“I want to be the next president of the United States!”

That’s the lofty goal of Joel Ajin Rivera (photo), the child of parents who emigrated from Guatemala. The studious, determined fifth-grader attends Bryant Elementary in the Mission, one of four schools that are part of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

Principal Christina Velasco says, “Joel is a reflection of the mission and vision at Bryant. As educators, our goal is to raise students as 21st-century citizens of the world.”

Joel’s background is typical of his fellow students at Bryant, which is 86.6 percent Latino and 75.8 percent English learners. The latter showcases the challenge when it comes to reading — an area in which the Mission Promise Neighborhood has made great strides via ELL instruction. According to the San Francisco Unified School District, Bryant posted among the largest gains (15.86 percent) in SFUSD in English Language Arts for students who passed last spring’s state SBAC tests. Bryant students are also posting big gains in improved English proficiency for English learners.

Joel’s teacher is Christian Flores, who chose to be an elementary school educator because he believes it is where we acquire the fundamental skills needed to achieve our  goals as scholars. Flores practices what he preaches when it comes to teaching his ELL class, for he was raised in a bilingual household himself, the son of parents who hailed from Mexico. It’s called cultural relevancy.

Flores has seen Joel thrive, based on student effort coupled with parental support. Joel has even been accepted into the SMART program, which has a mission to “provide low-income students access to an exceptional education and the skills needed to thrive in college and in life.” The folks at SMART know that a college degree is earned by only 9 percent of socioeconomically disadvantaged kids (nine out of 10 Bryant students fall into this category). SMART closes the achievement gap via intensive social, emotional and academic support from grades 5 through 12. The result is that 94 percent of SMART students attend college. Joel is on that path, and reading is his vehicle to success.

Joel claims that he has always liked reading, especially the “Who Was?” series of biographies, from which he can learn about the lives of others. The voracious reader has turned the pages of nonfiction books showcasing everyone from Mahatma Gandhi and George Washington to Cesar Chavez and Abraham Lincoln. “Lincoln is my favorite,” explains Joel.

Like the majority of his fellow ELL learners at Bryant, Joel reads in English and Spanish. He even reads to his little brother, Jose, a first-grader at the same school.

Concludes Flores, “My message for parents is that being bilingual is more than language. Bilingualism is another culture.”

Word to live by as we celebrate “Bilingual Child Month” this October.

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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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Socially driven visual designer Megan Malley has spent time volunteering across the globe. The Seattle native has landed on six continents, always donating her skills and time. Volunteer highlights include being a photographer with an artisan textile organization in the Peruvian Andes (photo), conducting design research on xenophobia and AIDS in South Africa, and working as a fair-trade product designer in Nepal.

Heading closer to home two years ago, Megan landed in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco, one of the newer parts of town down by the ballpark. Megan immediately felt at home as she explored the unique neighborhoods of the city, including the culturally rich Mission District.

“Since moving to San Francisco, I have felt so welcomed into my new city by everyone I meet. I love the sense of community here, and the way that nobody is viewed as an outsider, even if they haven’t been around very long. It’s a city made from a patchwork of varied personal histories, which makes it a vibrant and diverse place to live,” explains Megan of her ardor for her adopted hometown.

With volunteering in her DNA, Megan sought a place to give back. She first heard about the Mission Promise Neighborhood at an annual pro-bono design conference that she attends, where visual designers donate two days of their time to work on collateral for nonprofit organizations. Last February, Megan’s team designed infographics, a website and a motiongraphic, all to refresh the Mission Promise Neighborhood brand’s visual identity.

Over the course of that weekend, Megan heard of the impactful work the Mission Promise Neighborhood was doing with the community to better the educational opportunities and lives of underresourced families.

The tutoring programs especially struck a chord with Megan. She immediately wanted to get involved.

That involvement comes via Reading Partners, a national nonprofit dedicated to transforming struggling young students into confident readers. The organization creates an on-site reading center at each school they serve, including Cesar Chavez Elementary in the Mission Promise Neighborhood. Room 24 now teems with engaging books for kindergarteners to 4th-graders, creating an idyllic atmosphere for one-on-one learning opportunities at an accelerated pace to get back on grade level in reading.

Megan meets up with student Jeremiah each week for an hour. For most of the kids at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, English is not the primary language spoken at home. When they read with a native speaker, the student hears the patterns and nuances of fluent reading, which helps them gain confidence in their own reading.

Megan knows that the experience is just as beneficial for her as it is for Jeremiah: “By tutoring I get to spend time with kids, which I love, and I also get to share my enthusiasm for reading. As a child, I would spend hours lost in books, and it makes me so happy to be able to encourage a youngster to feel the same way about reading.”

By returning weekly to read with the same student, Megan sees him gaining comprehension skills, recalling phonics and word patterns from past sessions.

“It’s so rewarding – for both of us – to see progress happening at such a consistent pace. I would encourage anyone who enjoys working with children to volunteer,” Megan explains. “It’s such a small time commitment, as little as one hour per week, but makes such a huge difference for the students. I’ve loved my time reading with Jeremiah – and I really look forward to our sessions every week.”

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A little or a lot. Give your time. Gain a community.

Volunteer today with the Mission Promise Neighborhood!

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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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“As a newcomer to the Mission, I want to know my neighbors and be part of a community,” states Sam Cooper, a friendly, engaged volunteer at Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Cesar Chavez Elementary School. That’s where Sam takes time out of his busy schedule twice a week to read for an hour to kindergartner Jasline – opening a new door to success for the youngster’s life.

