Mission Head Start Image BlogDolores Terrazas speaks with pride of her dedicated staff of 90 that has made Mission Head Start a mainstay for San Francisco’s Latino community for over 40 years, myriad young lives positively affected over that time.

Dolores Terrazas“I enjoy the wonder of experiences of children who have a voice,” profoundly exclaims the Mission native, whose career has showcased a well-honed focus on early education. “I see Mission Head Start as a catalyst for a child’s success.”

So started an hour-long interview with the engrossing, two-year Division Director, Children Services–a visionary of a nonprofit that serves as a vital partner of the Mission Promise Neighborhood. Located at 362 Capp Street, just a stone’s throw away from MEDA’s Plaza Adelante, Mission Head Start/Early Head Start is part of Mission Neighborhood Centers (MNC). Executive Directive Santiago “Sam” Ruiz spearheads the work of the organization.

MNC offers its services to a trio of vulnerable age groups: zero to five; youths; and seniors. Mission Head Start’s vital services–offered to an under-resourced, mostly Latino clientele–are offered at ten facilities, seven of which are located in the Mission zip code of 94110 and all of which offer bilingual staff. Despite a recent demographic shift, with Latinos compelled to move from the ever-pricey Mission, many of the agency’s 400+ clients come back out of familiarity (48 of these 400+ are part of a recent surge in clients).

Liz Cortez, MEDA’s Early Learning Manager, knows all too well the important work of MNC. She explains the need as follows: “Mission Neighborhood Center-Head Start is a critical partner for MPN. They offer early care and education services to the majority of families with young children in the Mission. They are on the frontline, working every day to assure that every child in their care enters school ready to learn.”

The long-term vision of Mission Head Start recently overcame a major obstacle, as grantee San Francisco State University was no longer in the picture. This lead to Mission Head Start having to apply for the grant on its own—a new experience.

The great news? A five-year, federal grant was successfully garnered by the agency, for reasons ranging from excellent grant writers and systems being in place to innovation and long-term staff. (Half of Mission Head Start’s staff has been intact for over a decade, rare in a world where job skipping seems to have become the norm.)

With the organization’s eyes on the prize, September is seeing the advent of new programs to further better the trajectory of school readiness. One novel program will include home-based services that will be coupled with the already-existing hub services, the latter to ensure a proper socialization experience still occurs.

Continues MEDA’s Cortez, “I’m very excited about the new Early Head Start home-based model. It will offer families with infants and toddlers ideas for how to turn their home into a learning environment and, more importantly, it will promote the parent as the child’s first teacher. It will also connect families that are not connected to formal care with other families through socialization experiences. This will mutually benefit the children and the families.”

Also innovative is a new “push-in model,” whereby a therapist from the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) will be housed at Mission Head Start’s main facility to provide therapeutic services for children. This centralized therapeutic experience often took parents and children on buses across town. Those days are over, much to the relief of the community’s families.

“Working with SFUSD is integral to success. Half of our children transition to kindergarten in any given year,” explains Terrazas. “Mission Head Start offers family field trips to elementary schools and workshops on kindergarten readiness. All are key to success.”

Success comes almost daily, with full-time enrollment from 8am-5:30pm for 246 days a year. Part-time is offered for half a day for 128 days. Eligibility is based on federal poverty guidelines, with the parent needing to be employed or attending school for their child to be eligible for full-time enrollment. Filling a need for having children in a welcoming atmosphere provides emotional support that is paramount to logistical support.

Exemplifying the need in the community was the story of Carmen. She brought a number of her eight children to Mission Head Start over the years. At first, the client barely mouthed, “Hola” when dropping off and picking up her children. Staff knew they would have to work hard at gaining Carmen’s trust. Being from a high-needs family, the challenge was great. The Mission Head Start staff was not daunted by the challenge.

With nurturing and compassion, the benefit has been reaped: Carmen now engages with staff, realizing that the site supervisor never judged her. Carmen not only feels supported at the center; she also feels supported by school staff. Success has been achieved on many levels.

