Co-authored by:
Associate Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz CortezEarly Learning Program Manager, Mission Promise Neighborhood Ada Freund

As representatives of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), we are honored to once again be invited to present at the annual Head Start California Conference. The title of the presentation is, “¡Sí, Se Puede! Working Collectively to Increase Latinx Family Leadership through Abriendo Puertas in the Mission District of San Francisco.”  

For 2021, we are excited that MPN partner Mission Neighborhood Centers (MNC) Head Start parent and Abriendo Puertas facilitator Maria Cristina Ortega (photo) will be joining us as a co-presenter. Attendees of the presentation will learn about MPN’s Abriendo Puertas collective strategy, plus Maria Cristina’s experience as a Head Start parent contributing to the impact of Abriendo Puertas in the Mission. 

The Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum — the first evidence-based program developed by and for Latinx parents with children ages 0-5 — has proven to be the perfect fit for our community in the Mission. The 15+ partners of the MPN community anti-poverty education initiative work collectively to improve school readiness. A subset of partners collaborates to increase the access of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors for our families. 

MPN developed the Abriendo Puertas strategy to eliminate organizational silos and to work together to achieve community-level goals of increasing access to the program. MPN supports this collaboration by providing funding to partners to provide the Abriendo Puertas program; facilitator training for staff and parents; job opportunities for parents who are now facilitating the program; the collection and analysis of data that tells the collective story; and professional development opportunities through the Professional Learning Community, where facilitators come together to share best practices, plus work on their personal growth and transformation. 

The MNC Early Head Start/Head Start Program employs a two-generation strategy that offers Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors to support parents in developing their leadership and advocacy skills so that they become leaders in their homes and communities. The story of Maria Cristina is an example of how these community programs are positively impacting lives. 

Maria Cristina emigrated from Guatemala to the United States 11 years ago to pursue better opportunities and help provide for her parents and siblings, who stayed in her homeland. When she had her first child, Maria Cristina learned about MNC’s Early Head Start Home Visiting program. Enrolling her daughter in that program, Maria Cristina gave her daughter the opportunity to be in a learning environment that is culturally relevant and fostered her home language of Spanish. Having already established a relationship with MNC’s Head Start program, Maria Cristina’s son was able to follow in his big sister’s footsteps. With the peace of mind that both her children were receiving high-quality care, Maria Cristina focused on her passion for education and personal/professional growth.  

Maria Cristina enrolled in MNC’s Abriendo Puertas parenting program, and it propelled her to accomplish her goals. The child development topics and focus on family well-being equipped her with the tools to support her children with their transition to kinder and beyond.
Maria Cristina shares:

“I learned how to enjoy my children more, spend quality time with them, respect their time and motivate them through educational games. As a mother, I discovered internally how to improve my interactions with my children. I learned how to heal my wounds from my negative childhood experiences and the appropriate steps to advocate for myself. Now, I feel like I’ve learned how to be an understanding mother, use reciprocal communication and help my children navigate the educational system with my support. I can now be an advocate for myself and my family and speak up when my motherly intuitions kick in to alert me that my rights, the rights of my family and community are being violated.” 

Throughout the years, Maria Cristina’s passion for education continues to be her North Star. She has been able to get her GED; infant-toddler massage certification; prenatal and postpartum doula certification; lactation consultant certification; culinary training; yoga instructor certification; and Abriendo Puertas’ facilitator certification. As a Wellness Counselor for Homeless Prenatal Program, she is a pillar in the community: She is now helping other parents find the path to becoming leaders in their home and community. Maria Cristina is grateful for the opportunities that she receives as a Head Start parent, saying, “I have achieved many goals in my life and have grown professionally thanks to all of the support Head Start has given me.”

This year, MPN is taking additional steps to deepen the Abriendo Puertas work by growing the number of parent facilitators in the community. When parents graduate from Abriendo Puertas, they are equipped with the parental knowledge, tools, and confidence to advocate for their child’s needs and support their learning. Post-graduation, it is natural that parents are looking for opportunities where they can practice their new skill sets. For many, the Abriendo Puertas facilitator training is the next step in their personal growth and transformation.  

