Great news: Thanks to partner strategies, mentorships and increased parent engagement, the graduation rate of John O’Connell High School is now approaching that of SFUSD overall. According to a recently published Mission Promise Neighborhood data brief, “Making College an Achievable Dream: Foundations and Results,” O’Connell’s graduation rate increased from 68 percent to 85 percent between 2012 and 2016.

While O’Connell students desire to attain a college degree, how to pay for postsecondary education remains daunting, as the majority of students come from underresourced families. The same data brief reported that 51 percent of students at O’Connell indicated that financing is their main barrier to attending college.

That was the impetus for the creation of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund last year, with the community’s efforts translating to four deserving O’Connell seniors matriculating at colleges in fall 2016.

Looking to further increase  the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund’s impact was the goal for 2017, with MEDA Development Manager Alberto Galindo setting the goals and spearheading the strategies to make this happen. MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood education initiative.

“Our aim was to generate community involvement via fun events that would showcase impact,” explains Galindo, who was assisted in his efforts by Education Manager Laura Andersen.

That impact definitely occurred, with $11,000 raised.

Fundraisers were held this spring at three generously donated venues: the Mission’s Cease & Desist, which allowed their back bar to feature Mission Promise Neighborhood and John O’Connell High School guest bartenders; Senegalese restaurant Bissap Baobab, a MEDA Business Development client; and North Beach’s Cigar Bar & Grill for a Mother’s Day event. Numerous local businesses donated raffle prizes.

Complementing these fundraising efforts was an online Razoo donation page, where over $3,500 was raised. (This page remains active for anyone looking to give us a head start for 2018’s awards.)

For 2017, six O’Connell students are receiving awards after having their applications, including compelling personal histories, reviewed by committee. Recipients are all Mission students who have overcome obstacles and now want to better their futures — and that of their families — by attending college.

Four of the recipients for 2017 (photo left to right, flanked by Andersen and Galindo) are Diamond Woodruff, Gisselle Ortega, Alicia Rodriguez and Maria Zaragoza. Miguel Guzman and Diana Rodriguez are not pictured. All are grateful for the benevolence of their neighbors and are now better prepared for this next step in their journey.

Ortega’s story showcases the resiliency of these students. The youngster woke up at 4 a.m. each day to help her mother earn money by cleaning a pizzeria, a task that took over three hours before Ortega headed to school. She was in the first grade.

Ortega explains what drives her as follows: “I am motivated to go to college since neither my mom nor my brothers finished high school. By achieving my goal of going to college, I will bring great joy for my family, and a better life for us.”

“Thanks to the community for their generosity, as we send these young adults out into the world with local support from the Mission,” concludes Galindo.

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Special thanks to our community partners that contributed prizes to our fundraisers and provided venues to host our events: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Bissap Baobab, Cigar Bar & Grill, Dandelion Chocolate, Giordano Bros., Latin City Productions, Mateo’s Taqueria, Mission Cliffs, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, Roxie Theater, Tartine Bakery & Cafe and Tonic Nightlife Group.

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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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BlogThe Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund started last spring, helping send four deserving John O’Connell High School seniors to college. This scholarship fund is now entering its second year, as we look to send more Mission youth on to postsecondary education.

Update #1: Ivonne Villanueva (photo), San Francisco State. (Original story.)

What have you been learning at school? What is your major?
I’ve been learning many new things at school about health equity, plus social and educational justice. My major is Business Administration.

What has been your biggest challenge at college?
My biggest challenge at college is to keep paying for my tuition and for several books that are required for my classes.

How does it feel to have the Mission community’s support for your attending college?
It feels really great having the Mission community support me because of the scholarships I’ve been offered — scholarships that have helped me pay for my tuition and books.

Are you still on the same career track or have you changed your career path?
I am still on the same career track of owning my own beauty salon in the Mission District. That means getting my Business Administration degree and my Cosmetology certificate.

Where do you see yourself in four years, upon graduation from college?
In four years, I see myself in working at a beauty salon, but also in the process of opening my own beauty salon in the Mission District.