With hundreds of other Carmens to serve, the team at Mission Head Start is always ready for a new day, prepared to meet any challenges they may face as they help the Mission community however possible.

 

Read More

PartnerIt’s always great when synchronicity occurs. This was definitely the case recently for MEDA Job Developer Orrian Willis.

How so?

Willis had attended a job fair, where he met two recruiters for UCSF, with their niche being temp to perm administration positions in the medical field. Willis nurtured this relationship so that MEDA Workforce Development Program clients were considered pre-screened for such positions, meaning once they applied online, a call was made and they were given a definite look.

Since MEDA did not have enough clients with the credentials to fill UCSF’s need, Willis reached out to a Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) partner, Mission Language and Vocational School (MLVS), located not far from Plaza Adelante, the Mission neighborhood center.

According their website, “MLVS has been in continuous operation as a community-based education center for over 45 years, administering federal, state and locally funded programs. More than 70% of graduating students continue to be employed after one year, managing to escape the poverty cycle and become self-sufficient, productive individuals in their communities.”

Willis then called his contacts at UCSF, who were receptive to MEDA’s partner sending over candidates. UCSF’s recruitment team was composed of Frank Burgoyne, Rebecca Kesler, Jennifer Wilson-Fischer and Belinda Espinoza.

Willis worked with MLVS staff of Executive Director Rosario Anaya, Natalie Hopner and Rosamunda Ayala.

UCSF 1 FrankUCSF’s Burgoyne, Talent Acquisitions Specialist, offered up good advice for those looking to work at UCSF, which is the second-largest employer in San Francisco–after the city itself. States Burgoyne, “When looking for a job, research the company, customize your resume to the job, prepare for the interview so you shine, dress to impress and make sure to ask engaging questions before you leave the interview. Put yourself in the driving seat of your job search through preparation.”

That is exactly what MEDA does every day with its clients, as does MLVS.

49.-Orrian-WillisWillis gladly facilitated this relationship, recognizing that MPN is a community initiative, owned by all organizations in the Mission for the good of all neighborhood residents.

“Since we didn’t have any more clients who fit UCSF’s employment needs, I was glad I could help MLVS’s clients. That’s what community is all about,” explains Willis.

Synchronicity had definitely occurred, as MEDA partnered for success.

Read More

Mentor Blog

The definition of a mentor is an “experienced and trusted advisor.”

The definition of success is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

Put these two terms together and a powerful San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) program called Mentoring for Success means that there are currently 620 schoolchildren in the city being afforded a better chance of achieving academically–and in life in general.

PrintMentoring for Success is a school-based mentoring program that provides kids with highly qualified and effective mentors who engage these students in asset-building activities to build skills for school success, thereby improving attendance and increasing self-esteem.

This is especially important in poorer-performing schools, such as the four schools of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN). There are currently 35 mentors at Brant Elementary School, 20 at Everett Middle School and nine at O’Connell High School. There are plans to implement the program at Cesar Chavez Elementary School this fall.

While many of these mentors are associated with the schools—social worker, advisor, principal, nurse or the like—Mentoring for Success’ task is to bring in volunteers from the outside, as they offer a different perspective.

The process starts with a student being identified as needing extra assistance. The family is then contacted to ascertain that they are open to the idea of a mentor for their child. Once such consent is given, mentors are matched with mentees. The criterion for the match is there being a common interest.

Much of the mentoring is activity driven. For instance, the San Francisco Giants recently donated 20 tickets, with a score of Bryant Elementary students being taken somewhere they had seen only on their TV screen.  Also at Bryant this school year was the project of creating items for a goodie bag for “Thank a Teacher Day.”

Erin-FarrellErin Farrell, Learning Support Professional at Mentoring for Success for the past seven years, explains the logistics: “A one-year commitment is asked of the mentor, as it takes time to nurture the relationship, with communication and visits even occurring over the summer, so as not to lose touch. Mentoring for Success acts as a conduit for the school’s internal workers, as we will find them mentors to add to their team of volunteers.”