We are thrilled to partner with parents this year to continue to support their professional growth and development.

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Photo: Alejandro Bautista

Co-authored by:
Associate Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz Cortez
Early Learning Program Manager, Mission Promise Neighborhood Ada Freund

(Read report.)

Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is honored to be presenting at the Clear Impact “2020 Measurable Equity Conference,” which will be focused on advancing racial justice. In alignment with that topic, MPN will be presenting lessons learned around successful school-readiness efforts for Latinx and immigrant children residing in San Francisco’s Mission District. 

MPN pairs a Collective Impact framework and Results-Based Accountability (RBA) tools to identify disparities around school readiness for Latinx children, bringing together neighborhood partners and families to identify and implement strategies that best meet the unique needs of our community. 

The Promise Neighborhood model focuses on school readiness because studies show that being ready for school at kindergarten is a predictor of third-grade proficiency, plus high school and college success. In the 2018 to 2019 school year, Latinx children In the Mission District were less likely to be school ready at kindergarten. The numbers showcased the disparity: The school-readiness average for schools in the Mission District was 48% overall, with White students at 65%, Black students at 50% and Latinx students at 42%, the lowest percentage for all students. The reason is that MPN children and families face many systemic inequities, including barriers to economic mobility. One-hundred percent of young children in MPN, ages prenatal to five, qualify for local, state or federal early care and education subsidies; sixty-eight percent of these children are living at the Federal Poverty Level, qualifying them for Early Head Start and Head Start programs.

To combat this inequity, MPN Collective Impact model provides children and families with wraparound supports via a two-generation, whole-child approach. Our early care and education programs are high quality, culturally responsive and include an integrated family engagement/support component. Partner organizations have developed strong relationships and refer families across the network. MPN also emphasizes building parent leadership because moms and dads are their child’s first and most important teachers — and their best advocates. 

In addition to support services, MPN convenes early learning partners to develop a shared agenda around school readiness, with targeted and aligned strategies that have become the foundation for the development of a strong network of partners that are sharing data, creating shared measures, implementing shared strategies, taking a strengths-based approach when partnering with families in a culturally responsive and authentic way, and advocating for the needs of young children and families. MPN uses RBA tools, such as shared performance measures and turn-the-curve thinking, to ensure data and strategy discussions translate to action.

To better understand the impact of our early care and education programs — and our network of support on school readiness — MPN engaged in a longitudinal cohort study of 299 children leaving PreK in spring 2018 and entering kindergarten that fall. The study demonstrated that MPN 4-year-olds whose families also participated in MPN services had stronger scores across all developmental domains in the assessment performed by teachers. Additionally, these same children when entering kindergarten in a Mission District elementary school were 71% ready compared to the Mission District average of 48% for that year. For Latinx children, the results were even higher, at 72% readiness. 

MPN has many lessons learned around the improvement of school readiness, but following are three salient elements of this early learning work:

  1. Culture shift. MPN partners are working together to break down organizational silos,  using a Collective Impact approach and RBA tools. This has meant working differently in various ways, running the gamut from developing a shared agenda for approaching school readiness to consistently sharing data.
  2. Co-creation and capacity building. MPN partners have learned that it is most impactful to co-create with the community; in our case, with families of young children building their capacity to inform and lead this work.
  3. Continuous improvement. MPN partners are building a culture of continuous improvement that focuses on data review and strategy improvement. This requires us to constantly adapt based on community needs, such as those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To advance racial justice, we must all ensure that more children and families are able to benefit from these high-quality early care and education programs and MPN services. MPN partners are expanding their programs and continuing to integrate and refer across the network. Together, we are breaking down the barriers to access and supporting children and families to succeed in kindergarten … and beyond. 

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Co-authored by
MEDA Community Leadership Development Manager Lucia Obregon
Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Program Manager Ada Alvarado

Wednesday was an important day in San Francisco, as the “Eighth Annual Walk Around the Block” took place. Enthusiastic families — accompanied by staff from child care centers and early education programs — gathered on City Hall’s steps to make their collective voices heard.

