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ONH Story


  By IE Business Daily – Media Writer Beth Washabaugh on August 31, 2015

Inland Empire youth rehabilitation program celebrates 35 years

Operation New Hope (ONH), an Inland Empire-based youth rehabilitation program, began 35 years ago as a means of preparing at-risk youth for the realities of adulthood. The program originally began as a court-ordered recovery program for teens that were incarcerated and housed in California’s Youth Authority (CYA).

ONH’s founder, Bill Degnan, who worked at CYA, saw a growing trend: young men were frequently returning to the institution once they were paroled. To help combat the problem, Degnan decided to address the issue outside of the prison walls. In 1993, Operation New Hope, a learning facility, was formed for those who were not incarcerated. The thought process was simple: educate and rehabilitate at-risk youth before they become incarcerated.

Operation New Hope is based on the premise that behavior is a system of unrecognized, therefore, unsolved problems. Once the problem is identified, it can be “treated” by understanding the difference between positive and negative decision-making, awareness of toxic relationships and the development of self-trust. The youth training program helps at-risk youth ages 17 to 21 years old making conscious, informed decisions.

One of the unique aspects of Operation New Hope is that it reinforces small, everyday successes while addressing the teen’s fears of the real world. By recognizing their fears, the teen no longer feels the need to seek out drugs, alcohol or gang activity to feel safe. Knowing that they do not need that lifestyle allows them to develop skills necessary for being a productive member of community and allows them to successfully reintegrate into society.

The goal of the program is to produce a confident, self-accepting person who will make positive life choices. Instead of focusing on past failures, Operation New Hope focuses on building a bright future.

Degnan brought the unique holistic teaching approach ONH used inside California Youth Authority and applied them to the general at-risk population. Targeting the population at risk – particularly before he or she becomes incarcerated – was key. Once the learning center was created, Cal State San Bernardino and University of California, Irvine performed research to see just how effective Operation New Hope was at rehabilitating those in their youth program. The universities’ research eventually labeled ONH as an exemplary youth program. The program was then listed as a proven, evidence-based success story. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have also listed Operation New Hope as a model program.

Over time, Operation New Hope continued to grow. Bill Degnan’s son, Russell, followed in his father’s footsteps. He had the passion and desire to help teenagers from ending up in the broken prison system. In 2008, Russell became ONH’s new executive director, which allowed Bill to share his program’s success with others in the Inland Empire.

“When I came on-board, my goal was to take ONH from a small mom and pop non-profit and transform it into a valuable resource that could be utilized throughout the Inland Empire,” said Russell Degnan, ONH’s now chief operating officer.

In 2009, Operation New Hope received critical funding from the San Bernardino County Workforce Investment Board through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). That funding allowed the program to partner with John Muir Charter Schools. The partnership with John Muir Charter Schools provides ONH students with a high school education that is tailored to the student’s needs. The partnership provides students with small class sizes and a family-like atmosphere that teaches the importance of life, job and leadership skills.

It is crucial for students to receive their high school diploma, Degnan said. Having their diploma allows them to gain employment or enroll in a secondary institution.

“We provide our students with soft skill sets that make them attractive to potential employers,” Degnan explained. “They receive training on job readiness, financial literacy, leadership, anger management, substance abuse, and everything in between.”

To help make their students even more competitive in the job market, Operation New Hope provides worksite placement where students are required to complete a three month internship with a local business.

“Each element of our program is critical to building healthy young men and women,” Degnan said.

At the beginning of the year (2016), ONH saw an additional growth. Russell Degnan moved from executive director to chief operating officer, which gives him the freedom and ability to attend workshops and promote Operation New Hope in the community.

“Operation New Hope seeks to be the premier youth opportunity center in the Inland Empire,” Russell Degnan explained. “The high school dropout rate is a huge epidemic across the nation. Our goal is to be a positive solution for the our youth, our communities and the taxpayers.”

In the next 10 years, Team ONH envisions youth opportunity centers in other communities, particularly in communities with the at-risk youth. Next year, ONH will open a new youth opportunity center in San Bernardino. Every year after that, Degnan plans to open at least one new campus per year.