One-to-One Mentoring Summary

  • The program matches adults with students to meet weekly for approximately one hour a week, preferably on a specific day and time.
  • Students are referred to the mentor program by school staff. Students must willingly participate and parent consent is required.
  •  Mentors are provided with extensive training.
  • A Mentor Program Coordinator at each site manages all aspect of the program to support mentors and their student mentees.
  • Mentors engage in a variety of asset-building activities with students on school grounds. The Mentor Program Coordinator will have many ideas for activities and games.
  • Group activities that engage students and their mentors in leadership development, team building activities and community service are held during the school year and in the summer months.

Darren Gapultos, Education Manager of MPN, expounds on the import of Mentoring for Syccess: “The journey of our children into adulthood can be a scary and unpredictable one. That’s what makes the Mentoring for Success program so important to our MPN-supported schools. Mentors provide children additional stable adult support at the school site from people who will listen to them, who will let them know what their strengths are and who will gently nudge them in the right direction. Something as simple as a trusting relationship between a child and an adult can lead to a successful journey for our youth.”

Gapultos has firsthand experience with such a positive transformation, having been a volunteer at Mentoring for Success. He has mentored youths from broken homes—children with a deep mistrust of adults. Through many weeks of developing relationships with students who come from these adverse childhood experiences, students become more trusting of adults and begin improving their success at the school sites.

Would you like to help?
Mentoring for Success is always looking for volunteers, as the number of children in need of such assistance is vast. This is a great way to give back to the community, and all are welcome. Mentoring for Success is especially seeking mentors from the Mission District, with people of color most needed.

Upcoming mentor training dates:
Thursday, August 21st, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Thursday, September 25th, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Saturday, October 25th, 10:00am-1:00pm
Tuesday, November 17th, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Thursday, January 15th, 5:30pm-8:30pm

To become a mentor, please contact:
Tom Laursen
Volunteer Engagement Coordinator
San Francisco Education Fund
(415) 695-5400 ext. 3024
tlaursen@sfedfund.org

Read More

School Lunch BlogThe “Second City” announced a first-rate move this week: starting September 2nd, each of the approximately 400,000 children enrolled in 652 Chicago public schools will get a free meal each school day. It doesn’t matter if you live at a tony address on the North Side or in an underserved community in the south or west parts of town. Breakfast, lunch and after-schools snacks will be gratis, compliments of the feds’ Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

Turns out all that free-meal paperwork was creating a logistical nightmare anyway. With a growing population of undocumented children in its schools, there was also the nagging problem of there being no Social Security number for some kids to put on free-lunch forms.

Leslie Fowler CPSLeslie Fowler, Director of Nutrition Support Services at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), explains another issue: “There was an unintended consequence of the free-lunch program. A hierarchy was created. A student would know that their family had less money because they couldn’t afford to pay for a meal. We have now taken away the stigma for our financially challenged student population.”

To qualify, a district, or just a grouping of schools, must have 62.5% of students qualifying for free lunch. In Chicago, the district number was greater, meaning the entire district now qualifies. Turns out 84% of CPS students, or more than 338,000 children, qualify for free and reduced lunch, so extending the program was not much of a stretch.

This is proven via the state of Illinois identifying every student qualifying for financial aid of any sort and residing in zip codes within the school district’s blueprint.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition website: “The CEP allows schools that predominantly serve low-income children to offer free, nutritious school meals to all students through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The CEP uses information from other programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families (TANF), instead of traditional paper applications.”

CPS logoThe math adds up for CPS, too. Reimbursement per meal will jump from $2.93 to $3.01, an eight-cent increase. Add this up over the school year and Fowler estimates up to seven million in extra revenue in CPS’ coffers through the implementation of CEP.

As an added benefit, Fowler notes that issues of food insecurity will be a thing of the past.

“Many families don’t have purchasing groceries at the top of their list. Now, every student is guaranteed a good meal. This will increase performance in Chicago’s public schools,” states Fowler.

It will be interesting to evaluate the results of this program. Perhaps it would work well in the four schools of the Mission Promise Neighborhood . . . or San Francisco as a whole.