The ask? That local leaders fully support the funding of quality child care and early education in San Francisco.

Why early education matters
Early education is essential for children ages 0-5 because our little ones are born ready to learn, with 80 percent of the human brain developed in the first three years of life. This is a crucial period for our young children, and they are at of risk not reaching developmental milestones if there is not a proper support system in place.

An affluent city such as San Francisco needs to invest in our most vulnerable population. With the proper support of parents, early learning educators and an invested community, we can foster lifelong learners when our young children receive the cognitive stimulation in a quality early learning program.

The need
There is a dire need for more child care slots in San Francisco: Over 2,500 children are on the waiting list for subsidized care, with low- and moderate-income families struggling to pay the exorbitant costs of such care. It is estimated that early care actually exceeds the price of attending a California State University.

The Mission is a microcosm of the need. For children under age 5, there are currently 579 families awaiting early learning care — all of whom would qualify for subsidy care if Prop C passes. Children’s Council San Francisco data indicates that since March 2018 there have been 222 children in the 94110 ZIP code waiting to be placed in an early learning program (that’s 9 percent of the SF3C waitlist.) Close to 15 percent of children in the 94110 ZIP code are receiving subsidy care, including those in Mission Neighborhood Center’s Head Start programs.

This isn’t just about the kids who deserve quality education — it is also about their dedicated teachers. According to the San Francisco Child Care Providers’ Association, early learning educators on average earn $19 an hour, which is $7.60 an hour below the San Francisco self-sufficiency wage for a single adult in San Francisco. That average hourly rate is considerably less than an SFUSD teacher with a bachelor’s degree earns in their first year of teaching.

“Eighth Annual Walk Around the Block” event
One of the most impactful scenes at the “Eighth Annual Walk Around the Block” event were the Collective Action Network panels, made by the Early Care and Education Network. These panels described the extraordinary lengths to which child care educators go to stay in the San Francisco to pursue the job they love.

A profound message on a panel stated:
“We love our jobs! We love teaching children skills they will use all their lives, how to get along and love learning! But I can’t afford to stay! With my experience and education, I’m qualified for higher-paying job!”

Prop C
A June 2018 ballot initiative, Prop C, aims to close the gap of early childhood learning. The event’s speakers included Board of Supervisor Norman Yee, who co-authored Prop C, and Sandra Lee Fewer, a supporter of the measure.

They both expounded their hopes for Prop C to:

  1. Bring high-quality early care and education for families in San Francisco earning up to 200 percent of the Area Median Income AMI.
  2. Clear the existing waitlist that has been growing in San Francisco. Most of the families on the waiting list are at or below the 85 percent AMI.
  3. Increase wages for early care and education providers to ensure a well-trained, stable, quality workforce.
  4. Invest in comprehensive Early Childhood Education (ECE) services that support physical, emotional and cognitive development of children under the age of 6.

The overall message: we can do better for our kids and educators.


Do you think the City of San Francisco should do more to ensure that our youngest children get the early education they need?  We encourage you to learn more about Prop C.

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Story by Children’s Council San Francisco (a Mission Promise Neighborhood partner)

As a hard-working notary public and Spanish translator, Maria Antonieta had dreams of becoming a lawyer. She was attending San Francisco City College and was well on her way to achieving her goal when she became pregnant.

Six months before her son was born, Maria came to Children’s Council. She says, “I loved the facilities at Children’s Council right away, it was very child-friendly and everyone made me feel welcome. But I learned that securing child care was going to be as much of a challenge as finding affordable housing.”

“I wanted to go back to school after the baby was born, but there are not enough child care providers, especially for infants, and the waiting lists are long.” Maria was still on the wait list for child care when her son was born.

With the help of Children’s Council she received a voucher to help cover child care costs. But, she says, “The voucher was not enough to cover the actual cost of care, so I started working part time at San Francisco Homeless Prenatal Program, helping families in the same situation as I was.”

For another six months, she anxiously remained on the wait list for full-time child care, while working part-time and taking classes. “I wanted to pull myself out of this situation, but I was really struggling. I needed time to work and study, and I was always worried about child care.”

