Braving inclement weather as some much-needed rain swept through the Bay Area on Monday, scores of Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) families donned rain jackets and streamed into the ornate Women’s Building for some much-needed community support, in the form of books for kids.

Explaining the choice of books as gifts, MPN Family Success Amelia M. Martínez C. stated, “There were a number of community toy drives scheduled in the Mission for the holidays, but MPN chose to make the gifts educational. It’s important for our low-income families to have access to books. Books may not be the first thing parents buy — books can be out of reach when you’re on a tight budget. Today MPN is helping families instill learning.”

Partnering for the event were the San Francisco Public Library and Tandem, both knowing that early learning is strongly tied to long-term academic success. Tandem’s mission to “spark joy and close the opportunity gap” was clearly met, as evidenced by the smiles on families’ faces as they chose their books for holiday presents.

Book offerings ran the gamut from fiction to nonfiction, historical novels to whimsical tales. Age brackets started at newborn and headed up to eighth grade.

MPN Early Learning Family Success Coach Ada Alvarado, who helped coordinate the holiday event, knows the importance of parents reading to their children. “It’s essential to develop a passion for books at as early an age as possible. It’s all about vocabulary building. Parents can do things as simple as asking open-ended questions or pointing things out, so as to elicit responses in their children. Books are the ideal way to facilitate such learning.”

Alvarado’s statement is backed up by myriad studies. Just last year, an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement, “Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice,” claimed that “reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”

The policy statement also delineated the following incisive data:

  • Every year, more than one in three American children start kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read.
  • Reading proficiency by the third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success.
  • Approximately two-thirds of children each year in the United States, and 80 percent of those living below the poverty threshold, fail to develop reading proficiency by the end of the third grade.
  • Children from low-income families hear fewer words in early childhood and know fewer words by three years of age than do children from more advantaged families.

The Mission Promise Neighborhood Survey in 2014 found that 64 percent of families in the Mission are reading to their children three or more times per week. This is something to celebrate! MPN aims to ensure that the initiative’s partners continue to improve that number and get to 100 percent. Also, it is imperative to start this process as early as possible, since the MPN team knows that this is critical to brain development and vocabulary building.

There were plenty of books, neatly stacked on tables and grouped for age appropriateness, for MPN families to work toward that goal. Hundreds of books, actually.

To garner such a significant donation, it was Children’s Book Project to the rescue. For over two decades, this organization has been replenishing libraries in schools, public health centers, daycare centers, homeless shelters — anywhere there is such need. All books are free, with some new and others “gently used.”

MPN-Carrier with Books-InsideWith arms laden with books — and even one infant carrier serving as a shopping bag, filled to the max–departing families were also offered a gift bag teeming with goodies. This included free passes to a trio of local kids’ venues: the Asian Art Museum; the Bay Area Discovery Museum; and the Cartoon Art Museum.

MPN parents left knowing there would be gifts for the holiday … and that the gift of learning would be part of their kids’ futures.

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MPN-Google Get Connected-Blog 102415While most low-income Mission families know the need for being connected, they often don’t know how to get started. This is especially true of immigrants—newcomers to this country with myriad tech options from which to choose. That’s why the goal of today’s sixth “Get Connected!” event, held at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante, was to help parents learn the best ways to keep their children safe online while optimizing the use of educational apps. For the youngsters, the goal was to whet their appetites for all things tech while creating an app in an hour.

Google presented the event, with volunteers such as Hector Mujica (photo above) teaching a class called “High Seas” in a lab packed with fourth- to eight-graders. “High Seas” focuses on computer science taught in a playful, age-appropriate format.

To combat the lack of connectivity in the neighborhood, families signed up for a high-speed internet plan for as low as $10 a month. One sign-up was by Carmen Ramos, who explained that the $40 price per month she had formerly been quoted by an internet provider was not feasible given her family’s tight budget. A smile crossed Carmen’s face when asked how her being able to sign up today for just $10 per month would change her family’s life. She explained, “My son is a third-grader at Cesar Chavez Elementary, a Mission Promise Neighborhood school. We have been going to the library for the past year, but that takes time. Now my child can study at home, as it should be.”

There was a Technology Career Panel on hand, explaining how they wound up in tech—sometimes via serendipity. The panel comprised: Caitlin Crump, senior data scientist at LinkedIn; Roberto Mejia, IT support engineer at Jones IT; Alberto Melgoza, financial planning and forecasting systems tech lead and solutions architect at Google; and Kamilah Taylor, senior software engineer at LinkedIn.