 

 

 

Read More

Homeless BlogBeing a family success coach for the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) team is an exciting, impactful job, with its goal of guiding kids on a cradle-to-college-to-career continuum. This federal program is based on the successful Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, now replicated by MEDA and 26 community partners at a quartet of poor-performing schools in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The job does come with myriad challenges, including families in financial and emotional distress, making it difficult for a child to study and achieve.

One of the main causes of such distress is the ongoing San Francisco housing crunch, especially evidenced in the increasingly popular Mission District.

How can a student stay focused and successfully remain on the road to a bright future when their family’s living situation is unstable?

By the numbers
In the worst case scenario, a student’s family is in transitional housing. A recent study by the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) discovered a shocking statistic: 141 MPN students in the four Mission District schools are in such transitional housing, with 118 of those students Latino. This unsettling statistic was determined by the city’s Families & Youth in Transition (FYIT) program.

Transitional housing was broken down into the following categories, by number of students:
Temporarily doubled up: 89
Temporary shelters: 36
Hotels/motels: 12
Temporarily unsheltered: 1
Temporarily doubled up (pre-natal): 1
Other: 2

These statistics showcase the depth of the housing issue in San Francisco.

Family issues
Danielle Winford, a native San Franciscan who grew up in the Ingleside neighborhood, deals every day with the issue of schoolchildren in transition. As the SFUSD FYIT District Coordinator, it is her job to help students through this difficult time. Winford has actually heard an anecdote of eight families living in one unit, with kids sleeping in the hallway.

Thanks to the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act, passed in 1987, every student has the right to stay in their school of origin.

McKinney-Vento Act gives transition students the right to:

  • Remain in the same school even if their family moves
  • Enroll in a new school without such typically required records as proof of residency, immunizations, school records or other documents
  • Receive transportation to school
  • Obtain site-based services at school
  • Challenge decisions made by the schools and districts

It is Winford’s job to ensure that the McKinney-Vento Assistance Act is met, even if a child needs to commute a long distance. “After housing, the main request I get from families is for transportation. I work to get students free MUNI Fast Passes or BART passes. Whatever it takes to ensure they have a way to get to school,” explains Winford.

A main element of Winford’s job is coordination of services. She works closely with school nurses and social workers to get students–and their families–the services they need to ensure the youngster’s success, despite their being in transition with regard to housing.

“I started as a teacher and later got my Masters in Social Work. The truth is that you can’t be a teacher without being a social worker,” states Winford.

Those skills come in handy as Winford deals with the ongoing challenges of keeping students in their school of choice . . . and on the road to success.

Mission Promise Neighborhood family in crisis
Hard-working single mother Manuela E. has sole onus for the care of her 10- and 13-year-old daughters. The eldest, Sophia, attends Everett Middle School, part of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

4. Roberto AparicioMPN Family Success Coach Roberto Aparicio has been guiding the Mission District family through a difficult time, as they are being evicted from their residence of seven years on Capp and 20th streets, with all residents of the property being displaced.

Manuela’s friends and family are surprised that this is happening to someone like her–a community activist as a member of the collectiva. She prides herself on being involved and always knowing her rights.

It is happening. By September 1st, the family will be forced out of their home, having to temporarily double up with Manuela’s sister in her apartment across town in the Presidio. Manuela and her two children are about to become a statistic.

This situation has also created the issue of a total loss of household income, as Manuela has been running a permitted daycare center in her residence (she is legally allowed to care for up to eight children.) These clients will not follow Manuela to another part of town. Even if she can somehow find an apartment rental in the next six weeks, new permits and licensing will need to be garnered, adding to an already taxing situation.

And then there is Sophia, removed from the comfort of home, away from her friends, school and community.

Interestingly, Aparicio did not hear of this story until the eviction process had begun. The reason was that Sophia has somehow managed to do well in school through this family crisis. Her grades are good. Her behavior is exemplary. She is off the radar.

Yet when Sophia comes home, the teenager is prone to bouts of depression, having internalized the stress of losing the place she calls home.