Maria’s patience and determination paid off when she received the good news from Children’s Council: a subsidized child care slot had opened up for her son. She was off the wait list. “Being able to have child care continuity allowed me to focus on work and my studies.”

In May, Maria received her paralegal degree from City College, and she has stable housing for her and her son. She says, “Child care and stable housing go hand in hand. When I didn’t have reliable child care, I couldn’t look for housing and put in applications.” Now, she continues to work part-time at SF Homeless Prenatal while pursuing her law degree at San Francisco State University, where she expects to graduate in two years.

And Maria’s son, now almost two years old, is also thriving. She says, “It’s very important for children to be in a loving environment where they can learn and get the stimulation they need. I love my child care provider. I know that my son is getting the kind of care he needs to be healthy, happy and successful.”

She has also become an active participant in child care advocacy through Parent Voices. This past summer Maria spoke before the Board of Supervisors as they debated the merits of increased funding for child care in the city. She told the Board:

“Affordable child care and stable housing strengthens families and makes them more economically secure while also reducing inequality. It will also keep diversity in our city, because when children learn and play together, they are color blind, and they don’t need to know how much their parents make. I hope children grow up in a culture that does not judge them by the color of their skin or by their economic status.” – Maria, working mother

Maria says, “Without Children’s Council, I would not be able to work and go to school. The support I’ve been given has been amazing.”


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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Blogby Early Learning Manager Liz Cortez

The Mission Promise Neighborhood, a cradle-to-college, collective-impact initiative, is rolling out an Early Literacy Campaign for families with children ages birth to fifth grade. With only 32 percent of third-grade students and 43 percent of fifth-grade students reaching proficiency in English Language Arts at Mission District schools, there is much more that needs to be done in our community to prepare students for the transition to middle school, high school and beyond. We know that reading and writing does not begin in kindergarten or first grade; developing language and literacy skills begins at birth through everyday interactions, such as sharing books, telling stories, singing songs and talking to one another. And that is why we are starting early — at birth.

The Early Literacy Campaign builds on the existing early literacy work at schools (preschools and elementary schools) and community-based organizations, such as Tandem, Partners in Early Learning. We are also reaching families with young children that are not yet part of an early care and education setting or an elementary school.

How Mission Promise Neighborhood is improving early literacy

  1. Parents building the capacity of parents. Early literacy workshops for parents are led by parents that have received the Literacy Champions Certification through Tandem. A group of parents and promotoras have been certified through this intensive, three-day capacity-building opportunity. In addition to providing a workshop on early literacy, participants of the workshops will receive books and a literacy-rich environments checklist to support the promotion of literacy at home. Over the next year, eight parents and promotoras will become Certified Literacy Champions through Tandem. They will engage 300 parents in early literacy workshops, plus one-to-one conversations where families will receive books and a literacy rich-environment checklist to support the promotion of literacy at home. Parents will sign a pledge, making a commitment to talk, read and sing with their child at least 15 minutes a day, every day. Parents will also pledge to advocate for more and higher-quality early care and education programs.
  2. Promoting the Talk, Read, Sing campaign. The Mission Promise Neighborhood will be partnering with the San Francisco Public Library to leverage the Talk, Read, Sing Campaign as a means to close the “word gap” for Mission children. Harnessing the power of the campaign, we will promote the use of existing routines to encourage parents to talk, read and sing to their children — the foundation for literacy. At the beginning of the 2017-2018 program year, 400 families at the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s four preschool programs will receive Talk, Read, Sing campaign materials to promote literacy in their home and community.
  3. Scaling parent-education programs. In April, and in partnership with First 5 San Francisco, Mission Promise Neighborhood early learning partners will participate in the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors training. The added staff training will double the amount of families accessing the program by 2018. Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors is the only evidence-based parent education program for Latino parents with children birth to age 5. According to the UC Berkeley Institute of Human Development, this program “empowers them to transform cultural strengths into the tangible tools they need to build solid foundations.” Parents showcase significant increases in their knowledge of language and literacy development, social-emotional development, health development and school preparation.

