Mind the gap may mean watching the space between the train and the platform at tube stations in London, but it definitely means something else for college students in the States. With the exorbitant cost of a postsecondary education in this country, the “gap” refers to the difference between how much money you have on hand to pay for college and the amount still needed to make your education dreams a reality.

Knowing of the need in the habitually underresourced Mission, the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship was created this year, with $10,000 raised from a concerted community effort. At May’s graduation ceremony, four John O’Connell High School seniors were elated when Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C. called out their names as recipients of these funds.

The City also knows of the need. That’s why in 2011 Mayor Ed Lee started the “I am the Future” Scholarships for graduating seniors and currently enrolled college students who pursue higher education. The award is primarily designed to support students who are first in their family to attend college. The Mayor’s Office has teamed up with the San Francisco Education Fund to identify scholarship applicants through partner organizations, one being the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

Administration and Special Projects Coordinator, Education and Family Services Florence Corteza from the Mayor’s Office graciously acted as liaison to Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Martínez to ensure that all required paperwork was submitted correctly and on time. Applications comprised a personal statement, details of the funding gap, demographic information, and a list of extracurricular activities and internships.

There were 47 awards of $1,000 each doled out this year. Monies were donated by Brown and Caldwell, CH3M, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and anonymous donors. The City is looking to expand this impactful program next year.

At a ceremony last Monday, excited recipients were handed a certificate and a City pin as they smiled from ear to ear for their picture with the Mayor and other City officials. The checks are being directly mailed to each freshman’s college of choice.

The great news is that of the seven students nominated by Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Martínez, five received an award. Funds were granted to: Ivonne Villanueva, who was also a Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship recipient; Joelene Pangilinan; Yvonne Ngo; Henzon Zambrano; and Jamie Palencia Batres. The latter will be attending UC Irvine in the fall, with all others staying local and heading to San Francisco State University.

Stated award recipient Henzon Zambrano (photo), “I am very grateful to be one of the recipients of  an ‘I Am the Future’ Scholarship. I will use this scholarship as motivation and to fund my college expenses. This puts me one step closer to achieving my dream. Thank you for the opportunity!”

On hand for this ceremony were other integral players from the Mayor’s Office, including Director of Neighborhood Services Derick Brown and Education Advisor Hydra Mendoza. Also in attendance was Commissioner at San Francisco Board of Education Shamann Walton, plus Mission Promise Neighborhood Director Raquel Donoso.

At the end of the event, Mayor Lee invited all students to apply to work for the City once they had their hard-won degrees.

Explained Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Martínez of the event: “It’s wonderful for our underresourced students to have opportunities such as the ‘I Am the Future’ Scholarship to help them go to college and have fewer of the stressors associated with funding gaps for higher education. It was impressive to see all of community support here tonight, from the families and students coming together to the many mentors from community-based organizations in the Mission. What a wonderful night for our students!”

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Donate today to next year’s Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund to support the college dreams of another deserving student from our community. Any amount helps!

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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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