Participants of the photography and advocacy workshop.

[Leer en español] | [Photos]

“A picture is worth a thousand words” became the flagship saying for a group of families in San Francisco throughout 2023. The reason? A photography and advocacy project by the Mission Promise Neighborhood‘s Family Council.

For 12 months, a group of Latino parents participated in a workshop on everyday life photography aimed at highlighting the systemic barriers faced by immigrant families in the city. Participants focused on two themes for their images: the impact of immigration on the family unit and quality time spent with their children.

The group was coordinated by Ana Avilez, Program Associate for Promise City at MEDA, and Juan Mesa, Community Communications Manager at MEDA.


“At Promise Community, we provide a platform for families and students to share their experiences, which are valuable to our organization as they lead to positive changes in the Mission District,” Avilez said about the system’s objectives.

Among the participants were immigrants with over ten years of residency in San Francisco and others with less than two years.

“It was a positive experience,” said María González, who has been in San Francisco for 19 years. “At first, expressing my feelings through photographs was difficult, but later I understood that through my expression in the photos, I was giving other families an opportunity to identify themselves and express themselves calmly because it’s a safe space.”

Yajaira Ferreira, who has been in the city for nearly two years, shared a similar feeling at the beginning of the project.

“I was scared at first, it was a new experience, but as we progressed and took photos, I found my expression,” explained Yajaira. “Today, I feel more secure, stronger, I know my rights, I no longer have blinders on.”

MPN’s Family Council is a working group where Promise Community members participate in projects advocating for the well-being of families in the Mission District.

“It’s important to engage with these groups because you grow personally and academically,” said María. “We had moments of joy and sadness, but we formed a community.”

During their work together, participants take on leadership roles while becoming aware of the power of expressing their feelings and sharing their experiences with others.

“There’s always the fear of speaking up, but one must make time for everything,” said Yajaira. “We grow and become strong for our children, we will all face obstacles, but the desire is for our children to have a better experience than ours.”

The Family Council is now coordinated by Susana Gil-Durán, Family & Youth Engagement Specialist at MPN. If you’re interested in participating, you can contact Susana at

Familias abogan por el bienestar de la comunidad a través de la fotografía

“Una imagen vale más que mil palabras” se convirtió en el refrán de cabecera de un grupo de familias de San Francisco a lo largo de 2023. ¿La razón? Un proyecto de fotografía y de abogacía del Concilio de Familias de Mission Promise Neighborhood.

Durante 12 meses, cabezas de hogar tomaron un taller de fotografía de la vida cotidiana con el fin de destacar las barreras sistémicas a las que se enfrentan las familias en la ciudad. Los participantes se concentraron en dos temáticas para sus imágenes: el impacto de la inmigración en el núcleo familiar y el tiempo de calidad con los hijos.

El grupo estuvo coordinado por Ana Avilez, Program Associate de Promise City en MEDA, y Juan Mesa, Community Communications Manager de MEDA.

“En Comunidad Promesa ofrecemos una plataforma para que familias y estudiantes compartan sus experiencias, las cuales son valiosas para nuestra organización porque llevan a cambios positivos en el Distrito de la Mission”, dice Avilez sobre los objetivos del sistema.

Entre los participantes estuvieron inmigrantes con más de diez años de residencia en San Francisco y personas con menos de dos años.

“Fue una experiencia positiva”, dijo María González, quien lleva 19 años en San Francisco. “Al principio fue difícil expresar lo que sentía en las fotografías, pero luego pude entender que a través de mi expresión con las fotografías estaba dando una oportunidad a otras familias para que se identifiquen y puedan expresarse con tranquilidad porque se trata de un espacio seguro”.

Yajaira Ferreira, quien lleva cerca de dos años en la ciudad, compartió un sentimiento similar al comienzo del proyecto.

“Tuve miedo al principio, se trataba de una experiencia nueva, pero a medida que avanzamos y tomamos fotos, encontré mi expresión”, explicó Yajaira. “Hoy me siento más segura, más fuerte, sé cuáles son mis derechos, ya no tengo una venda en mis ojos”.

El Concilio de Familias de Mission Promise Neighborhood es un grupo de trabajo en el que miembros de la comunidad promesa participan en proyectos que aboguen por el bienestar de las familias en el Distrito de la Mission.

“Es importante acercarse a estos grupos porque se crece personalmente y académicamente”, dijo María. “Tuvimos momentos de alegría y tristeza, pero formamos una comunidad”.