Raffles for six laptops were held, with four elated young winners hardly able to tote the computer they were handed. Of the two adult winners, one was Carmen Ramos, excited that she now added a computing device to the low-cost internet for which she had signed up earlier in the day.

Google Cardboard-InsideThere were also 10 Google Cardboard certified viewers raffled off. This innovative product offers virtual reality on your smartphone once an app is downloaded.

Lunch was generously donated by Pollo Campero, with hearty plates of chicken, rice and beans served up by DoubleDutch volunteers.

In addition to Google’s Presenting Sponsorship for “Get Connected,” there was additional sponsorship from LinkedIn, DoubleDutch and Microsoft.

Mission Promise Neighborhood partners were on hand to avail the community of their free services. Partners included Causa Justa :: Just Cause, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, Mission Neighborhood Centers and Support for Families.

Stay tuned for details on the next “Get Connected!” event, and connect your family to tech.

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MPN Education Forum 2015-Blog

“Today is a special day because this is the first step you are taking with your children as they begin a new school year,” enthusiastically stated Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Raquel Donoso, as she welcomed a crowd of over 200 who packed the Salvation Army Mission Community Center on an abnormally hot August morning this past Saturday.

The Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is a collaborative of over 20 partners, including the school district and mayor’s office, that have come together to make sure every family in the Mission has the resources to support their children’s learning. MPN is building a pipeline that begins at birth to make sure every child has medical care, attends an early learning program, is doing well in school, and graduates ready to attend college and begin their career.

Echoing Donoso’s comments was the next up to speak, Karling Aguilera-Fort of the San Francisco Unified School District. He spoke of getting your children off on the right foot for the 2015-16 school year, and that there were resources to help families succeed so that students achieve.

The City’s support was also showcased by Chief Deputy Director, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services Derick Brown.

Following Aguilera-Fort was District 9 Supervisor David Campos. Originally from Guatemala, Campos explained his empathy for immigrant parents wanting their children to succeed. The Harvard and Stanford graduate spoke of the need to create a college-going culture at home, knowing that such support from his family fostered his achievements.

t was then time for families to break off into two information sessions: one for elementary school; and the other for middle/high school. The aim was to offer parents and students a roadmap for what to expect over the course of the school year, with a discussion on everything from mandated tests to the importance of attendance to planned meetings. Mission Graduates‘ promotoras (community outreach workers) facilitated the middle/high school workshop.

MPN Leadership Academy Manager Laura Olivas explained the impact of these classes as follows: “One mother of an adolescent advised me that she didn’t realize that a certain grade-point average was needed to be maintained by students. She now knew that fact and, more importantly, knew she needed to watch that GPA over the course of the school year.”

There were then sessions on issues of importance to MPN families, based on neighborhood surveys to determine stressors in the low-income Mission community. Causa Justa :: Just Cause advised on tenants’ rights. La Raza Centro Legal spearheaded immigration classes. Parents for Public Schools counseled on how to build a college-going culture at home.

Families who had a child under age five also received a tote bag with child development information, in English and Spanish, along with ideas for how parents can help promote their child’s development. The bag included an age-appropriate toy and books. Staff from Tandem, MPN’s literacy partner, attended the event and provided young children with books.

Liz Cortez and Ada Alvarado, of MPN’s early learning team, conducted an early care and education survey. Explains Cortez, “The goal of the survey was to get a sense of the community need for child care and parenting resources. What has been their experience? What would they like to be different? The information we received is vital to our advocacy efforts in improving access to slots and resources.”

After attending classes, each pre-registered family was given a backpack donated by the Salvation Army, Mission Lodge and the Golden State Warriors. The Mission Lodge and Walgreens came through and provided the backpacks’ offerings of a pouch with pencils/pens, books, calculators and more.

There was then lunch and time to pick up materials from partners who were tabling at the Education Forum, such as Good Samaritan Family Resource Center and Mission Neighborhood Health Center. Partner staff answered questions, with families now better informed than they had been just a few hours prior.

Summed up MPN Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C., “The Education Forum was a definite success. We know that families were offered the information they need so that MPN students can achieve. It’s going to be a great school year!”

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GC-Blog“I need to understand technology so that I can help my child succeed in school,” explained Mission resident Miriam, who came with her eight-year-old daughter to a free Mission Promise Neighborhood technology event at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante today (more pictures).