Update #2: Karen Guzman, Holy Names University. (Original story.)

What have you been learning at school? What is your major?
At Holy Names University, I learn how communication is a fundamental part of life.

What has been your biggest challenge at college?
My biggest challenge can be organizing my schedule and knowing that I have a four-hour commute to come to school every day next year.

How does it feel to have the Mission community’s support for your attending college?
I feel like I have this amazing support that is encouraging me to get a college degree.

Are you still on the same career track or have you changed your career path?
I have now decided that instead of going into public relations I would like to be an events manager for a hotel.

Where do you see yourself in four years, upon graduation from college?
Upon graduation, I have debated joining the Peace Corps or applying to hotels.

Update #3: Elwood Mac Murray, UC Merced. (Original story.)

What have you been learning at school? What is your major?
At my time here at UC Merced, every day has been a learning experience. Being my first year here at UCM, I haven’t been able to get too deep into my major, but for the majority I have just been learning how to be successful in my classes.

What has been your biggest challenge at college?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced since coming to college is self discipline. In college, you decide what to do with your time, which is hard because that wasn’t something I was used to in high school. It’s tough to just start studying for a class without the motivation or discipline. So, I would have to say time management would be my biggest struggle — just to know when to say I should start working on school assignments.

How does it feel to have the Mission community’s support for your attending college?
If it wasn’t for the Mission community’s support, I wouldn’t have been able to buy textbooks, a laptop and basic supplies. Without having a laptop or the money for textbooks, it wouldn’t even be possible for me to participate in any of my classes.

Are you still on the same career track or have you changed your career path?
As of now, I am still on the same career track from when I started. There have been some reconsiderations because it has been difficult, but nothing in life is easy if it’s worth something.

Where do you see yourself in four years, upon graduation from college?
In four years, I see myself walking across a stage ready to receive my diploma. Then I see myself applying everything I learned to real world problems and doing what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.

Update #4: Anahi Velazquez, San Francisco State. (Original story.)

What have you been learning at school? What is your major?
As an now, I am working on my general ed classes, but I am also taking the classes required to be admitted into the nursing program.

What has been your biggest challenge at college?
The only hard thing for me is getting used to the campus, since my John O’Connell High School was smaller.

How does it feel to have the Mission community’s support for your attending college?
It’s been good because it has helped me pay for my books, and part of the tuition that wasn’t cover by Cal grant.

Are you still on the same career track or have you changed your career path?
I am still on the same career path, working hard to get in the nursing program provided at State.

Where do you see yourself in four years, upon graduation from college?
I really want to see myself in nursing school.

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Can you make college dreams come true for another deserving Mission Promise Neighborhood student?

Please donate today on Razoo.

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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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Leaving their home was a difficult decision for the family of then 12-year-old Karen Guzman, but it needed to happen. This life-changing choice compelled Karen, her sister and their mother to live in a shelter for two months.

Karen quickly became an adult.

The teenager pushed forward, maintaining her optimism despite the daily challenges she encountered.

Things then took a turn for the better when the family moved in with Karen’s aunt. Once baby Emily arrived, Karen was ready to take on responsibility to help her mother raise the newborn.

Karen (photo, right) thrived in freshman year at John O’Connell High School, poised to study hard to prepare herself for a better future.

In her Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship application personal statement, Karen earnestly wrote, “Now I’m 16 and have evolved. I am breaking out of my shell, and let me tell you that metamorphosis feels great. They told me when something tragic happens in your life, that is when you truly blossom because it makes you stronger.”

Karen worked hard to be college eligible. There were after-school activities. Volunteering in the community. Successfully running for senior class vice president.

This all paid off: Karen is heading to Holy Names University in Oakland this fall.

Challenges still persisted, however, as Karen had a gap in the money needed to pay for her postsecondary education — an all-too-common circumstance for habitually underresourced students in the Mission.

“There is a great need for finding sources to pay for college, especially for our first-generation children, like Karen, who are born into Latino immigrant families,” explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C (photo, left).