Durante el tiempo de trabajo, los participantes asumen liderazgo al tiempo de que se concientizan del poder de expresar sus sentimientos y compartir sus experiencias con otros.

“Siempre se tiene el miedo de alzar la voz, pero uno debe tener tiempo para todo”, dijo Yajaira. “Uno crece y se hace fuerte por los hijos, todos vamos a enfrentar obstáculos, pero el deseo es que los hijos tengan una experiencia mejor a la nuestra”.

El Concilio de Familias ahora es coordinado por Susana Gil-Durán, Family & Youth Engagement Specialist en Comunidad Promesa de la Mission. Si le interesa participar la puede contactar a Susana a

Deyser. “You can never give up. Even when life hits you hard, even if your heart is oppressed, don’t forget to smile, a smile feeds your soul.
I will tell you a little about our family. He have had a few tough months. Initially, because we lost our home in a fire. I thank god that our lives were saved, even though we lost everything. We never lost, nor will we ever lose, is our faith. A few days ago, they also stole our truck, our tool(s) for work, with which our family uses to get ahead. We cried, and we cried a lot, because we worked hard to be able to buy it, it was a huge effort. Are you wondering what we are doing here? We are unloading garbage, and those pallets that you see there, we sold them. We also sell cans and containers, metal and sometimes copper. No job is dishonorable nor should it bring any shame. The world is a better place when we recycle.We teach our children the value of work and the effort that everything in life requires, but our dream as parents is for our children to have better opportunities, to prepare themselves, to get an education, to be good people, who contribute good things to society. Life can be harder for us Latinos, we always come across more obstacles, we have less opportunities, but as a mother to my children, I have big dreams, and with God’s help they will become reality. With this photo I show our reality in this society. For those reading, what is your reality in this city?”

María. “Sometimes I feel like we are moving like this snail🐌 very slow and everything is so difficult.
Decisions have to be made, which path should I choose. To have two or three jobs or be a mother who is present in my childrens’ lives? To decide if my children’s wellbeing matters more or if I should provide them financial stability and security? Am I a bad mother for preferring to work and struggle against all the obstacles that life puts in my way? I think the system was created so that I can never rise up. The system wants to see me dragging like a snail. The final goal looks close, but walking this path will take me an eternity.”

Yajaira. “The reflection of the rainbow. The colors that give our life meaning. Hope, promises, general wellbeing for our children, the motivation for my struggle. The importance of bringing out a smile from our loved ones, for those we work hard for, so they are without anything they need, so they can grow as a person, think about their future, without worries of what their legal status is. The goal is so they can feel free and safe in their lives.”

Alejandra. “When emigrating, there are times when one feels imprisoned. We all know the date of entry, but not the exit date because we don’t know how long the judicial process will take.We know it can take years. I have my team, my small nuclear family here, but I really miss my family that is over there, who despite the fact that we call each other daily, we do not know when we will be able to hug them again. The issue of immigration is very complex for all those of us which want to do things in the best way, but with the knowledge that we will always be against the clock since it takes time to gain status for undocumented immigrants.”

Jessica. “I want to someday feel free like the birds. Without stress, without worry, without fear of being deported to my country. To be able to get to a place that I can call my home. To look to the sky and to know that the sky’s the limit. To not limit my abilities due to a simple document that determines my value as a person or my capacity.”

Yesika. “The joy of my family after my mother received her work permit. Here I am sharing with my children a moment which will change our family’s history in this country. One of the kids told his grandma ‘you are going to be like us’ and the other told her ‘I will help you learn English.’ Three years ago, my mother thought about returning to Mexico because the opportunity to have some kind of immigration status was too far away. Now she is my motivation day-to-day, to keep fighting. I am motivated to learn English and to defend myself and communicate with other people.”

Maura. “Something as common as being with our children doing homework, is so difficult for mother like me. When it happens, it becomes a privilege. Having to work from dawn to dusk at two or three jobs just to survive the high cost of housing, high cost of food and being a single mother, leads us to have limited time with our families, without having any support. They say that the United States is a country of opportunities, but it is difficult to be able to realize the dream. What we have left is to pass on our dreams to our children.”

Janeth. “The constant struggle to become legal as an immigrant and the limitations that our available to our children. Here are my daughters, together. For one of them, it will be easier to survive in the United States. For the other, my older child, she will struggle to be seen and will have to deal with her legal status from day to day.
I am a single mother. I am willing to continue fighting to show them that anything is possible and nothing is impossible.”