GC-Inside #1Miriam was just one of many Mission residents who dropped by to take digital literacy classes taught by a number of volunteers from the tech world. This “Get Connected! event,” presented by Accelerate with Google, was the fifth in the series to date and was possible only with the additional support of Platinum Sponsor ECHO Technology Solutions; Gold Sponsor Kapor Center for Social Impact; Silver Sponsor Comcast; and Community Sponsor Zoomforth.

The need to bridge the digital divide is clear: a Mission Promise Neighborhood School Climate Survey, conducted last year, indicated that just 54 percent of residents had a computer at home. This stands in juxtaposition to being in the Mission, the neighborhood of choice for many of the innovators creating the next greatest app or messengering device, thereby revolutionizing global interaction.

Classes today spanned all age ranges, with fun, physical activities for kids to Android app building.

Additionally, there were non-tech offerings running the gamut from housing resources and getting your GED to signing up for a WiFi point of access.

A packed room also was offered the invaluable counsel of a Latino Career Panel, who shared their intriguing stories of how they wound up working in the world of tech. Panelists included: Juany Torres of Google; Martin Thormann of ECHO Technology Solutions; Lawrence Coburn of DoubleDutch; Daisy Galvan of Facebook; and Roberto Lopez from Apple. The takeaway was that there are opportunities for Latinos in the tech industry, especially with the Hispanic population growing the fastest of any minority in the U.S., translating into a market the tech industry will want as customers.

GC-Inside #2As an added benefit, every person who attended five workshops today was entered into raffles of over 20 tablets and prizes, courtesy of Google. The winners’ faces beamed with joy, as they now had a computing device to better their family’s lives.

Summed up Miriam as she left Plaza Adelante, with a Google Nexus 7 tablet in hand, “I now have more of the tools needed to help my family. I look forward to learning more!”

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Warriors-BlogNobody can deny that the Golden State Warriors are winners. With a league-leading 53-13 record, these guys definitely know how to rise above the competition.

Look at the stats. Stephen Curry averages over 23 points per game and has an over 90 percent free throw average. Draymond Green takes down over eight rebounds per game. Andrew Bogut hits over 55 percent of his field goals. Impressive, indeed.

It’s also important to be deemed winners in the community, and the Warriors last night once again showcased that is definitely the case, with “Noche en Ene-Be-A” the theme celebrating Latino pride at the home game against the rival Los Angeles Lakers.

According to their website, the Warriors’ ”vision is put into action through programs focused on education, health & fitness, social responsibility and cultural diversity & arts. We remain committed to maintaining strong and impactful relationships with the Bay Area community and will continue to foster new ties that create additional opportunities for us to help others and strengthen our bond throughout the region.”

There were 40 tickets given out to a contingent representing the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), the community initiative for which MEDA is the lead agency. Clients from such valued partners as Good Samaritan, Jamestown Community Center and Mission Graduates headed over to Oracle Arena to meet the players before the game. The group was treated to a VIP tour these young adults won’t soon forget.

Also joining was one of the displaced families from the recent conflagration at Mission and 22nd streets on January 28th. It was their first game.

Warriors Backpack GiveawayThis isn’t the first time the Warriors teamed up with MPN to help the community. The team also took part in the MPN Backpack Giveaway at John O’Connell High School last August.

States Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Raquel Donoso, “The Warriors rolled out the red carpet for MPN, making it possible for dozens of Mission students and their families to enjoy a courtside warm-up and an exciting game. The Warriors exemplify the community spirit that is MPN. The team is a beloved part of our community. ”

A great time was had by all, especially with the team taking down the Lakers by a score of 108-105. The Warriors even sealed a playoff berth, making an already special night even extra special. When the videoboard displayed “CLINCHED,” the fans in the sold-out arena gave the Warriors a well-deserved standing ovation, with the MPN contingent part of this celebration.

These guys are true winners in our book—you can bank on the Warriors.

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Get Connected-BlogWhen devised its first “Hour of Code” grassroots campaign a year ago, they never could have imagined the impact: in a mere two weeks, over 20 million people participated and over 600-million lines of code had been written.

That led to another challenge this December for the week of the 8th to the14th, part of “Computer Science Education Week.” So far, 73 million people (and counting) have participated in 77,000 events held worldwide.

Make that 77,001.

Jacinto Noriega, Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) Technology Manger, saw the perfect tie-in to the “Get Connected!” events being held at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante, the Mission neighborhood SparkPoint center. This fourth such event of 2014, held today, was sponsored by Google and Comcast, with involvement from the California Emerging Technology Fund.