To combat this issue, the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship was created this spring, with $10,000 raised from a concerted community effort. At May’s graduation ceremony, four John O’Connell High School seniors were elated when Martínez called out their names as recipients of these funds.

One of them was Karen Guzman.

This was no surprise to Chef Daniel Scherotter, a teacher for the Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management program, in which Karen participated at John O’Connell High School. In his letter of recommendation, Scherotter wrote, “Karen is one of my favorite students. She regularly comes to see me in her free time to pick my brain and clarify some concept or other.  She makes good decisions.”

A good decision was also made by the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship committee in their choice of Karen Guzman.

Congratulations, Karen!

Donate today to support the college dreams of another Mission Promise Neighborhood student. Any amount helps!

____________________________________________________________

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.

Read More

Every day at 7 a.m., Ivonne Villanueva wakes to a sweet, maternal voice, plus a hug and a kiss. Ivonne’s mother tells her child to do her best at school that day.

Walking out into her beloved Mission neighborhood, Ivonne carries this important message with her.

Ivonne’s mother has instilled the value of education in her daughter, who wanted to be the first in the family to go to college. The Villanuevas, a family of five, emigrated from Mexico in search of a better life, and Ivonne wants to make her parents proud — to know that the journey was well worth it.

Ivonne has definitely noticed all of the money flooding her community in recent years. This has translated to longtime Latino small business shutting their doors, with dollar stores replaced by gleaming, market-rate condos.

There is also the fear of tenant eviction that pervades the Latino community.

Ivonne (photo, left) explains her family’s housing anxiety as follows: “We worry about the possibility that our landlord might kick us out to get renters who can pay more. We are afraid to lose our home if our rent increases because we might not be able to afford to stay in the Mission.”

Ivonne wants to study business and cosmetology, with the goal to open her own hair salon once she has earned a degree. Longing to stay in her now-pricey neighborhood, Ivonne knows it will take money to make that a reality. The type of income only a college degree can offer.

Though Ivonne heeded her mother’s counsel to dream big, there was still the challenge of how to pay for college. This is a typical situation for historically underresourced students in the Mission.

“There is a great need for finding a way to pay for a postsecondary education, especially for our Latino immigrant families. They want their kids to go to college, but it’s neither in the family budget nor have our families saved for it,” explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C (photo, right).

To combat this issue, the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship was created this spring, with $10,000 raised from a concerted community effort. At May’s graduation ceremony, four John O’Connell High School seniors received the award. One of them was Ivonne.

One reason Ivonne was selected is because of her community service. She wants to be a community leader, with such advocacy an aim of the Mission Promise Neighborhood. To better her leadership skills, Ivonne got involved with Capernaum Club and Reading Partners. Additionally, at Mission Promise Neighborhood partner Jamestown Community Center, Ivonne has volunteered as a teacher’s assistant and now will be a teacher this fall. Jamestown is a place that lvonne has called home since she was a first-grader. 

Ivonne’s new home in a few weeks will be San Francisco State.

Congratulations, Ivonne!

Donate today to support the college dreams of another Mission Promise Neighborhood student. Any amount helps!

____________________________________________________________

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.

Read More

“Seeing my parents struggle with providing our family’s basic necessities has fueled my effort to break the cycle of poverty. I know that education is the only way to achieve this goal,” states recent John O’Connell High School graduate Elwood Mac Murray.

The struggles have been many. A father who dropped out in middle school and is now on disability. An immigrant mother from El Salvador taking care of her seven children, plus her extended family members who need assistance. A lack of permanent housing creating stress and instability.

Growing up with limited economic opportunity translated to Elwood having to navigate the educational system without family support.

That’s where the Mission Promise Neighborhood comes in. One of the goals of this federal initiative is to create a college-going culture at home, as a way to fill the gaps between parents wanting their child to continue on to postsecondary education, yet failing to have such conversations with students.