Aparicio became availed of this family’s story when he attended an SFUSD training in March—a training geared around youths who were in transitional housing. Sophia’s English teacher had read an essay the youngster wrote about her family’s prospective eviction and asked if she would be willing to read it at this meeting. Sophia agreed.

As her words of despair and frustration spilled forth, tears rolled down Sophia’s face. She wasn’t the only one. 

Service integration
Aparicio has since been of service to the family in their desperate attempt to find  affordable housing in a city of ever-increasing rents.

To better her credit score—essential for landlords to even think about renting to you–Aparicio steered Manuela back to MEDA Financial Capability Coach M. Teresa Garcia. Manuela first met Garcia back in 2005 when the coach helped her get a city grant to buy toys and equipment for her new childcare business.

This time, Garcia’s strategy was to set Manuela up with a Secured Credit Card—a strategy that worked, as that credit score rose to 649 after only three months. This reduced Manuela’s stress, as she thought she could now find a new rental.

This has yet to happen.

On Garcia’s counsel, Manuela tried becoming part of a rental co-op called Baker’s Dozen, located in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood. Manuela was not picked. Garcia conjectures this is because it would be three persons in one room.

Then Manuela tried another co-op, Parker Street Cooperative, despite it being across the Bay in Berkeley. Once again, she was turned down.

Manuela searches for a new home for her family every day, but hope is slipping away as each week passes. Daughter Sophia fears an uncertain future.

Hoping for the best; preparing for the worst
Family Success Coach Aparicio explains his task as follows: “My job is to connect the dots so that MPN families know all of the appropriate services out there. With so many families having housing issues, family success coaches have realized the need for a partner that offers shelter space so that we can get our families immediately placed. That is the reality of the situation for far too many MPN families today. Manuela puts a face on a tragic problem.”

Aparicio is now researching family shelters with the best reputation in San Francisco, as it appears Manuela’s story may not end well.

As Aparicio does so, he fears another call from an MPN family finding themselves in a housing crisis.

 

 

Read More

PolicyLink Blog #2 BlogWhen MEDA received a federal grant in December 2012 to start a Promise Neighborhood at a quartet of low-performing schools in San Francisco’s Mission District, the four-decades-old agency remained at the vanguard of nonprofit best practices by implementing a comprehensive service integration strategy, whereby the families of students are offered free asset-building services. The aim is that every family succeeds and every student achieves, as these two outcomes are intricately linked. Staff know that the stressors of a family in economic distress create obstacles to a student’s academic success.

MEDA is proud to announce that its Mission Promise Neighborhood efforts have been recognized as part of a just-released, 50-page guide from PolicyLink, the Oakland-based, national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity. Entitled Integrating Family Financial Security into Promise Neighborhoods: A Resource and Implementation Guide, this influential work “aims to describe the programs, policies and practices that set families on a path to financial security while achieving prescribed Promise Neighborhoods results.” This guide is part of the Growing Assets Program—generously funded by The Citi Foundation—with the goal of incorporating essential asset-building strategies into the network of Promise Neighborhoods across the nation.

The Citi Foundation offers the needed support so that myriad programs can allow community partners to test, deliver and scale innovative approaches to asset building. These programs are designed to provide consumers with the tools and support they need to achieve their fiscal goals, morphing financial ken into efficacious action. Financial coaching and counseling programs abet consumers to implement financial plans, make payments, increase their savings, reduce debt and build their credit.

The report was co-authored by Alexandra Bastien and Solana Rice. Bastien, the current program associate at PolicyLink, conducts research on policy solutions to address the racial wealth gap and maintains a compendium of resources on strategies to achieve financial security for all. Rice was an associate director for over five years at PolicyLink, where she directed research on asset building and other strategies focused on enhancing economic security in financially challenged communities, particularly communities of color.

Bastien explains the guide’s purpose as follows: “There is substantial research that shows that low-income families can save. Savings and assets are the tools that allow families to withstand financial crisis and invest in their future. In addition, children with a savings account in their own name are 2.5 times more likely to enroll in college than children with no account.”