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Washington, D.C. – Today, the Delta Health Alliance in Mississippi, Mission Economic Development Agency in San Francisco, Partners for Rural Impact in Kentucky, and SBCS (formerly South Bay Community Services) in San Diego, leading place-based organizations announced the launch of the National Promise Neighborhoods Coalition. A national, nonpartisan coordinating body, the new coalition will advocate for the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative and the program’s imperative work in increasing positive outcomes for children and families in high poverty communities across the United States.

The Coalition, which is composed of representatives of nearly a dozen Promise Neighborhoods, will aim to build awareness of place-based, cradle-to-career strategies and bring together supporters around a common advocacy agenda to ultimately secure public funding and grants that ensure long term sustainability, scaling, and increased impact of the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative. The Promise Neighborhoods Initiative is a place-based U.S. Department of Education program, modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), to ensure children growing up in distressed communities have access to great schools and strong family and community support systems that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career.

The founding members of the Coalition have outlined four key strategies that will guide the work of the Coalition:

  1. Build strong nonpartisan relationships in Congress, the Department of Education, and the White House.
  2. Increase federal funding for Promise Neighborhood programs.
  3. Improve federal policies impacting Promise Neighborhood programs.
  4. Create a community of practice for Promise Neighborhood providers.

“At MEDA, we have seen the power of Promise Neighborhoods to positively impact children, families and whole communities not just here in the Mission District of San Francisco, but all over the country. We are thrilled to be launching this initiative with our partners to advocate to expand the program and ensure this transformative work can continue long term,” said Jillian Spindle, COO at MEDA and co-chair of NCPN.

“Thanks to the Promise Neighborhood initiative, we have been able to bring community leaders together to address the conditions that limit our young folks access to opportunity. Through a process of partnership building, the communities have created pathways to upward mobility,” said Dreama Gentry, Partners for Rural Impact.

“The Mississippi Delta is being transformed by the Promise Neighborhoods initiative as we provide life-changing community services for both students and families,” said Dr. Karen Matthews, President & CEO of Delta Health Alliance. “In the counties we serve, some of the poorest in the country, we have seen kindergarten readiness go from a ranking of 99th best in Mississippi to 8th-best after becoming a Promise Community- highlighting that with the right support for a child, we can make generational change.”

“Save the Children works in rural communities across America that suffer from multigenerational concentrated poverty. We have seen the incredible impact that Promise Neighborhoods bring to the communities we work in,” said Trevor Moe, Save the Children. “The continuum of services that the Promise Neighborhood program drives into these U.S. communities is unparalleled in scope and impact. We must increase funding to this incredible program. All children deserve the opportunity to have a healthy, strong foundation to thrive as learners and in life.”

Created by the United States Department of Education and authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Promise Neighborhoods programs work to improve educational and economic outcomes for students in underserved urban and rural areas. Promise Neighborhoods provide funding to support eligible entities that build access to great schools, strong systems of family and community support, and impactful programs to help more young individuals transition to higher education and employment while achieving sustainable and scalable neighborhood-wide results.

Founding members of the Coalition have strong records of generating incredible outcomes in their communities through Promise Neighborhoods grants. Since its founding, the Mission Promise Neighborhood in San Francisco, CA, has seen graduation rates among students attending MPN schools increase by nearly 20 percentage points to 86 percent. Also in California, San Diego’s Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood saw the percentage of children living in the neighborhood who test kindergarten-ready increase from 77 percent to 100 percent, more than double the national average of 48 percent. In Kentucky, Partners for Rural Impact’s Perry Promise Neighborhood schools rebounded post COVID in 3rd grade reading proficiency from 29% in 2020-21 to 47% in 2021-22. During the implementation of Perry Promise, the graduation rate improved from 86% to 94% and college going rates improved from 63% to 74%.

There are even more impressive examples: the Delta Health Alliance (Mississippi). In Mississippi, students enrolled in three or more PN programs were 41 percent more likely to be ready for Kindergarten and 85 percent of students scoring 530 or higher at the beginning of Kindergarten are proficient in reading at the end of third grade.

A major funder and advisory member of the Coalition is the William Julius Wilson Institute at Harlem Children’s Zone. The William Julius Wilson Institute is a national resource for place-based, people-focused solutions that open pathways to social and economic mobility.

“Every child, no matter where they are from, should be placed on a pathway to social and economic mobility, which include access to healthy early development, attending quality schools, receiving targeted academic supports, participating in enriching after-school activities, graduating from college, and pursuing meaningful careers,” said Christian Rhodes, Deputy Executive Director of the William Julius Wilson Institute at Harlem Children’s Zone. “The National Promise Neighborhoods Coalition will serve as an important resource for place-based communities across the country and will be a leading nonpartisan voice advocating for federal investments to lift children out of poverty.”


