The “Week of the Young Child” — an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children — commemorates early learning, young children, their teachers, partners, families and community members. This year’s dates are April 10-16.

Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Family Success Coach Ada Alvarado celebrates young children every week, acting as a connector to free services for kids ages 0-5 and their families. One of the goals of the Mission Promise Neighborhood is to inform families with young children of the connection between quality early care and education (child care and preschool) and school readiness. Mission Promise Neighborhood encourages more families to enroll their children in high-quality early care and education programs, and to be informed about the resources that are available to promote school readiness with their little ones.

As a country, we have become more aware of the importance of healthy development,high-quality early education and school readiness and this is a message that gets shared daily with the community in the Mission. Based on data collected in 2014 for the Mission Promise Neighborhood Survey, 29.5 percent of the families with a child 0-5 reported that their child attended a formal center-based or home-based program. We know that there are higher numbers of children ages 3 to 5 that are attending a pre-K program; the bigger challenge is the infant-toddler population. The Mission Promise Neighborhood community is working to address this challenge. An example of this is the Mission Neighborhood Centers Early Head Start and Head Start program. “They are responding to the need by increasing their infant-toddler slots,” says Liz Cortez, Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Manager.

There are many resources for families in San Francisco. For example, San Francisco is a leader in universal preschool, or Preschool For All (PFA), which aims to expand preschool access and improve preschool program quality for all 4-year-old children residing within San Francisco County. Depending on whether the school is private or public, the costs are partially or completely covered by First 5 San Francisco.

In addition to formal programming, there are many resources available for families with young children. Funded through First 5 SF, the Department of Children, Youth and their Families, and the Human Services Agency, every neighborhood has a Family Resource Center (FRC), where families can access child development and family development resources. In the Mission, there are four FRCs: Felton-FSA; Good SamaritanHomeless Prenatal; and Instituto Familiar de la Raza. Three of the four organizations are Mission Promise Neighborhood partners. Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Family Success Coach Ada Alvarez is placed at two of these FRCs, where she provides a variety of services, but mostly focuses on connecting families to four main services of immigration, housing, workforce, and early care and education resources.

Ada Inside Alvarado, a former preschool teacher, brings vast experience to her work and is very passionate about informing families in the Mission about the many resources and opportunities for young children and families. She does this by connecting with families in various ways: by helping families to place their children on the San Francisco Child Care Connection (SF3C), an online system that uses a single application for families seeking subsidized care, by providing workshops, and by attending events that promote early literacy. A good example of this is a recent workshop she helped to coordinate with Good Samaritan staff on the importance of a preschool experience and how families can access the variety of programs that are available (photo). They partnered with two other Mission Promise Neighborhood partners — the SFUSD Early Education Department and Mission Neighborhood Centers Early Head Start/Head Start — to present to a group of parents on March 23.

A high-quality preschool experience can lead to readiness at kinder, critical to a child’s later academic success. Alvarado explains, “It is expected that a kindergartener will understand things such as being able to identify letters, numbers and shapes. If that is not the case, a child is already behind on Day One.”

Then there are social skills, with conflict resolution and being able to follow a routine expected upon enrollment in kindergarten.

Continues Alvarado, “Parents do not always have the tools necessary to get their child on the right track, especially if they are immigrants with circumstances that translated to them not being able to achieve a high education level in their homeland, or if they do not speak English well.” Good Samaritan provides ESL classes to many families, so they focused on this group of immigrant families to impart the importance of preschool.

Alvarado has come to realize that the families with whom she works experience many barriers in accessing high-quality early care and education programs in the Mission. Some of the barriers are the lack of infant-toddler capacity compared to the number/need of children under 4 years of age, families’ comfort level with accessing services, and the cost of high-quality care for children that do not qualify for a subsidy. Early Head Start/Head Start, for example, requires a family to meet the Federal Poverty Level Income Guidelines. For 2016, a family of three would need to make under $20,160 to qualify.