More families of the Mission Promise Neighborhood have increased the amount of time they are reading to their children and/or encouraging reading outside of school, according to the MPN Neighborhood Survey. In 2016, 77 percent of parents reported reading to their children three or more times a week and 91 percent reported encouraging older children to read outside of school.

Mission Promise Neighborhood is building on this positive trend to ensure that children succeed in school, complete college and have many career options.


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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Blogby MEDA Director of Community Real Estate Karoleen Feng
Contributed to by MEDA Senior Project Manager Elaine Yee, 
Mission Promise Neighborhood Program Manager Liz Cortez and MEDA Financial Capability Coach Teresa Garcia

Most parents know that finding quality care and education for your child is not easy. For immigrant, working families of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, it’s even more challenging, as showcased by the erroneous ICE raid at partner agency Good Samaritan Family Resource Center on Jan. 26. Turns out ICE was actually looking for somebody next door, but they nevertheless created an atmosphere of fear that morning for parents simply dropping off their children.

Finding quality care is particularly tough for those with infants and toddlers, where the demand for affordable quality care greatly outstrips the demand. Securing that care near home would be a dream come true.

For MEDA, early care and education is critical not just for our parents who daily come in through our doors — and Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) partners’ doors. Early care and education is also an important means of livelihood for a significant portion of the women business owners we serve.  For these home-based licensed child care providers, the housing eviction crisis has meant the loss of a home and a business in one fell swoop. We share the City of San Francisco’s vision for early care because it makes perfect academic and economic sense for our families.

Part of the reason for MEDA’s establishment of a Community Real Estate team was to rebuild the pipeline for affordable housing in the Mission and to deepen the community assets in that neighborhood. Being the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood helped MEDA to realize the critical importance of early child development and for each of our 100 percent affordable, family-housing properties that we have been awarded by the City, I have purposely placed such services as part of the programming.

I have also directly advocated that as part of our lead role for the Mission Action Plan 2020, planning code and city incentives be established so that market-rate developers also meet the need for on-site early care and education in the neighborhood.

According to the San Francisco Early Care and Education Needs Assessment for 2012-2013, there are 4,100 children ages zero to five in the Mission. Approximately 2,300 are infants and toddlers (ages zero to two) and 1,800 are of preschool age (ages three to five). There is a huge disparity in the capacity to serve those infants and toddlers: There are 250 licensed family child care and center slots available, leaving 2,050 infants and toddlers without access to a formal licensed program.

The preschool population, on the other hand, has more access to slots. Of the 1,800 preschool-age children, the Mission has the capacity to serve 1,300. November 2016  data from the San Francisco Children’s Council shows that 351 children ages zero to five were waiting for an opportunity to access an early care and education program. The number of children on the list does not include all families that are eligible, just the number of families that are aware of the San Francisco Child Care Connection (SF3C) and continue to stay active on that list. In fact, in 2012, there were 224 available subsides for infants and toddlers in the Mission, but the number of eligible families was just 853 (earnings below 70 percent of the State Median Income). The difference in unmet need for eligible children was 629 (74 percent).

Strategies at 2060 Folsom and 1990 Folsom
The first 100 percent affordable-housing development that was awarded to MEDA by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) was 2060 Folsom, which will offer 127 units for families, including 20 percent set aside for transitional-aged youth.

As part of our proposal with our co-developer Chinatown CDC, I intentionally incorporated MPN’s vision of taking Mission children and youth on a cradle-to-college-to-career continuum. The plan was to couple services from Mission Neighborhood Center’s zero to three programs with Good Samaritan Family Resource Center’s pre-K work — a seamless bridge for the creation of a zero five child development center. The goal is eight infant, 12 toddler and 24 pre-school slots. To best meet these two agencies’ requirements to maximize services, MEDA staff has been collaborating carefully with these partners so that their needs will be met before ever coming into the building.

Knowing that we need more slots than the facility-based care could provide, and in keeping with MEDA’s work supporting child care businesses, we have designed a pair of two-bedroom residential units for a combination home-work space which will open out to a private courtyard for these estimated six to 12 kids.