In addition to their youth opportunity centers, Operation New Hope’s evidence based trauma informed life skills curriculum are currently being used in Soledad and Salinas Valley State Prison (California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation), juvenile facilities, group homes, halfway houses and church outreach programs.

Degnan credits the success of his father’s program to ONH’s belief system. “Our success is built on our belief that lives must be built on healthy relationships,” Degnan explains

Although ONH continues to expand to meet the growing demand, the program’s growth is limited due to financial constraints. The programs ONH offers are part of reimburse contracts, which can create cash flow problems. Operation New Hope’s Board of Directors has made it their personal mission to build a solid cash reserve to alleviate the burden of waiting on reimbursements from a number of government agencies.

Operation New Hope currently employs 6 and serves over 150 students daily. Since 2009, 421 students have successfully graduated with their High School Diploma and 3120 students have successfully completed their Career Pathway Program which 82% are employed and or enrolled in to post-secondary education. Currently, ONH’s high school has 65 students enrolled and the Workforce Program has 110 students. All students range in age from 16 to 25.

To enroll, students can stop by Operation New Hope’s campus at 8520 Archibald Avenue Rancho Cucamonga, California 91730 or call at (909) 527-3894. Or 323 W. 7th St. San Bernardino (909)-380-0641

Editorial, Inland Empire Daily News: Editor Beth Washabaugh

Research validates ONH as a model Life skills & Career Pathway Program

Successful Evaluations


Study 1

The Office of Juvenile Justice Department:

Rates ONH as a Promising Evidence Based. Participants were more successful at parole, less likely to be arrested or use drugs, displayed greater improvements in social behavior, and were more likely to be employed compared to the control group parolees.

Operation New Hope is a curriculum-based aftercare treatment program designed to assist chronic, high-risk juvenile offenders in their reintegration to the community after they are released from secure confinement. The program reinforces small successes while addressing the chronic offender’s fears of the real world. The program is designed to treat improperly socialized juvenile offenders by using a series of lifestyle and life skill treatment modalities in an integrated educational approach to healthy decision-making.

The program is grounded in the dynamics of William Glasser’s (1965) “reality therapy” approach. The approach used by the curriculum is based on six programmatic principles believed to help with reintegration:

Program Theory

  1. Improve the basic socialization skills necessary for successful reintegration into the community.
  2. Significantly reduce criminal activity in terms of amount and seriousness.
  3. Alleviate the need for or dependence on alcohol or illicit drugs.
  4. Improve overall lifestyle choices (social, education, job training, and employment).
  5. Reduce the individual’s need for gang participation and affiliation as a support mechanism.
  6. Reduce the high rate of short-term parole revocations.

These principles address the behavioral antecedents believed to be most responsible for failure to reintegrate. A juvenile’s inability to function and adapt to the norms of society is seen as a lifelong problem attributable to the early family socialization process and exacerbated by poor school performance, alcohol and/or illicit drug use, and strong attachments to negative peer groups (Josi and Sechrest 1999).

Study 1
At the end of the evaluation period, Josi and Sechrest (1999) found that there were significantly more control group parolees who were unsuccessful in their parole attempt, compared with experimental group parolees who participated in Operation New Hope. Fifty-three percent of the control group (61 of the 115 parolees) was unsuccessful at parole, compared with 35 percent of the experimental group (37 of the 106 parolees).

The experimental group was also significantly less likely to have been arrested. At the end of the evaluation period, 32.1 percent of the experimental group parolees had been arrested one or more times, compared with 53.9 percent of the control group.

Substance Abuse
The experimental group was significantly less likely to use drugs or alcohol. At the end of the evaluation period, none of the parolees in the experimental group were classified as daily users, compared with 19.4 percent of the control group. Nineteen percent of the experimental group occasionally used drugs, compared with 32.0 percent of the control group. The majority of the experimental group parolees (81 percent) had no drug use during the evaluation period, compared with fewer than half (48.5 percent) of the control group.