A high-quality preschool experience is critical to school readiness, and early care and education providers in the Mission are working hard to provide the highest quality possible to the children in their programs. Data on the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for Mission Promise Neighborhood sites from 2013 to 2015 shows a higher level of overall quality at 4.1, compared to the rest of the City’s 3.5 rating. (Data source: First 5SF.)

As “Week of the Young Child” is celebrated in the Mission Promise Neighborhood, let’s honor all of the teachers, partners, families and community members that better children’s lives every day, meeting challenges and creating impact.

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About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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1797-10062015_MPN_Chelsea Clinton_Raquel_Blog_640x295

Just five weeks shy of her thirteenth birthday when she headed to D.C. to live in the White House, Chelsea Clinton knows plenty about public life. That early experience was the impetus for her recently released first book, “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going,” a primer for adolescents looking to become more engaged in their community’s issues … and those of the world.

Now a socially conscious 35-year-old, Clinton is on a rigorous, 20-city book tour, with her stopping by the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Everett Middle School on Tuesday. Hundreds of students packed the ornate school auditorium, as they eagerly awaited Clinton’s appearance.

Clinton’s book is already educating young readers on topics running the gamut from poverty and access to education to climate change and the struggle for gender equality. All proceeds from book sales are donated to the Clinton Foundation and other charities.

A roar of applause greeted Clinton as she took to the floor after being introduced by a trio of Everett students. She spoke of her background, being in a political world at a young age. Clinton also spoke about her early travels, mostly with her mother, to places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where, as an adolescent, she saw abject poverty and knew the issue needed to be addressed.

Such experiences compelled Clinton to tackle penning her first book, which she advised is apolitical: “When I was a kid, I loved the book 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth and remember wishing there were books like it on other issues I cared about. A couple of years ago, I realized there wasn’t a book–at least one I could find–for kids today that talked about some of the big issues in our world, what’s being done and what kids could do to help make our world healthier, safer and more sustainable. This book is my attempt to do that.”

1797-10062015_MPN_Chelsea Clinton Visit to Everett_Blog_640x295pxAfter Clinton’s talk, with students’ rapt attention, it was time for the latter to ask questions. One by one they came up to the microphone, asking such things as “How can we help endangered species?” and “How can we stop sexism?” The second question prompted Clinton’s longest answer. She explained to the shocked adolescents that there are 10 countries in the world where a woman cannot go outside without being escorted by a man. That in Massachusetts there is still a law on the books stating that a 12-year-old girl can be married, if her parents want that to occur. All in all, there were about a dozen questions for Clinton.

Stated Raquel Donoso (top photo, right), Mission Promise Neighborhood director, “We are honored that Chelsea Clinton came to a Mission Promise Neighborhood school to inspire our students. Every young person can help change the world, and now they know how they can start.”

To conclude the event, Everett’s principal, Lena Van Haren, gave Clinton an idea for a second book: to tell the story of a school looking to change the world.

That school? Everett, of course.

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Cinco de Mayo-Blog

Many people mistakenly believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s independence– an event that is actually commemorated every September 16th. Here’s a quick history lesson to set the record straight.

After the Mexican-American and the Reform wars of the mid-19th century, Mexico was mostly bankrupt, so the nation put forth a two-year moratorium on payments of all of its foreign debts. A trio of European powers–Spain, England and France–sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand payments. While Spain and England ultimately negotiated with Mexico, France seized the opportunity to attempt to carve another piece of their empire out of Mexican territory.

The result was a May 5th, 1862 battle in the east-central state of Puebla, with heavily armed French forces outnumbering their poorly supplied Mexican opponents. Despite these odds, Mexico decisively won under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, a Texas-born Mexican. This created a sense of national pride still commemorated today, especially because the seemingly omnipotent French army had not suffered a defeat in the five decades prior.

Some historians surmise that if the French had won the Battle of Puebla, their stronghold in the region could have led to the European nation interfering in the American Civil War by aiding Confederate forces. This could have meant a very different outcome in that conflict, thereby changing the course of U.S. history.

Over a century and a half later, Cinco de Mayo has become an annual celebration filled with music, dance, song and plenty of regional food. The festival is held throughout the United States and Mexico, the latter primarily in Puebla.