Sam grew up in a suburb of Buffalo, New York. The adventurous young man headed overseas after college to Taiwan’s capital of Taipei, where he taught English to U.S.-bound high school students. Last October, Sam landed in the Mission. Joining Sam was his girlfriend and a roommate, the trio sharing a flat near the 24th Street BART station, with a vibrant neighborhood to explore right outside the door.

Sam immediately felt at home, but longed to feel more connected to his adopted community.

That’s when an Internet search found the answer to making that a reality.

“I had recently scaled down my job to have more time for entrepreneurial and political pursuits. I also wanted get to know my new community. While I was figuring out how to get involved, I watched an interview with Killer Mike, the rapper and activist, who made a compelling case for one-on-one tutoring and mentoring. When I found the Mission Promise Neighborhood website, it looked like a great organization. They made it very easy to get involved,” explains Sam.

That involvement comes via Reading Partners, a national nonprofit dedicated to transforming struggling young students into confident readers. The organization creates an on-site reading center at each school they serve. In Cesar Chavez Elementary’s case, that setup is in Room 24. This classroom now teems with engaging books for kindergarteners to 4th-graders, creating an idyllic atmosphere for one-on-one learning opportunities at an accelerated pace to get back on grade level in reading.

Sam’s is the quintessential volunteer experience. He gets to spend time with a wonderful kid and shares in her excitement at learning. Working with an elementary student is new for Sam – with an entirely different set of challenges from his professional life as a self-employed private instructor for high schoolers – but he believes the additional perspective has made him a better teacher for his older students as well.

The great news is that Jasline has made significant progress reading and writing new letters, recognizing common words, understanding syllables and how to count the syllables in a word, learning how to rhyme and sounding out words. In addition to these concrete skills, Jasline now exhibits enthusiasm for reading, more often requesting to read out loud instead of Sam taking the active role.

That’s true impact via one community member’s volunteerism.

“I am honored to give back to the Mission community. It’s the right thing to do,” sums up Sam of his volunteer experience for Mission Promise Neighborhood.

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A little or a lot. Give your time. Gain a community.

Volunteer today with the Mission Promise Neighborhood!

____________________________________________________________

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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Blog

Most of us have fond memories of reading in the library as a youngster, and with February designated as “National Library Lovers’ Month,” this is the perfect time to reflect on the importance of reading in everyone’s lives. “National Library Lovers’ Month” is a celebration of school, public and private libraries of all types.

At Bryant Elementary School — one of two elementary schools in the Mission Promise Neighborhood — Family Success Coach Dannhae Herrera-Wilson (photo, center) knows that not all Mission Promise Neighborhood families have the tools to foster reading in the home.

“It’s vital that parents take an active role by reading to their children at a young age. This creates a love of books, and simultaneously builds language skills. This is especially important for children from immigrant families, of which there are many in the Mission Promise Neighborhood,” explains Herrera-Wilson.

As part of “National Library Lovers’ Month,” Herrera-Wilson recently brought a group of parents to the San Francisco Main Library.

None of the parents had ever set foot in this monumental building near City Hall at the Civic Center — or any library at all. With a collection of over 3.5 million books, this place can seem daunting. That’s why Herrera-Wilson set up the excursion, gave a tour and ensured parents obtained library cards.

AhmedTour participants included Safa, a native of Yemen, a country she explained  has no libraries for children. Safa applied for a library card, as did her two children. The oldest, her son Ahmed (pictured with his new library card), attends Bryant Elementary School. Safa is looking to start ESL classes at City College.

MaryRose, originally from the Philippines, was also in attendance. MaryRose’s daughter, an ardent reader named Aubry, attends Bryant Elementary. The youngest daughter, 4-year-old Nikki, is looking to start Transitional Kindergarten. “This is a great place. Thank you for bringing us here!” stated MaryRose.

Another parent taken to the library was Luis, originally from Guatemala. The youngest of six children, Luis had only made it as far as third grade because to needed to work the land as a way to help his family survive. Luis’ daughter attends Bryant Elementary. He explained why he took this trip as follows: “I want to get my library card so that I can get books in Spanish and read to my daughter, and she can read books in English to me. I feel like I am learning, just like her. I plan to return with my two children and make it a family experience.”

Herrera-Wilson also made sure to avail the parents of the venue’s growing eLibrary, especially eLearning materials that can assist students. This ties into Making Connections, a digital literacy course for parents that teaches how to use myON, an online reading platform for students. Last fall, the Mission Promise Neighborhood was asked to partner with SFUSD to lead the Making Connections program. Ana Avilez, a mother to two young children of her own, now spearheads this initiative, bridging the eLearning divide for Mission Promise Neighborhood families. Ana builds courses for parents and goes directly into schools to provide access to supplementary tools for the home, so that all students can continue building their literary skills.

Such work is vital, with the statistics showcasing the need for families. At an early age, only 8.6 percent of 3-year-olds in the Mission Promise Neighborhood meet Desired Results Development Profile (DRDP) standards for English-language ability. Once in elementary school, 15 percent of third-grade students (compared to 48 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in English-language arts, while 22 percent of fifth-grade students (compared to 55 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in the same category.

Today’s excursion was a step in the right direction, Herrera-Wilson acting as a connector to resources, as she does every day. As with any movement, those initial steps can lead to much bigger things, especially as participants go back in the community and tell of their experience.

Summing up why this outing was so important to Mission Promise Neighborhood families, Herrera-Wilson, a first-generation immigrant from Nicaragua, stated, “My desire to advocate for, empower and work with low-income families, immigrant families and multicultural families is fueled by my strong conviction that access to education is a human right regardless of race, or economic or legal status. I particularly enjoy working with women and children because I witness their vulnerability and at the same time recognize their potential, which can be beyond their imagination.”

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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.

Read More

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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