The National Promise Neighborhoods Coalition can be found at and on X at @TheNPNC. For media inquiries, please contact

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[Click for English, which follows Spanish.]

A la Comunidad Promesa de la Mission la conocí por medio de mi sobrino que estaba en un programa de Seven Tepees Youth Program, uno de los socios fundadores de la Comunidad Promesa. Era el año 2014, hubo una feria de recursos en la que personal de MEDA estaba entregando información sobre compra de vivienda y el concilio de familias. Me interesó porque en ese tiempo quería información sobre cómo comprar una casa. Hice una cita con ellos y ahí empezó todo. 

La primera persona con la trabaje en Comunidad Promesa fue con Ada Alvarado Freund, que hoy es la gerente del programa de Aprendizaje infantil. Tenía mis dos hijos pequeños y estaba buscando un programa preescolar de alta calidad. Le pedí que me ayudara a encontrar una escuelita. La verdad no conocía mucho sobre Comunidad Promesa o sobre los recursos que hay disponibles para las familias antes de esos primeros contactos con Ada y el resto de personas que trabajan en MEDA. Mi mamá trabajaba mucho cuando recién llegamos a Estados Unidos, descansaba unas cuatro horas, y no le quedaba mucho tiempo para involucrarse con la comunidad. Luego se sorprendía cuando yo le mencionaba sobre los recursos que había. Algunas vez tuvimos el apoyo de Good Samaritan, pero desconocíamos que era una organización parte de Comunidad Promesa. Es un alivio saber que alguien te puede ayudar sin tener miedo que te juzgue por necesitar un poco de apoyo para salir adelante y dar lo mejor a tu familia. 

Mi segunda gran conexión con MEDA fue a través del programa de Mission Techies. En ese tiempo trabajaba limpiando casa, que es un trabajo digno, pero también tenía otras metas. Era consciente de mis privilegios por ser bilingüe, tener un estatus migratorio regularizado, y saber operar una computadora. Debía tomar el programa porque iba a cumplir 25 años y en ese entonces sólo se aceptaban a personas entre 16 y 24 años. Mi madre y mi esposo me apoyaron bastante. Ellos iban por los niños a la escuela. Trabajaba limpiando casas de ocho a doce y media, para luego venir a Techies de una a cinco de la tarde. Fueron semanas largas, de mucho esfuerzo. 

Recibí asistencia de MEDA en la búsqueda de empleo y la primera oportunidad que apareció fue como contratista Comunidad Promesa para el programa Making Connections del Distrito Escolar de San Francisco. Aquí se enseñaba a padres o tutores de estudiantes a usar una computadora Chromebook. En un momento tuve la oportunidad de ayudar a cambiar el currículo para que fuera culturalmente relevante para nuestras familias. También me enfoqué en que tuvieran acceso a internet de bajo costo. Más adelante los conecté con el servicio de preparación gratis  de impuestos de MEDA y así empecé a trabajar con las familias. Un año después me contrataron de tiempo completo, dividía mis labores entre Making Connections y Guía de éxito familiar. Estuve asignada a Bryant Elementary,  luego a John O’Connell y después a Felton Institute. De ahí pasé a ser Especialista en participación de padres y jóvenes con la organización.

Ahora estoy en Promise City* con la meta de siempre: apoyar a las familias para que tengan una voz y un espacio donde digan lo que les está sirviendo y lo que no, lo que les está ayudando y lo que no. Siento que puedo llevar su voz a espacios en los que regularmente no son invitados.

He pasado junto a la Comunidad Promesa ocho de sus diez años. Le he dicho a mis supervisores que más allá de que hoy tenga ingresos y vivienda estable (sí, compre una casa), la Comunidad Promesa me ha ayudado a crecer en lo profesional, emocional y personal. Gracias a todos los  entrenamientos que me han dado he aprendido a conectar con las familias, entre ellas la mía.  Tengo un hijo transgénero que no quiero que crezca en la sombras por ser transgenero, quiero que vea la misma luz de los demás, que no sea tratado diferente. He aprendido a entender a mi hijo y no juzgarlo. Dejo que él me guíe en su vida y que él decida cómo quiere vivir su vida en el futuro.

Soy una madre que se involucra en el Comité asesor de padres ( English Learner Advisory Committee) de las escuelas. Con mi hija me he involucrado desde el principio. He hablado en foros públicos sobre la importancia de la interpretación. Por mi hijo fundé un pride club, en donde los niños aprenden sobre la comunidad LGTBQ. Quiero que mis hijos sepan que estoy allí por ellos, para ellos y con ellos.