Jamestown Community Center, a longtime provider of after-school programs, will also be moving its headquarters to the ground floor of the housing. PODER, which will also relocate its offices to the site, offers a youth component. This organization fought long and hard for the brand-new park that will anchor the 260 Folsom development.

Mirroring the strategy at 2060 Folsom, MEDA later submitted its RFP for nearby 143-unit 1990 Folsom, with the idea of incorporating early care and education services also part of the proposal. MOHCD awarded MEDA this project in September 2016.

The property at 1990 Folsom addresses the neighborhood’s substantive mismatch between supply and demand by dedicating approximately 3,000 square feet of space at the ground floor for a child-development center to be jointly managed by Mission Neighborhood Centers and Good Samaritan Family Resource Center. Additionally, there will once again be two units set aside for tenants running a childcare business, for a combined total of six to 12 children.

Looking forward
As 2017 begins, my Community Real Estate team will continue to strategize with MEDA’s Business Development team, MPN staff and partners, as a means to provide updates from various areas of expertise and then shape the future development of early care and education facilities. We are hoping to place home-based providers in some of our smaller apartment buildings acquired through the Small Sites Program, so that they can be embedded in the community.

Also, MEDA aims to align with the vision of San Francisco’s Office of Early Care and Education (OECE), created in 2012 and headed by Director September Jarrett. Community Real Estate and MPN have been having discussions with OECE to make sure that all developments are in synch with the agency’s goal, which is as follows:

OCEC is charged with aligning and coordinating federal, state and local funding streams to improve access to high quality early care and education for children zero to five, to address the needs of the early care and education workforce, and to build early care and education system capacity.

Topics of discussion include learning more about lease-up process for child care providers and more. It’s all about ironing out the process.

I know this is essential as we move forward to ensure that all Mission children have access to early learning/child care programs.


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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When Mission Promise Neighborhood lead agency MEDA was looking for honorees for its ¡VIVA MEDA! 43rd Anniversary Celebration slated for October 12, Executive Director Sam Ruiz of Mission Neighborhood Centers (MNC) immediately came to mind. MNC’s numbers for 2015-2016 are quite impressive, with 54 infants and toddlers receiving Early Head Start and 387 preschool children receiving Head Start services throughout the community-based organization’s 11 sites in San Francisco. Ruiz showcases the vision and leadership needed to drive home the equity agenda in San Francisco, thereby contributing to the success of the Mission Promise Neighborhood partnership.

That vision has most recently translated to Centro de Alegría, a Spanish bilingual preschool center located at 1245 Alabama Street. The former St. Peter’s convent – vacant for two decades — was converted into a brand-new preschool that opened this month, answering the prayers of many Mission parents. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a now-retired nun who had resided at the convent showed up for the celebration, expressing her joy that the church’s mission to serve children was now being fulfilled by Centro de Alegría.

The idea was to centralize MNC’s critical early care and education and social services for low-income families. MNC now offers three classrooms to serve 88 neighborhood children: two double session part days for 68 children; and a third classroom that will support 20 children for the full day with a tuition/subsidized combination strategy. Centro de Alegría consolidates two former MNC locations, one on Precita Avenue and the other at Harrison and 24th streets.

Centro de Alegría, which means Joy Center, will even house staff offices, rooms for confidential case management and ample outdoor space designed to utilize the natural world as a learning tool.

“Centro de Alegría was a two-year labor of love. The entire first floor of the convent had to be gutted. The result is a state-of-the-art facility for our familias — about 85 percent immigrants seeking a better life,” explains MNC Division Director of Children’s Services Dolores Terrazas. MNC kept the chapel for the priests, now next-door neighbors.

Centro de Alegría was made possible by a variety of funders, including the Office of Head Start Region IX, Low Income Investment Fund, Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the Herbst Foundation, Tides Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, the Mimi and Peter Haas Family Fund, Dignity Health and CPMC/Sutter Health.