At the end of the evaluation, experimental group parolees were significantly more likely to be employed (full or part time) and to be enrolled in school, compared with control group parolees. Among the 65 parolees in the experimental group who had been successful on parole at the end of the evaluation period, 46.2 percent were employed full or part time, and 6.6 percent were enrolled in school or vocational training. Among the 52 parolees in the control group who had been successful on parole at the end of the evaluation period, only 26.1 percent were employed full or part time, and 5.2 percent were enrolled in school or vocational training. Please note: The employment outcomes included only parolees who had been successful on parole at the end of the evaluation period; the outcomes did not include parolees who had been unsuccessful on parole.

Social Behavior
The experimental group displayed significantly greater improvements in social behavior, compared with the control group, as measured through negative peer associations and family relationships. Sixty-seven percent of the experimental group reported having no contact with former gang associates, compared with 45.2 percent of the control group. Approximately 43 percent of the experimental group reported few, if any, associations with negative peers, compared with 26.1 percent of the control group. Finally, 67.0 percent of the experimental group reported stable relationships with family members, compared with 51.3 percent of the control group.

Study 1 Conducted by:
Dr. Josi, Don A. (Univ. Irvine), and Dr. Dale K. Sechrest (Cal State San Bernardino). 1999. “A Pragmatic Approach to Parole Aftercare: Evaluation of a Community Reintegration Program for High-Risk Youthful Offenders.” Justice Quarterly 16(1):51–80.
A link to the Office of Juvenile Justice Departments Program.

Study 2

University Southern California Doctoral of Education Research:

To what extent has ONH achieved its program objectives in terms of student development? Academic performance and Students’ attitudes and behaviors to what extent has ONH program met the students’ needs? The research focused on Cognitive engagement, Emotional engagement, and Behavioral engagement.

ONH met its program objectives in terms of student development in the areas of academic performance as well as in attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, ONH staff takes a holistic approach, focusing on teaching students to “be able to take accountability and to help themselves versus leaning on their excuses and barriers as to why they can’t achieve success.

Findings indicate that ONH accomplished its program objectives in terms of students’ attitudes and behaviors. The student interviews validated that ONH school leaders have a positive impact on their attitudes and behaviors. Students stated that they dropped out of school and did not believe they

would graduate. However, attending ONH changed their lives and they are back on track to graduate. Ultimately, the students stated that attending ONH positively influenced them to think better and be better students. The findings also indicate that ONH meets students’ cognitive, emotional, and behavioral engagement need

ONH school leaders are mission-driven and focused on attaining measurable goals; specifically those of having their students graduate and earn high school diplomas. In addition, they are focused on transforming their students into hopeful and positive thinkers about their future.

A culture fostered around family-oriented; love, support, and family were three concepts ONH students and staff experience within the school campus. The coaches respect the students’ individuality and demonstrate care and respect when interacting with them. Ultimately, ONH is a second home for many of the students.

Welcoming Environment: ONH leadership created a safe and welcoming place for students and school personnel to assemble in. The various walls throughout the school are painted with inspirational messages. School administrators and teachers have an open-door policy, which adds to the inviting environment. Overall, the campus is well kept and in order.

Collaborative Culture: ONH coaches, school staff and students have a clear vision and purpose. The coaches meet periodically throughout the month to discuss the students’ needs and ways to meet their expectations. In general, collaboration among school members allows for shared thoughts, shared responsibilities, and shared decisions, which allow for greater success for ONH students.

Restorative-Centered: Data analysis revealed that teaching people to believe in themselves and to value the opportunities was a consistent message flowing from the mission of ONH to the value the opportunities was a consistent message flowing from the mission of ONH to the

Study 3

San Bernardino County Workforce Innovation Act    2010 – 2017:

  • 300 Youth Funded and Evaluated
  • 55% of ONH’s Program Participants referred by the Criminal Justice System
  • 33% pregnant/parenting youth
  • 30% foster youth
  • 20% Homeless youth
  • 96% Low income
  • 33% IEP/504 plan
  • 33% Mental health diagnosis
  • 66% Have a disability
  • 82% of youth in their follow-up year entered post-secondary education or employment
  • 100% percent earned a High School Diploma or Department of Labor Certificate
  • 76% percent increased their literacy and numeracy gains by one grade level or more.
  • 10% recidivism
  • 293 High School Graduates