Cinco de Mayo-InsideOn Saturday, San Francisco’s Cinco de Mayo, a true feast for the senses, was held in the Mission on Valencia between 21st and 24th streets. Mission Neighborhood Centers, a valued community partner, hosted its 11th annual Cinco de Mayo celebration, with a good time being had by all. The Mission Promise Neighborhood had a resource table, availing community members of free services for family economic success.

Cinco de Mayo still helps define a community’s strength.

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FAFSA-Slider1-760x337Thinking about heading off to college can be daunting, for students and parents alike. Especially when it comes to paying for that degree.

Most students needs some sort of financing package and that’s where Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) comes in.

Think of FAFSA as the gateway to money for higher education. Not only is FAFSA used to apply for federal student aid–the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Work-Study, Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Stafford Loans–it is also used to apply for student financial aid from state governments and most colleges/universities.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the federal government annually awards about $150 billion in the form of grants, work-study funds and low-interest loans to help millions of students pay for college.

It is a big mistake for a student to fail to apply for FAFSA. While January 1st is the initial day you can submit your form, it is better to have income tax returns filed before tackling  a FAFSA application. Don’t wait too long: students who apply in the first quarter of the year obtain more money than those applying later.

In California,  a March 2nd online submission date, or postmark on a mailed application, is the deadline for many state financial aid programs.

According to the U.S. Department of Education website, there are four misconceptions around qualifying for financial aid for college.

To dispel these myths, note that the following are not true:

  1. I (or my parents) make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.
  2. Only students with good grades get financial aid.
  3. I’m too old to get financial aid.
  4. The form is too hard to fill out.

While the last point may seem true, with 103 questions to be answered on this year’s form, you don’t need to go it alone.

To help Mission Promise Neighborhood students and parents wade through this 10-page application, come to MEDA’s FAFSA Preparation Assistance Night on Wednesday, February 25th, from 6pm to 8pm at Plaza Adelante. Bank of the West is sponsoring this free event and will be sending volunteers to sit with applicants and help them submit their FAFSA forms (pre-register). All participants will be entered in a raffle to win a Nexus 7 tablet–perfect for taking to college.

Think of FAFSA as the first step to a successful college experience.

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MLK-BlogMLK’s legacy in the Latino community
As we take time today to ponder the legacy of the late Martin Luther King Jr., it is important to note that the civil rights leader was fighting for justice for all Americans. That includes Latinos.

There is even more to commemorate this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches in Alabama–from Selma to Montgomery–that helped spur the passage of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act.

King based his idea of nonviolent protest on Mahatma Gandhi’s strategy for India’s independence from British Empire decades before. The important farmworkers’ protests, led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, followed King’s model.

MLK was more than an inspiring symbol: he provided emotional and public relations succor to the Latino Civil Rights Movement.

King’s inspiration can still be drawn upon today, as the fight for economic and social justice continues.

The national example of impact on the Latino community
To showcase King’s impact on the Latino community, one need look no further than San Antonio, Texas. That’s correct: the seventh-largest city in the nation, boasting a Latino population of a whopping 63 percent, with just seven percent African-Americans, holds what is deemed the largest MLK celebration in the country.

This celebration is not a one-day affair. It spans 12 days and is aptly named “DreamWeek.”

DreamWeek’s mission is “to continue to advance and modernize the teachings set forth by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision by creating dialogue across cultures and communities.”

“Dr. King’s legacy is very much alive within the Latino community. His dream is a universal one. As a community, Latinos strive toward social equality and justice. Dr. King’s message embodies the spirit, strength and progress we continue to push for, and serves as an inspiration on a daily basis,” states DreamVoice Public Relations Specialist Cassandra Yardeni.

Yesterday, there was a wreath-laying ceremony at the city’s statue to King.

Today, there will be a two-and-three-quarter mile march down San Antonio’s Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, with over 100,000 attending. Interestingly, the city’s serpentine Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard starts nearby, just a block westward.