La Comunidad Promesa ha sido más que un trabajo para mí.

Ahora visualizó a la Comunidad Promesa abriendo  el camino para otras comunidades en la ciudad. Las necesidades de los latinos no son tan diferentes a las necesidades de nuestros vecinos asiáticos o afroamericanos. Las familias merecen tener vivienda estable y segura para ellos y sus hijos. Me gusta el abordaje de la Comunidad Promesa porque se enfoca en el bienestar de todos, no solo una persona, por eso es importante el rol de cada socio de la Comunidad Promesa. Sabemos que se requiere de todo un pueblo para criar a un niño. 

*Promise City es una iniciativa para compartir el modelo Promise Neighborhood en todo San Francisco en consonancia con el Plan de Recuperación de la Alcaldía

Ana Avilez: My Journey Through Mission Promise Neighborhood

I first learned about Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) through my nephew who was in a program with Seven Tepees Youth, one of the founding partners of MPN. It was the year 2014, and there was a community fair where MEDA staff were handing out information on home buying and the family council. It interested me, because at that time, I wanted information on how to buy a house. I made an appointment with them, and that’s where it all started.

The first person I worked with at Comunidad Promesa was Ada Alvarado Freund, who is now the manager of the Early Childhood Learning program. I was looking for a high-quality preschool for my two young children. I asked Ada to help me find an escuelita. I didn’t know much about MPN or about the resources that are available to families – before those first contacts with Ada and other MEDA staff. My mom worked a lot when we first arrived in the United States, she was resting for about four hours daily, and she didn’t have much time left to get involved in the community. Later she was surprised when I mentioned to her about the resources that were available. I believe we had some support by Good Samaritan, but we were unaware that it was an organization that was part of MPN. It is a relief to know that someone can help you without being afraid that they will judge you for needing a little support to get ahead and give the best to your family.

My second big connection with MEDA was through the Mission Techies program. At that time I was working cleaning houses, which is a decent job, but I also had other goals. I was aware of my privileges for being bilingual, having regular immigration status, and knowing how to operate a computer. I had to take the program because I was going to turn 25, and at that time only people between the ages of 16 and 24 were accepted. My mother and my husband were very supportive of me. They went to pick up the children from school. I worked cleaning houses from eight to twelve thirty, and then came to Techies from one to five in the afternoon. Those were long weeks, a lot of effort.

I received job search assistance from MEDA and the first opportunity that came up was as a contractor for MPN for the Making Connections program that was funded by the San Francisco Unified School District. Here parents or guardians were taught how to use a Chromebook computer. At some point,  I had the opportunity to change the curriculum to make it culturally relevant to our families. I also focused on helping families obtain low-cost internet access. Later I connected them with MEDA’s free tax preparation service, and in a blink of an eye I was connecting families with resources. A year later I was hired full time by MEDA-MPN as a Family Success Coach, dividing my duties between Making Connections and as Family Success Coach. I was assigned to Bryant Elementary, then to John O’Connell High School, and later to Felton Institute. Later I became MPN’s Parent and Youth Engagement Specialist and was based at Plaza Adelante.

Now I work for Promise City* with the same goal: supporting families so that they have a voice and a space where they say what is working for them and what is not, what is helping them and what is not. I feel like I can bring their voices to spaces where they are not regularly invited.

I have been with MPN for eight of their ten years. First as a client and later as a team member.  I have told my supervisors that beyond the fact that today I have a steady income and stable housing (yes, I bought a house), MPN has helped me grow professionally, emotionally, and personally. Thanks to all the training they have given me, I have learned to connect with families, including mine. I have a transgender son, and I don’t want him to grow up in the shadows because he is transgender. I want him to see the same light as others, not to be treated differently. I have learned to understand my son and not judge him. I let him guide me through his life and let him decide how he wants to live his life in the future. 

I’m a parent who gets involved in the schools’ English Learner Advisory Committee. With my daughter I have been involved from the beginning. I have spoken in public forums about the importance of interpretation. I also started a pride club at my son’s school, where children can learn about the LGTBQ community. I want my children to know that I am there for them and with them.

 MPN has been more than a job for me. 

Now I envision MPN leading the way for other communities in the city. The needs of Latinos are not that different from the needs of our Asian or African American neighbors. Families deserve stable and safe housing for themselves and their children. I like the MPN approach because it focuses on the well-being of everyone, not just one person, which is why the role of each partner organization is so instrumental. We know it takes a village to raise a child. 

