San Mar serves a lot of youth that have experienced trauma.

To meet this need, we create and maintain an appropriate and consistent structure that is balanced with a genuine sense of healthy nurture. This challenges belief systems that have been destructive in the past. It also allows youth and families to form life-long connections with staff. This helps individuals assume ownership of their life and responsibility for their actions.

New staff and volunteers learn this when they commit to the organization.

Core Values represent an organization’s highest priorities, deepest beliefs and driving forces. In order for connections to be genuine and transformative, we stand on these four:







It is important that children learn to communicate respectfully. However, when a child has never known respect, how can they give it to others? Adults must understand this, before they start demanding respect.

A traumatized child may not have reference points that allow them to understand respect. A child that has only been valued for what they accomplish, or what they are (popular, smart, pretty, etc.) will struggle demonstratingrespect.

At San Mar we believethat every person iscreated in the image of God. They have inherent value that begins at birth.

Failure to accept this premise leaves a person having to earn their value. Thus, we encounter youth and adults who validate their worth with possessions, friends, accomplishments, public image or attention received. Trouble multiplies when trauma is introduced into this equation. That person will become blind to the value they have created.

Personal worth is inherent and God given. Therefore, we must treat everyone with respect.


Connection brings personal growth and responsibility.

In 2003 the YMCA of America commissioned a study by scientists from Harvard and Dartmouth to help understand the high numbers of children across America suffering from emotional and behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders and thoughts of suicide.

The results of this study were published under the title Hardwired to Connect. The study revealed that people are biologically wired for attachments to others, and also for moral and spiritual meaning. The study also discovered that if a child or youth formed a connection with a positive authority figure, it changed the actual structure of their developing brains. These connections helped avoid many emotional and behavioral problems later in life.

At San Mar we connect with others, so they can take control of their own lives. When a person’s life becomes dysfunctional, we may need to follow the example of a pilot teaching their student to fly.

The instructor asks the student to climb to a great height and kill the engine. As the plane drops, the student must remember their instruction, then restart the engine and pull out of the dive. If the student fails, the instructor intervenes and completes the maneuver. A good instructor will practice with the student, until they master this scary process. The goal is for the student to become their own pilot. What can we learn from this example?

Control brings stability and safety, when it is used properly. 


Many adolescents believe that independence means happiness. They look forward to adults not telling them what to do. However, time teaches them that deep abiding happiness does not come with age.

On our journey to healthy adulthood, points of independence must be mastered. Along the way, we must remember that we are social beings. Full independence is not the destination. We must carry on to a full realization of interdependence.

Interdependence is our connection and responsibility to others. Each person has inherent value. It matters what they do, or don’t do.

Every individual is accountable. They must be responsible and productive. When someone falls short, those connected to them are also accountable. They must help them move forward. This standard of accountability reinforces the talent and strength in others and encourages sharing your own.


Learning is a life long process. We must embrace it, before making a difference in other lives.

The law of entropy states that everything disintegrates or detoriates, unless acted on by an outside force of equal or greater strength. Without a deliberate choice to move forward, you move backward. Growth and learning is a decision. Forward motion is a choice.

Consider the flight attendant’s message at the beginning of your last flight. If the cabin pressure falls, oxygen masks will drop down. If flying with a child, first put on your own mask. Failure to do so, may result in you passing out, before you can help the child.

Many people have come to San Mar seeking employment. They wanted to make an impact in the life of a child or youth. These people must first demonstrate they can responsibly care for themselves. Taking care of yourself comes first. It is a personal choice with far reaching consequences and critical when seeking to assist others.

Over the years many people have come to San Mar seeking employment because they have desired to make an impact in the life of a child or youth, yet they often have not been able to demonstrate personal responsibility for caring for themselves. Taking care of yourself, like learning, is a personal choice with far-reaching consequences.



It is not always an easy task to quickly see character strength in a person who appears defiant or oppositional. We have frequently found that when we have had the opportunity to interact with individuals with such antisocial behaviors they typically tend to struggle to recognize genuine strengths within their own character. However, we have also found that as we choose to look through a paradigm that values each individual there flows a presumption that a multitude of strengths are present and waiting to be unwrapped. If the individual hasn’t accepted the reality of their genuine worth it is likely those strengths have been hidden or disguised in creative ways.

Life too often teaches us how to perfect our weaknesses, instead of recognizing and developing our strengths.

We believe as people recognize their true value and experience hope they will discover their strengths as we are in the process of doing ourselves. Therefore, we will commit to recognize and develop our own strengths so as to build up and support a strong foundation for healing and success without prejudice or judgement. We understand that forward motion does not focus on failures, but uses them as stepping stones to overcoming other challenges and attaining lasting success. We acknowledge the uniqueness of each individual and commit to help those we serve, and serve with, to realize their own.


Ancient Roman galley ships were powered by the wind and the strength of the hyperates, those men below the decks who rowed in unison to reach their destination. Only by rowing together could they realize forward motion. Recent research (noted above in Core Value #2: Connection and Control) highlighted the importance of youth having meaningful connections with positive adults in their lives. Such connections were found to actually change the structure of a youth’s brain as they develop. At San Mar we have seen the reality that such connections, when based on respect, build trust and enable youth to assume greater responsibility for their own lives. We are social beings living in a society of individuals with diverse needs, desires and hopes. Experience shows we are stronger and more effective to serve others when we begin by supporting each other. We have also witnessed the power holding to a standard of treating everyone we serve as we would the members of our own families. We realize we do not fix those we serve. Instead, we seek to empower each so they may take control of their own selves. This process opens the door for us to know our clients and their needs better and in facilitating a healing that builds communities.

We have also experienced the power of partnering with other organizations to row together to build healthy communities. Working with individuals who share same passion for common goals creates connectedness that benefits many.

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