VALLEJO – Dr. Rhonda Renfro wants to give young people in Solano County the tools they need to effectively advocate on their own behalf, and the knowledge that they have the power to shape the lives of their communities.
Renfro is the CEO and founder of Club Stride Inc., which has a mission to reduce structural, racial and health inequities by cultivating youth-led civic action. Students involved in the program work on government advocacy, public health initiatives and acquire skills that prepare them for college and careers.
Renfro was Solano County’s Woman of the Year in 2017, and was honored by the Solano Commission for Women and Girls in 2022.
She founded Club Stride as a grassroots program in 1997, and it became a nonprofit in 2012. Renfro said her daughter Jasmine was the catalyst for its creation.
“We were living in Vallejo, and she couldn't find anything that she wanted to do,” Renfro said. “She was 13 years old and I was really concerned about her safety and who she was socializing with.”
There were fewer activities available for girls than there were for boys, and Jasmine wasn’t interested in cheerleading. “We decided to start our own thing and took fliers around the neighborhood,” Renfro said. “We had about 17 girls show up for that first meeting. That's how I got started with what I'm doing now.”
Since then, the organization has expanded to provide services for racial minority teens of any gender and provided services to 168 youth during the 2021-2022 school year.
One of its current projects is working on the Solano Transportation Equity Program with the Vallejo High School STRIVERS, a group of about 16 youth. This team is acquiring work skills in partnership with the City of Vallejo and the Solano Transportation Authority while they advocate for transportation equity in Solano County.
Other current Club Stride projects include AIM, Action In Movement, a youth-led substance use prevention program, and a sexually transmitted infection prevention program that prepares youth to use media and technology to build community awareness around the epidemic affecting Solano County youth
Club Stride offers youth internships in sound, lighting and visual media production, and is working with the City of Vallejo and the Workforce Development Board to provide Digital Literacy Training for 18-24 year-old residents.
College preparation is a big component of the Club Stride experience. “Civic Leadership is an area of focus particularly appealing to colleges,” Renfro said. “A profile of leadership activity is a bonus in terms of how they represent on their college application.”
Renfro said that all of the Club Stride participants from the 2021-22 school year who graduated high school are either college bound or already attending college.
Renfro credits Maria Guevara, the founder of Vallejo Together who died in 2020, with helping get Club Stride engaged with the community. Guevara collaborated with Renfro on a number of projects.
“Without her graciousness, her kindness, I would not have found my voice in Vallejo and Solano County,” Renfro said. “She was a connector. She introduced me and my organization to a ton of people.”
Renfro says that the hard work of recruitment was done some years ago. “We've been working with families for a while; the news gets out,” Renfro said. “The young people get the news; it spreads, so it's getting easier and easier over the years to recruit.”
Renfro credits her mother as her inspiration to pursue doctorate degrees in divinity and theology.
“My mom was a pastor, and I saw her doing great things,” Renfro said. “She said, ‘If you get your doctorate in this, no one can tell you you can't preach, no one can tell you you can't teach, no man can take that away from you.’”
Renfro says that being a Black woman and a leader is much more difficult than she had ever anticipated. “Being a woman and being Black goes hand in hand with some disparity and some inequity, period,” Renfro said. “No matter what, I have to walk in integrity. In some ways it's made me a much stronger, more grateful, a more deliberate person.”
“There are young women who need to see me doing what I'm doing, and I wouldn't let them down for anything in the world,” Renfro said. “When I first started this, I was just looking to protect my daughter. Now I'm looking to protect the future.”
Club Stride applications for the 2023-2024 school year will open at the end of April.
Before you go...
It’s expensive to produce the kind of high-quality journalism we do at the Vallejo Sun. And we rely on reader support so we can keep publishing.
If you enjoy our regular beat reporting, in-depth investigations, and deep-dive podcast episodes, chip in so we can keep doing this work and bringing you the journalism you rely on.
Click here to become a sustaining member of our newsroom.
THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Rhonda Renfro
- Club Stride
- Vallejo High School
- Solano Transit Authority
- Maria Guevara
- Vallejo Together
Gretchen Zimmermann started volunteering with Vallejo Open Studios in 2010, launched the Vallejo Arts and Entertainment website in 2014 and creates mixed media sculpture at Mare Island Art Studios.
follow me :