*Promise City is a citywide initiative to share the Promise Neighborhood model across San Francisco in alignment with the Mayor’s Recovery Plan.

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Community engagement was one of the aspects of the Promise Neighborhood grant written back in 2012. One of the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s answers to that piece of family success was the creation of a parent leadership group, known as the Mission Parent Council. This group is spearheaded by Laura Olivas.

Parent engagement
Olivas has been working with parents to strengthen their advocacy efforts for themselves and their children — and the Mission community at large. This has led to parents deciding which topics matter to them and identifying the support they need to champion those causes. A recent subject of importance was determined to be Prop N, the Immigrant Parent Right to Vote measure on the San Francisco ballot this Nov. 8.

It’s a startling fact: one-third of San Francisco parents are denied a say in their child’s education simply because they are non-citizens. Prop N would allow such parents to vote on educational matters, specifically in elections for the Board of Education.

To tell their stories, eight Mission parents headed to a San Francisco Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, where a vote of support was to be taken on the measure. Via heartfelt and powerful explanations of why the Board should vote in favor of Prop N, these parents one by one stepped forward and spoke their truth. This was the first time many had done so in public.

The good news is that there was a unanimous vote of the School Board in favor of Prop N.

The other exciting news is that these parents saw the power of having their voices heard — a message they will share in the community.

Explains Olivas, “An important piece of the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s work is the creation of a college-going culture at home, so I was thrilled to see these parents valiantly taking to the podium and asking for support, as a way to play a larger role in their children’s education. This was a step in the right direction, and I can see that this is going to create something bigger. A movement has started.”

The resolution read by the School Board
Below is the text read Tuesday night. The authors were Board commissioners Matt Haney, Shamann Walton and Sandra Lee Fewer.

SUBJECT: Resolution In Support of Proposition N, Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections

WHEREAS: About 283,000 immigrants live in San Francisco — accounting for 35 percent of the population; and

WHEREAS: 54 percent of children in San Francisco have at least one immigrant parent, and 34 percent of households are headed by an immigrant; and

WHEREAS:  27.3 percent (16,070) of all SFUSD students are designated as English Language Learners, one indication of the size of the immigrant population in San Francisco public schools; and

WHEREAS: From 1776 until 1926 in 40 states and federal territories, residents who weren’t citizens could vote in local, state and sometimes federal elections; and

WHEREAS: There is a precedent of municipalities across the country that have passed legislation enfranchising non-citizens, which includes six Maryland municipalities, Chicago, Illinois, Cambridge and Amherst, Mass. (although state enabling legislation is required for implementation); and

WHEREAS: Non-citizen voting is common practice in other nations, with 23 countries allowing some form of non-citizen voting, including Belize, Canada, Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom; and

WHEREAS: Immigrants who want to become citizens face enormous bureaucratic challenges, waiting an average of 10 years to go through the process to become citizens; and

WHEREAS: This waiting time for many non-citizen parents lasts the duration of their children’s tenure in public schools; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizen parents’ children, many of whom themselves are citizens, benefit with more participation in the democratic process; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizens suffer social and economic inequities, in part, because policymakers can ignore their interests; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizen residents contribute to the economic vitality of San Francisco, by paying taxes, purchasing goods and services, and working in every sector of the economy; and

WHEREAS: Whereas non-citizen residents contribute to the social and cultural vitality of San Francisco by sending their children to schools, developing and participating in the life of their communities through religious and community groups; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizens are not eligible to register to vote, although existing San Francisco residents who are 18 years of age or older, United States citizens and not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction are eligible to register to vote in San Francisco elections, including elections for the Board of Education of the SFUSD; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors (10-1) support Supervisor Mar’s proposal to amend the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco to authorize San Francisco residents who are not United States citizens but who are the parents, legal guardians or caregivers of a child residing in San Francisco to vote in elections for the Board of Education; and

WHEREAS: The voting rights measure, Proposition N, is on the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot as an amendment to the City and County of San Francisco’s charter, and, if passed, the provision authorizing non-citizen voting in Board of Education elections would “sunset’ on Dec. 31, 2022, or the Dec. 31 immediately following the third School Board election conducted under the rules adopted in the Charter amendment, whichever is later; and

WHEREAS: Community-based organizations supporting this measure include Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), Mission Parent Council, Faith in Action, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), CARECEN, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Coleman Advocates, Laborers Local 261, La Raza Centro Legal; therefore be it

