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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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!

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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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“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.

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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

by Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martinez C. (photo, center)

As time-honored “Pomp and Circumstance” played, the gym at John O’Connell High School yesterday teemed with school staff, administrators, community partners … and visibly proud families. In walked 70 seniors — with four unaware they were about to have their lives bettered via the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship.

The excitement was palpable as I had the honor to read their names.

“Karen Guzman.” Karen is heading to Holy Names University in Oakland.

“Anahi Velazquez.” Anahi will be attending San Francisco State University.

“Ivonne Villanueva.” She will be joining Anahi at San Francisco State. 

“Elwood Mac Murray.” Elwood is heading to UC Merced.

These appreciative students were selected for their exemplary academic achievement and community service, plus for representing the vision of the Mission Promise Neighborhood. The award given to each student will help them close any gaps they had left from their financial aid award and will ensure they attend their freshman year of college without any financial burden.

Getting students prepared for college
The aim of the Mission Promise Neighborhood is college readiness for all students in the Mission. While a big piece of this work is having the educational foundation and grades needed to get into a good college, the final part of the challenge is being able to pay for such higher learning.

According to the College Board, the average cost of such schooling is daunting for most families, with tuition and fees for the 2015–2016 school year being $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. Meeting such costs is especially difficult for low- and middle-income Mission families, already on a tight budget as they attempt to just pay the monthly bills.

This need was the genesis of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship.  

Show me the money
For the last couple of months, the Mission Promise Neighborhood set a goal to raise $5,000 for two scholarships — and ended up raising double that at $10,000 for four awards.

The Mission Promise Neighborhood scholarship was a true community effort and showcased the fact that everyone knows they have a stake in this education initiative.

How was this money raised? First, there was a crowdfunding site where community members came together for the cause, giving whatever they could. Also, Mission Promise Neighborhood held two fundraising events at local businesses, with venues generously offered by Cease & Desist and Cha Cha Cha. Guest bartenders included Mission Promise Neighborhood staff and partners from Jamestown Community Center, MEDA, Mission Graduates and SFUSD. All tips from food and drink orders were donated to the scholarship fund.

At these fundraisers, there was also a successful raffle for prizes. Donors included Body Alignment SF, FAZE, Fitness SF, the Exploratorium, Little Baobob, Tartine Bakery & Cafe and ¡VIVA MEDA!, plus individual donors Cindy Clements and Zoe Farmer.

Special recognition goes out to First Republic Bank for its generous grant that helped us complete our fundraising goal. You have made college dreams come true.

Thanks to all of the residents, partners, community members and businesses who made four Mission Promise Neighborhood students — and their parents — very happy yesterday!

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

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