“I wanted our bilingual MPN families to have a chance to learn the real language of the future–coding. A Mission community-wide effort made today’s event possible, with great volunteers, MPN partners and MEDA staff all committed, as always. Also, we couldn’t have done this without the participation of Google and Comcast,” explains a thankful Noriega.

There were five coding classes offered as party of “Get Connected!”: a trio of classes named “Learn How to Code”; and two “Learn How to Make an Android Application” sessions. Participants seemed to soak up the knowledge they were receiving, a new world being revealed.

MEDA Get Connected Line 121214Today’s “Get Connected!” event featured other areas of interest to the low-income Latino community MPN and MEDA serve. People queued up to register for low-cost internet via a Comcast program called “Internet Essentials,” with cost starting at just $9.95 per month, plus tax. Erica Castillo, Broadband Coach, could be seen busily signing up event attendees, advising them that any child who receives free or reduced-rate lunch at school automatically qualifies for the “Internet Essentials” program.

As a bonus, the first 50 to sign up for this low-cost broadband for the first time in their home were the recipients of a brand-new, free Nexus 7 tablet. This was part of a Google donation to help underserved Mission community residents have a computing device at home–an invaluable tool for families to help their children study and do homework and for parents to do everything from pay bills online to seek employment.

Some of these same valuable tablets, along with gift certificates, were raffled off in every workshop.

Since the “Hour of Code” is aimed at those ages four to 104, according to the founders, classes were offered for all age brackets at “Get Connected!” The “Digital Storytelling for Kids” workshop kept the little ones’ rapt attention as parents learned much-needed computer skills in classes geared to their age bracket.

A bevy of MPN partners were tabling, availing the families of services in the Mission. Residents were engaged with these organizations, seeing how their family could succeed and their child achieve at school.

Latino Career PanelTo counsel residents on how they can be part of the tech industry, which is such a large sector of the Bay Area economy, a “Latino Career Panel” spoke to the crowd. This panel was composed of power players in the tech world: Miguel A. Gamiño Jr., City CIO for the City & County of San Francisco/Executive Director, Department of Technology; Omar Estrada Diaz from Google; Juan Salazar from Facebook; and Anna Zulaica of LinkedIn.

Many connections were made today among community residents, the double meaning of “Get Connected!” being showcased: low-income Latino residents being connected to tech; and residents whose paths do not often cross finally interacting, as new tech residents engaged with those that have made the Mission the vibrant neighborhood that today draws so many newcomers.

Sums up Noriega, ”Today was a great day for MPN and the Mission community at large. We look forward to future events that will continue the process of bridging the digital divide and bring the community together.”

Get Connected Google Tablet 121214


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEverett Middle School combined empathy with education last night as underresourced, predominately Latino families from the Mission came together to share their concerns and traumas over San Francisco’s continuing housing crisis.

Held by the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), this was the second such event of 2014. The first “Housing Town Hall” was held at Bryant Elementary School in March, with families sharing their traumas and asking for solutions.

The ongoing challenges faced by low-income families Mission families were corroborated by a federally mandated MPN community survey that was done in spring. This survey showcased the fact that 95 percent of MPN families are renters versus 64 percent citywide, based on a San Francisco Planning Department study from 2012. Also, according to the MPN survey, 85 percent of Mission families are spending over 50% of their income on rent.

Last night’s “Housing Town Hall” built knowledge of housing options for families and engaged them in solutions.

The evening’s agenda commenced with a warm welcome from Everett Middle School Principal Lena VanHaren.

Next were inspiring words from neighborhood activist Oscar Grande of People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (PODER). Grande asked the crowd such questions as “Who is living with relatives?” and “Who has fear of being evicted?,” with hands rising in the audience.

There was then a panel featuring: David Campos, District 9 Supervisor; Ken Tray, United Educators of San Francisco; Kevin Truitt, Associate Superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District; and Scott Wiener, District 8 Supervisor. Each got up to address the crowd.

Tray explained that real estate company Redfin has found that no teacher in San Francisco can afford to live in the city, a startling fact.

Finally, there were a trio of bilingual sessions—facilitated by Causa Justa :: Just Cause, Hamilton Family Center and the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA)—on the subjects of housing rights, housing options and prospective direct action.

Fear was palpable. Anxiety was high.

MEDA Director of Community Real Estate Karoleen Feng explains the need for this second event as follows: “ We heard myriad heartbreaking stories around housing at the first town hall. Families expressed stress over trying to stay in their neighborhood of choice. This stress affects their children’s academic performance. This second town hall was held as part of a movement to bring answers to families—around their rights, resources and ways to be involved in solutions for their housing crisis.”

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