RESOLVED: The San Francisco Board of Education supports the November 2016 charter amendment to authorize San Francisco residents who are legal voting age and who are the parents, legal guardians, or caregivers for children in the SFUSD to vote in elections for the Board of Education, regardless of whether the resident is a U.S. citizen; and be it further

RESOLVED: The Board of Education is interested in the outcome of any constitutional debates related to citizenship and voting and wishes to be informed of the progress of such actions; and be it further

RESOLVED: The Board of Education is committed to maintaining and enhancing a high level of participation in School Board elections by all eligible voters and opposes any implementation of Prop N that would separate the School Board election from regular ballots and regular elections and therefore calls on the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Elections to implement Prop N, should it pass in November, without removing School Board elections from regular general elections or from regular ballots, and be it further

RESOLVED: If Prop N is passed by the voters and found to be constitutional, the Board of Education urges the Board of Supervisors to consider measures that would allow non-citizen residents of San Francisco to vote in all local elections.


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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Photo credit: Noris Chavarría, MEDA

Imagine having no say in your child’s education. Well, that’s the unfortunate case for the one-third of San Francisco parents who are non-citizens.

San Francisco has long been a city of immigrants. While they come from different places, the desire for a better life for one’s children is a common thread of the immigrant experience.

Prop N, on the ballot this Nov. 8, seeks to address the inequity of parents not being allowed to vote on educational matters. Specifically, the Immigrant Parent Right to Vote measure authorizes San Francisco residents who are the parents, legal guardians or caregivers for children in the San Francisco Unified School District to vote in elections for the Board of Education, regardless of whether the resident is a United States citizen.

Legal precedent
“This isn’t a novel idea. Over the past three decades, municipalities in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York have passed laws affording immigrants the right to vote. It’s about fairness,” states MEDA Policy Manager Gabriel Medina. MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

Such laws have legal backing: the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that citizenship is not required to vote. Interestingly, on April 4 of this year, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants and other noncitizens could be counted when states draw their legislative districts, nullifying a challenge by residents of Texas who claimed that their own voting power was being weakened. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court, even cited schooling as a factor for the decision when she wrote: “Nonvoters have an important stake in many policy debates — children, their parents, even their grandparents, for example, have a stake in a strong public-education system …”

In California, the state constitution protects the right of citizens to vote, but does not exclude immigrants from voting. The California constitution explicitly authorizes Charter cities, such as San Francisco, to provide for the manner of electing school board members.

Wide support for Prop N
On a local level, Prop N has the support of 10 of the 11 members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. They are joined by the seven current San Francisco Board of Education commissioners, who as individuals unanimously favor passage of this measure. The Board of Education will be voting to endorse this measure on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m. in the Irving G. Breyer Board Meeting Room, 555 Franklin Street, First Floor, so community presence is requested to show support for Prop N.

This measure was made possible by the work of Supervisor Eric Mar, with support from Assemblymember David Chiu.

Community-based organizations joining MEDA in support of this measure include Mission Parent Council, Faith in Action, ACCE, CARECEN, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Coleman Advocates, Laborers Local 261, La Raza Centro Legal and the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club.

Involvement within the immigrant community is also occurring. The Mission Promise Neighborhood works to foster advocacy by parents. This has been occurring via the Mission Parent Council, with eight parents of students in Mission Promise Neighborhood schools being spokespersons for Prop N.

Explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Leadership Program Manager Laura Olivas, “This started with a journey to City Hall, with the Mission Parent Council asking City officials to support this measure. The Mission Parent Council also took to the podium at this summer’s Education Forum 2016, entreating community members to get involved and spread the word so that Prop N will pass in November. These parent advocates stressed the importance of having a voice — a message that was well received by the crowd of hundreds at this year’s Education Forum.”

Two-generation approach
Parents being involved in their child’s education is vital. A two-generation approach is a tenet of the model of the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s work.

According to a 2002 report entitled “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement” from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, parental involvement translates to students earning higher grades and test scores, enrolling in higher-level programs, regularly attending school, having better social skills, graduating and continuing on to college. Not a surprise.

The report also showcased that “when schools build partnerships with families that respond to their concerns and honor their contributions, they are successful in sustaining connections that are aimed at improving student achievement.”

For the sake of fairness and the betterment of lives of students, all San Franciscans are urged to vote “Yes” on Prop N this Nov. 8.

Please let all parents’ voices be heard.


For further information, please contact MEDA Policy Manager Gabriel Medina: (415) 690-6992;


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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Making a little over $35,000 doesn’t go very far in San Francisco, especially with housing costs through the roof. Imagine that meager pay level when you have already made an investment in post-secondary education.