Bay Area events
There are myriad Bay Area events commemorating the life of Dr. King.

If you are on the Peninsula, there is an 8:30am MLK event at the San Mateo Caltrain station, with a “Freedom Ride” to San Francisco at 10am.

If in San Francisco, take part in the annual MLK Day festival, march and parade around Yerba Buena Gardens. Attend a full day of free events, festivals and programs, plus a march and parade, commencing at 11am, from the Caltrain station to Yerba Buena Gardens to commemorate the Selma to Montgomery march.

Conclusion
While there is still much to be done as far as Latino civil rights, the gains made in the past five decades are owed in part to Martin Luther King, Jr.

As King so eloquently stated: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Words to remember today, and every day.

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Thanksgiving-BlogGuest Blog by Teresa Morales
Mission Promise Neighborhood Community Engagement

It was an early Thanksgiving feast, Latino-style, held at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante on November 14th, with staff and promotoras sharing a meal. It was time to give a year-end thanks to these amazing community outreach workers, the six women who began working with MEDA and the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) last spring. Their first community outreach was successfully conducting an intensive MPN neighborhood survey, and they have done outreach for many other events since.

Thanksgiving-Inside #2On the cosmopolitan, potluck menu for everyone’s enjoyment were: chuchitos (tamales) from Guatemala; baleadas (flour quesadillas with beans and meat) from Honduras; mole con pollo from Mexico; galletitas Peruanas; refried beans and Mexican rice; salsa with homemade tortillas; and picadillo de carne from Panama. A true feast.

Sitting around tables draped with burgundy MEDA tablecloths and centerpieces teeming with autumn flowers were the promotoras and their families. They were joined by Bob Phillips and MEDA staff of Amelia Martinez, Michelle Reiss-Top, Sophia McGurk and Gabriel Medina, who always stops by to say, “Hola” when he is working late (the promotoras have taken to affectionately calling him “Don” Gabriel.)

Friday night was not about work though–it was about sharing, relaxing and enjoying. The conversation centered on the topics of food, traditions, culture and family. It was a night of breaking bread together, compartiendo historias (sharing stories) and laughing about names of foods and idioms from each country that mean something completely different in another nation. Laughter filled the voluminous conference room that served as the venue for the feast, with background sounds of children joyously playing.

Suddenly, two little boys began distributing to each dinner guest a cup filled with a green shake. It turns out Michelle Reiss-Top (a.k.a. MEDA’s “Salesforce Queen”) had brought fruits, vegetables and a blender, with she and her sons, Everett and Henry, busily preparing concoctions.

“What is that?” asked a promotora’s six-year-old daughter. “Try it,” cajoled eight-year-old Henry. Small sips first occurred, with all drinking cautiously, having never downed a kale drink before. Suddenly, like magic, everyone wanted more.

Later, another drink concoction was presented, this one similar to MEDA’s robust burgundy–the color of life. This drink actually sufficed as dessert, with the sweetness of berries and apples making the vegetables fade to the background.

Thanksgiving-Inside 1Everyone wanted the Reiss-Top family recipe by the end of the night. All toasted to health.

If only Avni Desai, the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s new Health and Safety Manager, could have been on hand to see nutrition education in action (she had another engagement and graciously brought two gallons of organic apple juice for the party.)

Not everyone knows the long-standing role of promotoras in the Mission. Think of them as domestic workers. They clean houses. They baby-sit. They wash dishes.

When the promotoras return home after a hard day’s work, they still have to make dinner for their own families, meaning more housecleaning and dishwashing. When they come to their MPN workshop each Tuesday, these indefatigable women never leave Plaza Adelante until they have left everything in better condition than when they arrived. That is their work ethic.

Imagine their surprise at the Thanksgiving event when Michelle’s kids started to remove the plates from the table and taking them into the kitchen. Everyone thanked the little helpers, with one promotora stating to the room, “Such well-behaved and well-taught little gueritos. They must have good parents.”

When a short time thereafter everyone adjourned to the kitchen to begin cleaning up, it was discovered that room was spotless, with every dish washed and put away, plus every composting product and recycling item already in the correct receptacle.

