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.
Project ROOTS was founded on the need to address the root causes of gender-based violence including commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, rape, domestic violence, and sexual assault in the local context of San Diego. Project ROOTS is a conscious effort to move away from the binary impression of Boys Only! and Girls Only!, because although there are documented benefits to same sex groups, the toolkit is gender-transformative and does not discriminate on the basis of sex. Creating safe spaces for children and adolescents to challenge gender roles and stereotypes and promote gender-equitable relationships, regardless of sex, is critical.
The toolkit is a guide for implementing a gender-specific, culturally responsive, and developmentally appropriate prevention education program for boys and girls age 8 to 13. The goal of working with youth during this critical period of childhood and adolescence is to model the soft skills necessary as they physically and developmentally mature. The toolkit provides an overview of current research to first understand the challenges negatively affecting our youth. The activities are then organized into three overarching themes; Empathy, Empowerment, and Equality.