Such is the case for the City’s 4,415 Early Childhood Education (ECE) professionals, who average $16.85 an hour and with 82 percent having attended college (one-third having achieved a Bachelor’s degree). ECE has the dubious distinction of affording graduates the lowest lifetime earnings of any college major.

This analysis comes from the San Francisco Child Care Planning and Advisory Council (CPAC). The CPAC is the state-mandated Local Planning Council (LPC), established to provide a forum for the identification of local priorities for child care and early education, and the development of policies to meet these needs. One of CPAC’s priorities for 2016 is advocating for increasing early care and educator pay to ensure a diverse and skilled workforce. 

To let people know of this situation, folks today took to the streets around San Francisco’s City Hall in the “Sixth Annual Walk Around the Block.” There were parents and children. Community members. Plus plenty of early childhood educators showcasing homemade signs demanding fairness for their profession. 

To support this advocacy, a contingent from Mission Promise Neighborhood took part in today’s event, with promotoras (community outreach workers) and parents from the Community Advisory Council part of the march. Mission Promise Neighborhood parents want their children to have the best early education possible, and for their children to graduate from college. Parents know that early childhood educators are critical to achieving this goal and that is why they showed up to support their teachers. Pay equity will help to attract and retain high-quality early childhood educators, and will allow them to stay in the City. Lourdes Dobarganes, promotora and mother of four, when asked why she is advocating for teachers stated, “¡Nuestros niños merecen maestros excelentes con sueldo digno!” (“Our children deserve excellent teachers that get paid fair wages!”)

“Birth to five is a critical stage of development, children deserve a high-quality early education, and this means that we need to invest in our early childhood workforce,“ explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Manager Liz Cortez. Some cities have already been at the vanguard of overcoming this income disparity: New York City and Seattle now pay early childhood educators on par with K-12 educators.

In New York’s case, Mayor de Blasio two years ago announced steps to help community-based organizations attract and retain high-quality early childhood educators, as part of the historic expansion of full-day Pre-K programs for every child in the city.

Looking to replicate this model in equally pricey San Francisco, the hundreds who took to the streets today put forth a collective message that early childhood educators’ pay should be equal to that of K-12 educators.

Mission Promise Neighborhood is a collective of partners, many of them providing early care and education services to families with young children. These organizations experience challenges with attracting high quality early childhood educators because of the low wages and the high cost of living in San Francisco. High turnover is detrimental to young children who thrive on good relationships with their caregivers and teachers. Ada Alvarado, a former preschool teacher, left the early education field for many reasons, the principal reason being the low pay. She states, “There is a large disparity between the salary of early learning teachers and the cost of living in San Francisco. As a preschool teacher with a college degree and experience in the early learning field, I struggled to make ends meet with a preschool teacher salary. I invested so much in my profession and often asked myself, ‘Who was investing in me’?”

Children Services Division Director Dolores Terrazas of Mission Neighborhood Centers, a Mission Promise Neighborhood  partner, knows the need in the community. Terrazas states, “A quality experience in early education is directly linked to the investment in the people that provide this service; attracting, compensating and retaining teachers is paramount to a successful early education experience.”

These thoughts are echoed by Division Director Yohana Quiroz of Felton Institute Children, Youth and Family Services, also an MPN partner,  “Wage disparity for ECE teachers at Felton and across San Francisco is huge. Our teachers have dedicated their lives to serving our youngest learners and in making a difference in their school readiness and life trajectory.” Quiroz continues, “Despite being responsible for such a critical time in young children’s lives, the wage disparity between an ECE teacher and a K-12 educator is huge. These low wages make it difficult for them to afford living in San Francisco. Many actually qualify for public benefits.”

The cost of early care and education is increasingly high. An April 12 Wall Street Journal article titled, “States Where Day Care Costs More than College,” reported: ”In nearly half the country, it’s now more expensive to educate a 4-year-old in preschool than an 18-year-old in college, a finding that illustrates the rising burden many families face affording care for children.” Yet despite such increased costs, the pay for early childhood educators still lags.

It is time to close the wage gap between early childhood educators and K-12 educators.

To ensure that San Francisco elected officials and policymakers heard this message, Mission Promise Neighborhood promotoras and parents, along with their children, participated in various legislative visits after the march. They introduced themselves and the work of Mission Promise Neighborhood, plus spoke about the need to support early childhood educators. MPN families are committed to advocating for all young children in the Mission District.


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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2301 Mission Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94110

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