The promotoras’ mouths were agape: they could not believe that this night they would not have to wash dishes after dinner. They were allowed to simply enjoy the evening.

This was a true Thanksgiving of gratitude, all around.

From MEDA and Mission Promise Neighborhood staff, we wish all of our clients and stakeholders the best Thanksgiving imaginable. Thanks to you for making MEDA’s work possible.

Addendum: On November 25th, all promotoras were given a donated turkey, so they can share a meal with their family tomorrow. The picture says it all!

Turkey Donation-Inside #3

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SONY DSCYou wouldn’t think seafood paella and backpacks have much in common, right? Well, it’s time to think again!

On Tuesday, July 29th, renowned San Francisco eatery Cha Cha Cha is hosting a “Mission Backpack Giveaway Fundraiser & Happy Hour.” The Mission District restaurant has generously offered to donate a portion of the night’s revenue to an important neighborhood cause, as folks indulge in some classic New World cuisine.

What is the cause? To raise needed funds for the Saturday, August 9th, 3-in-1 “Back to School Event” the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is holding. In December 2012, MEDA received a $30-million federal grant to replicate the successful Harlem Children’s Zone in the Mission District of San Francisco. The goal of MPN is to guide kids on a cradle-to-college-to-career continuum, partnering with 26 organizations that also provide client services. Part of this initiative is making sure schoolchildren have the tools they need to do well in their studies, hence the need for this fundraising event.

“Imagine our delight when several years ago our dedicated and joyful friends from MEDA moved from a block away to our very corner,” declares Cha Cha Cha spokesman, Michael Nolan.  “Our creative symbiosis with this cracker-jack community service agency has only accelerated in recent years and we are honored that MEDA would choose Cha Cha Cha for its Backpack Giveaway fundraising party on July 29th.”

The backpacks are ready–the goal is to be able to fill these 2K backpacks with needed back-to-school items. Many Mission District students come from financially challenged families, meaning the cost of a backpack and school supplies cannot compete with a family trying to pay rent and put food on the table. Such families look forward to this event, as they prepare their children to head back to class 100% primed to achieve.

This August 9th happening will actually include a trio of events: a Backpack Giveawaysupported by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office and Target; MEDA’s third Get Connected!” event, presented by Google and LinkedIn, with tech volunteers teaching Mission residents differing levels of digital literacy; and a Mission Promise Neighborhood Resource Fair, supported by MPN partners who will avail the community of their variegated free services.

MEDA’s Director of Development, Jillian Spindle, is grateful for this community support. She states, “We are grateful to our neighbor, Cha Cha Cha, for supporting the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s 3-in-1 ‘Back to School Event.’ We plan to give out 2,000 backpacks, stuffed with school supplies, to area students—along with lots of resources for families on topics like personal finance, accessing jobs, childcare and early education, and much more. The Mission Promise Neighborhood is 26 partner organizations, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and City of San Francisco agencies coming together to say that it is our collective job to make sure our children and young people are successful in school. We welcome the partnership and support of neighborhood businesses like Cha Cha Cha to help us meet our goals.”

MPN showcases the power of community, epitomized by this fundraising event at Cha Cha Cha on July 29th.

Cha Cha Cha
2327 Mission St. (between 19th & 20th), San Francisco, CA
(415) 824-1502

 

 

 

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Calle 24 Blog 2In a neighborhood where the high-end restaurant is becoming more common than the once-ubiquitous taqueria, MEDA backs the creation of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District.

District 9 Supervisor David Campos, born in Guatemala and now representing the Mission District, was at the vanguard of pushing this resolution, which was passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors yesterday. The idea is to preserve the rapidly changing Mission District, much the way the city’s Japantown was created near Geary Boulevard in the 1960’s.