Pages 30-34 of the guide showcase the case study of MEDA’s best practices relating to the nonprofit’s innovative service integration model that aims to create assets for its low-income, mostly Latino families, who are often immigrants. The guide advises that this insightful case study should serve as an example other Promise Neighborhoods should follow.

Chart

One powerful quote from the MEDA case study claims: “Bringing financial education ‘in-house’ to select schools and hubs is filling a significant gap in clients’ knowledge and services. This approach of ‘meeting people where they are’ is proving to be a valuable one and is facilitating MEDA’s entry into new areas of the community and the recruitment of families into the MPN pipeline.“

To start sharing this report’s important data, MEDA’s Director of Asset Building Programs, Christi Baker, has been tasked with leading a presentation on this PolicyLink guide at the Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference, being held this week in Arlington, Virginia.

Also, PolicyLink will be conducting a Webinar July 10th at 11am PT, with information in the guidebook being delved into further. Check back for details.

Read More

MPN Survey BlogAs the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), MEDA partners with 26 nonprofit organizations and government agencies to launch a cradle-to-college-to-career continuum of services that empowers every Mission District family to succeed economically and achieve academically. MPN recently conducted an extensive neighborhood survey, details of which follow.


Survey Strategist Interview:

Carolina Guzman
Director of Evaluation
Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA)

Why did you undertake the Mission Promise Neighborhood survey?
The MPN survey was a mandate of the federal Department of Education as part of the Promise Neighborhood Initiative. The goal is to understand how the initiative is affecting the community, since it is not just about the schools. How are things being impacted? After all, this is the place people live, work and go to school.

This survey is required every other year, with data gathered from residents living within the MPN footprint. This is the way to capture changes in perception in the Mission. Is my neighborhood safer? Are the kids thriving?

What was the biggest issue you faced in conducting this intensive survey?
It was difficult to find where people actually live. Many Mission residents live in overcrowded conditions. Also, because this is still a working-class neighborhood, it was difficult to find people at home during the day, when our surveyors were canvasing the neighborhood. To tap into the people in the most dire straits is difficult when they are out all day working at two jobs.

Another problem was how many students attending our four MPN schools no longer live in the Mission. Their families have moved, mostly because of financial issues, as the neighborhood has become all the more expensive. Here are the stats: of the 1,636 students enrolled in MPN focus schools, only 39% lived within MPN’s geographic boundaries, with 61% residing outside the boundaries.

Finally, the survey was conducting over five weeks, so you need to come up with ways to keep your workers and volunteers engaged in the project.

Who exactly were these workers and volunteers?
It was a comprehensive team. We had 50 staff volunteers from MEDA, 15 community volunteers, 10 youth workers and six promotoras/es. Promotoras/es are an integral part of Latino culture overseas and here in the Mission. They started as healthcare outreach workers, but that later expanded to being community teachers about such topics as education and domestic violence. Think of it as the “it takes a village” approach.

The promotoras/es are a great resource because they know how to speak to families, how to safely walk the streets and how to engage without influencing. The latter is vital when asking questions—we need unbiased answers.

What MPN survey question revealed the most surprising answer?
It was shocking to discover how many families put just about their entire paycheck toward rent. That is how expensive the Mission District has become. There is little or nothing to put toward savings. This creates an impediment to sending your child to college.

MPN Survey Leo SosaWe were pleased to learn how committed parents were to their child’s academic success; however, many of the families have no idea how to help their child in this regard, from an economic side, but also from a logistical side. How do you apply for financial aid or a scholarship? Things like that.

Our data will be available in August, so my hardworking evaluation team looks forward to sharing it with everyone.

What improvements would you like to see for the next survey?
I would like to see more community involvement. While we were privileged to have 15 neighborhood volunteers, but it would be great to have more. I would like to take the survey to another level of community involvement in actual implementation. I know what we learned from 2014’s experience will help us garner even better data in 2016, so that our service-integration strategy can be honed.

 

Read More

MONTHLY ARCHIVE

Contact
We’d love to hear from you!

Email
info@missionpromise.org
 
Phone
(866) 379-7758
 
Address
2301 Mission Street
Suite 303
San Francisco, CA 94110