals seek care. Nurse practitioners also typically offer comprehensive care at a lower cost than physicians because of salary differences. At GLIDE Health Services, patients receive primary, urgent and preventive care, and mental health treatment. Expanding the reach of nurse-run clinics broadly, beyond the safety net, could reap substantial savings while also helping to meet the higher demand for care that is expected with health reform.

Christa Gannon, Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY), Milpitas
Nearly 13,000 young people are arrested each year in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. While many end up jobless, committing new crimes or in adult prison, hundreds each year are reversing that path because of FLY’s innovative programs that cut crime and save money. Gannon, who had planned to be a prosecutor before volunteering in a juvenile hall’s maximum-security unit, founded FLY to help young people avoid the fate of prisoners she met. Each year, FLY reaches 1,000 youth ages 15-18, many of whom are behind bars, on probation or enrolled in alternative schools. They start by attending a 12-week crime-prevention law class that teaches the consequences of crime, builds confidence and motivates them to change their behavior. Some youth go on to participate in a year-long leadership program through which they provide 2,500 hours of community service, while others are paired with a mentor to help them get on track. Of the youth who participate in FLY’s leadership program, 75 percent do not re-offend during the program, and 85 percent get re-engaged in school. And FLY does this for $9,000 per student per year, compared with the more than $100,000 that local counties spend to lock minors up for a year.

Carolyn Laub, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, San Francisco
Surveys reveal that tens of thousands of California students are bullied each year based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. These students are twice as likely as their peers to suffer serious depression and three times as likely to consider suicide. Fortunately, campus clubs that bring LGBT and straight students together to combat bullying have led to major improvements. Over the past decade, the number of such clubs in California has climbed from 40 to more than 850. A big reason has been GSA Network, the nation’s largest network of youth-led groups for LGBT students, which Laub founded as a recent college graduate in 1998. The nonprofit supports the efforts of 12,000 youth each year to reduce violence and discrimination by training teenagers to be school leaders and advocates. GSA Network helps students establish and support campus clubs through leadership trainings, conferences, toolkits and other materials. Youth trained by GSA Network have helped pass pioneering laws, including new anti-bullying rules for schools. Laub also opposes anti-bullying policies that focus exclusively on punishing bullies, arguing that that education, peer mediation and “restorative justice” are more compassionate and effective.

Craig McNamara, Center for Land-Based Learning, Winters
On McNamara’s Solano County walnut farm, the Center for Land-Based Learning is raising new crops — of farmers — to avert an emerging crisis. California farmers are graying, and too few young workers are stepping in to fill those jobs. To avoid a major sell-off of land, McNamara has, for the past 18 years, introduced more than 10,000 high school students from across the state and from diverse backgrounds to ecologically sustainable food production. The Center’s “Green Corps” program pays low-income youth for agricultural labor while they also receive college counseling and job training. An additional, year-long leadership program has directed 4,000 graduates toward agriculture-related college majors and careers. This month, the Center will open the California Farm Academy, a six-month program to train beginning farmers, and returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been a key focus of its recruitment efforts.

Olis Simmons, Youth UpRising, Oakland
In a former supermarket in East Oakland, one of California’s most impoverished urban areas, Simmons runs a “youth transformation center” that is raising the prospects of thousands of young people. Youth UpRising offers an innovative range of services for residents ages 13-24: mentoring, academic advising and GED support, job training, a digital media arts workshop, and an onsite health clinic. Some 3,000 young people participate each year free of charge. Youth UpRising also manages social enterprises that employ 45 local youth: a restaurant and catering service, a multimedia production team, a janitorial company and a data-processing group. A separate job-training and placement program annually helps 200 graduates find work. Through Simmons’ networking, more than half of the nonprofit’s budget is donated through in-kind services by partners, and she holds frequent meetings with youth and Oakland police officers to build mutual understanding. In an era of diminished resources, Simmons has emphasized creative ways to use existing resources more effectively. Recently, she worked with county officials to direct $4 million in federal dollars to a summer jobs program for youth in foster care and on probation.


The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society. The Foundation’s grantmaking focuses on three program areas: Arts, California Democracy and Youth. Since 1937 the Foundation has provided over $1 billion in grants to more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations throughout California. With about $1.5 billion in assets, the Foundation made grants of $65 million in 2011 for the people of California.

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.


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