24th Street with Sun MuralSpanning fourteen city blocks, Calle 24 comprises the stretch of 24th Street bounded by Mission to the west, Potrero to the east, 22nd to the north and 25th to the south. A walk down this street today reveals a bustling scene, with mostly Latino shoppers filling the aisles of small businesses that cater to this community. Many of these consumers are the 5,000+ clients of MEDA, with 24th Street the main commercial hub for families of the quartet of Mission Promise Neighborhood schools.

“This is a chance to preserve the flavor of the Mission. Now, when an item comes before the Planning Commission, there will be an extra conditional-use process to specifically benefit businesses, cultural institutions and events that market to the Latino community,” explains MEDA’s Policy Manager Gabriel Medina.

Mystical CollectionsOne microbusiness in the corridor that will benefit will be Mystical Collections, at the northeast corner of 24th and South Van Ness and owned by Mexican immigrant Patricia Torres. One of the first entrepreneurs to start her business at El Mercadito, the microbusiness incubator at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante,  Patricia’s business idea was to sell holistic products–an idea that came about after her son’s adverse reaction to medication. Able to move her business to nearby 24th Street after only 18 months, Patricia then doubled her store size by using the business acumen garnered from MEDA’s free Business Development program. Patricia has since created a strong customer base and has hired employees. The creation of Calle 24 will ensure Patricia’s business remains strong and where she wants it to be, serving the Latino community she loves.

Concludes MEDA’s Medina, “The creation of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District is a proactive approach to addressing the needs of Latinos in the Mission. It challenges the notion that the Mission only opposes projects and that groups in the Mission are unable to collaborate with consensus.”

A celebratory press conference to announce the district is planned for Friday, May 23rd, starting at 2pm. Mayor Lee and Supervisor Campos will be at the corner of Harrison and 24th streets to cut the liston rojo (red ribbon).

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Google & Client Blog“These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise.” So said the late Apple visionary and driving force, Steve Jobs. Yet a walk down one of the main drags of San Francisco’s Mission District reveals two worlds attempting to coexist.

At 24th and Valencia, scores of young tech workers clutch strongly brewed coffees as they wait for the bus to take them to the Silicon Valley offices where the world’s next great thing is being developed. Few conversations are had, with most focused on answering their twentieth text on an already-overworked smartphone, even though it’s just 8am.

A short two blocks away on the corner of 22nd Street, a line just as long has formed at the neighborhood Social Security office. A disheveled woman in a wheelchair fronts the queue, already clutching the pen she’ll need to fill out the reams of paperwork that can possibly garner enough federal funds to keep her–one of the community’s many disenfranchised–afloat for another month. Tech gadgets are hard to spot. Perhaps the occasional smartphone can be seen, but it is most likely being used only to answers calls, with no opposable thumbs in rapid-fire motion here.

Ramos FamilyHow to bring these worlds together? Today, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) invited both groups to its Plaza Adelante for a “Get Connected!” event. The brainchild of the nonprofit’s Technology Manager Richard Abisla, the original meaning of this event referred to the agency’s goal of having every household in the Mission connected to low-cost internet and a computing device by 2018. A look around this neighborhood center today revealed a secondary meaning of “Get Connected!,” with tech volunteers generously donating their day off–if they are ever really off the clock–to spend time teaching varying levels of digital literacy to the Mission’s financially challenged, primarily Latino families.

“I am honored to be the impetus behind today’s event, which is part of MEDA’s vision for its federally funded Mission Promise Neighborhood, one of just 12 such programs in the nation.” explained Abisla. “Without access to low-cost broadband, the odds of a student’s academic and economic success are slim. Our family success coaches are based at Cesar Chavez and Bryant elementary schools, Everett Middle School and O’Connell High School, but my mission is to have the entire Mission connected. Technology is for everyone.”

Presented by Google and LinkedIn, with Cisco Meraki and Square also generously taking part, “Get Connected!” had a turnout that exceeded expectations, with over 175 attendees. The 20 volunteers came from throughout the tech world, and even hail from throughout the world. Originally from Germany, Martin Thormann exemplifies the volunteer spirit that helped make today a reality. Martin works as a Senior Software Solutions Advisor with Echo Technologies  Solutions in SoMa. His wife was raised in Colombia and the young couple lives in the Mission. “I’ve been in San Francisco for a decade. I’m always looking for volunteer opportunities in the neighborhood. Today presented the perfect opportunity to give back,” said Thormann.