“We find that parents who have not gone to college themselves have neither the language to talk about this topic nor the knowledge of how to maneuver through the system. How can you explain things like choosing the best college or how to apply for financial aid if you have not done so yourself?” explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C.

Then there is the issue of paying for college, which can be daunting for anyone, let alone someone like Elwood coming from a habitually underresourced community. This need was the genesis of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship, which aims to create a level playing field so that all students have a chance for post-secondary education. There was $10,000 collected via generous donations from the community, leading to four O’Connell graduates receiving money to start college this fall.

Elwood received $1,500 so that he can attend UC Merced. His Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship will ensure that there is no financial issue with making his career a reality. Elwood’s studies will be focused on engineering, for he dreams of developing affordable housing as a means to creating economic opportunity for other low-income families.

On his application for the scholarship, Elwood eloquently wrote:
I knew I had two choices: to become a product of my environment or to make a difference in my community.

Elwood is a determined young man, so he has chosen the latter.

A tragic incident last year tested Elwood’s self-professed perseverance. His 14-year-old cousin – who he called his primo-hermano, or cousin-brother – was murdered. This led to anger and sadness permeating Elwood’s life, and a lack of motivation at school. Then one night Elwood had a profound dream, where he saw his cousin as an adult attending Harvard, which was his dream school. That vision compelled Elwood to become successful – for both of them, and to set an example in the community.

“I want to serve as a positive role model for my younger siblings and motivate them to also follow their dreams,” explains Elwood. ”I will never give up.”

Congratulations, Elwood!

Donate today to support the college dreams of another Mission Promise Neighborhood student. Any amount helps!

____________________________________________________________

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.

Read More

Mission Promise Neighborhood student Anahi Velazquez had the usual stresses of being a senior at John O’Connell High School. There’s peer pressure. Studying to get good grades. Thinking about college.

But Anahi’s stress was all the greater: she was undocumented, having emigrated from Mexico in 2007 in search of a better life.

“I was always thinking, ‘What if ICE comes and takes me? What will happen to my family,’” explains the now 19-year-old.

Pushing forward, the industrious student learned English, hit the books, organized a Latino Club and took after-school jobs. Anahi was consistently on the honor roll for grades and attendance, later garnering good scores on her ACT and SAT exams. This translated to acceptance to San Francisco State University, where Anahi starts as a freshman this fall.

Anahi always had her future in mind; she wanted to help her community, especially around health issues. She whet her appetite for this subject while part of John O’Connell High School’s Health and Behavioral Science Integrated Lab, an innovative curriculum where students solve real-world problems.

Anahi knows all too well that many Latino immigrants do not seek health care because of their being undocumented. That is why she volunteered with a trio of organizations that serve the health needs of communities of color, where she saw firsthand the stressors that caused medical issues.

Working to eradicate other obstacles to Latino economic success, Anahi joined the Good Samaritan Latino Leadership, walking alongside members during the “March of Gentrification.” She also took to the streets of the Mission to protest evictions, plus took part in the “May Day/El Da Del Trabajo” march to support workers’ rights.

Diving deeper into the health field, Anahi volunteered with the Summer Urban Health Leadership Academy, where she watched and learned from the medical team. One lesson was around the ubiquitous health issues of San Francisco’s homeless population. Anahi even shadowed a midwife and a registered nurse – both coming to light as possible career paths. Anahi’s ultimate career goal is to help parents raise healthy children.

The genesis of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship was to create a level playing field so that all students have a chance for post-secondary education. When Anahi wrote an essay for her scholarship application, she explained how she had experienced bullying, racism … and a dearth of opportunities. “Receiving a degree will open doors for me and my family,” she wrote.

Anahi’s award from the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship will ensure there is no financial issue with making her career a reality – a career driven by empathy for patients as they receive the health care they deserve.

¡Felicidades, Anahi!

Donate today to support the college dreams of another Mission Promise Neighborhood student. Any amount helps!

____________________________________________________________

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.

 

Read More

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Email
info@missionpromise.org
 
Phone
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Address
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Suite 303
San Francisco, CA 94110

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