Then there is Google employee Ben Hutchinson, originally from Australia, who spoke of how honored he was to give back to his new community of choice. As he sat down in MEDA’s Workforce Development Department to help a fellow Mission resident hone a rudimentary resume, Ben extolled his respect for San Francisco’s diversity, much evident in the halls of Plaza Adelante today.

Latino Career PanelOne highlight of the day was the Latino Career Panel, which showcased six major players in the tech world: Hector Mujica, Social Responsibility Strategist at Google; Mike Ponce, Operations Coordinator at Google; Matt McGraw, founder of Rocket Science Consulting;  Luis Carillo, Risk Operations and New Markets at Square; Jackie Garrido, Onboarding Program Manager at Facebook; and Roberto Mejia, IT Support Engineer at Jones IT. The day’s moderator was Aileen Hernandez, TechSF Senior Workforce Development Program Officer for the City and County of San Francisco, with MEDA’s Amelia Martinez acting as translator. An interesting discussion spilled forth, with stories from these influential panel members definitely inspiring hope that the current dearth of Latinos in the tech industry could soon become a thing of the past.

One memorable quote of the day came from Facebook’s Garrido when she emphatically stated, “Don’t underestimate the power of Spanish in tech. The Latino market is growing rapidly.” This statement was backed up by Square’s Carillo, who informed the crowd that the tech company recently launched a complete point of sale and suite of business tools in Spanish for the growing number of Latino sellers across the United States.

The panel’s Roberto Mejia of Jones IT Consulting had an interesting story to tell. Born in El Salvador, he came to the United States as a youngster and, despite having an inherent interest in computers, he never saw a career in tech as an option for a Latino. “There were no role models for me, so I saw a tech career as unattainable. I actually graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2006 with a degree in marketing and communications. I transitioned to an IT career only because a good friend from USF gave me a shot. I am loving it and am proud to now serve as a role model for other Latinos.”

One young adult inspired by the Latino Career Panel was nineteen-year-old Emiliano, who summed it up: “I always felt I couldn’t be part of the tech world. I see all those buses in the neighborhood now. I see people out to change the world. This panel made me realize I can be part of that, too. I learned that MEDA offers free computer classes, so I plan on checking that out soon.”

Workshop participants were appreciative of raffles for supermarket gift cards. Even more appreciation was had for the raffling of 21 computers, which were all donated to MEDA for this event. Also, ReliaTech, which works with  nonprofits, was on hand to sell refurbished computers for just $159; they even fixed computers at no charge.

Computer WinnerResource tables were strewn about Plaza Adelante’s paseo, with MEDA partners availing Mission residents of the free services available. MEDA had its own table, with staff volunteers explaining the nonprofit’s effective service integration model that runs the gamut from financial capability and job training to business development and free tax preparation.

There are two more “Get Connected!” events this year, with the next one right before the school year starts in August. MEDA is proud to offer solutions, bringing together two worlds that do not intersect as often as they should, with connections being made in more ways than one.

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003 MPN Launch Pelosi 02MEDA thanks all our partners, staff, volunteers, elected officials and John O’Connell High School for making our Resource Fair such a successful event!

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By Rigoberto Hernandez
Posted September 8, 2013 12:52 pm

As Mission students return to school this fall, they will not only encounter new teachers and classmates, but a whole infrastructure of services at their schools that promises to improve their quality of life.

Starting this year, the Mission Economic Development Agency, along with the school district and other nonprofits, will implement an initiative at four Mission Schools that will provide everything from after school programs to workshops. Earlier this year the department of education granted MEDA the Mission Promise Neighborhood Grant worth $30 million over five years aimed at helping students at underperforming schools in the district.

The House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, along with other city officials, announced the grant to several dozen families that attended a press conference on Saturday at John O’Connell High School.

Read Full Mission Local Article>>

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