These funders lent their support because they knew of the major need for such a comprehensive center in the Mission, and that MNC has a proven track record of almost six decades of strengthening families. Liz Cortez, Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Manager states, “There is an unmet need for services in our community, this is the difference between the amount of children that would qualify for subsidized care and the actual capacity in the community to serve these children.” In 2012, for example, there were 629 infants and toddlers that qualified for subsidized care but there was no capacity to serve them. Currently, the SF3C or city-wide centralized eligibility list for families that qualify for a subsidy shows 350 children ages 0-5 waiting for early care and education services in the Mission.

MNC’s goal is that Centro de Alegría will provide the means to ensuring that children from habitually under-resourced communities enter kindergarten on a level playing field with kids from more affluent neighborhoods. Employing the two-generation approach that is an integral piece of the work model of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, the new preschool will offer family resources running the gamut from computer classes to an on-site therapist.

“Our families are looking for an environment that’s culturally and linguistically appropriate. Centro de Alegría is that place,” states an exuberant Terrazas.

Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Manager Liz Cortez knows of the need for such early care and education services. Cortez explains, “MNC has been growing their programs to meet the needs of families with young children. For example, the MNC Early Head Start program that serves infants and toddlers and their families has grown from three slots in 2006 to 66 slots in 2016. This is a 2,100-percent growth rate in the last 10 years. Amazing.”

This kind of growth in services for families with young children could not have happened without the committed leadership of MNC staff and the funders that support this work. Families agree that this is a place that supports them to achieve their dreams: In a 2015 exit survey of families served, 99 percent reported satisfaction with MNC programs and services.

Now that’s a valuable community asset!


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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Interview with: Jassy Grewal
Program: Early Learning

Why did you decide to volunteer with the Mission Promise Neighborhood?
I decided to volunteer with Mission Promise Neighborhood through LEE’s Summer Policy and Advocacy Fellowship. I chose to work with Mission Promise Neighborhood because I wanted to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the education system in San Francisco after finishing my first year of teaching in a middle school. I really wanted to work with the Early Learning issues because I wanted that hands-on experience to start to understand why the majority of my students were entering middle school with large math and literacy gaps.

What projects have you worked on as a volunteer for the Mission Promise Neighborhood?
As a volunteer, I have worked on several projects with Early Learning. The project that stands out to me the most would be redesigning the Early Learning Framework to help inform and build alignment across all partners on what our goals are for the Mission District. This framework will be used by Mission Promise Neighborhood partners to begin discussing solutions around some of the problems that the Mission faces, such as infant-toddler slots, early learning program subsidies and critical transitions from preschool to kindergarten.

What do you like best about volunteering with Mission Promise Neighborhood?
I really enjoyed my time working with the Mission Promise Neighborhood this summer; the individuals and their passion for improving educational inequality in the Mission District of San Francisco really helped to make this an unforgettable experience.

What have you learned from your volunteer experience?
I have been able to learn more about the Mission District and the struggles that our youngest students and their families face on a day-to-day basis. I have been able to gain a more in-depth knowledge around the problems the Early Learning community faces and how to address those problems through policy and advocacy work.

Tell us something we may not know about you. Any interesting facts you’d like to share about your life?
I found my way into education issues and policy because I was also a first-generation English language learner. My family and I had a hard time navigating the education system in California and were really thankful for family, friends, and amazing teachers who were able to offer us assistance and resources. I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school and college in the United States, and I hope one day to improve the education system for children like me so that they are able to access the resources and experiences I was able to growing up.

When I am not working on education issues, I enjoy spending my time traveling and hiking with family and friends. I have been to three different continents and hope to one day be able to travel to all seven. I am a huge elephant enthusiast and am currently planning my next trip to volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.


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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The “Week of the Young Child” — an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children — commemorates early learning, young children, their teachers, partners, families and community members. This year’s dates are April 10-16.

Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Family Success Coach Ada Alvarado celebrates young children every week, acting as a connector to free services for kids ages 0-5 and their families. One of the goals of the Mission Promise Neighborhood is to inform families with young children of the connection between quality early care and education (child care and preschool) and school readiness. Mission Promise Neighborhood encourages more families to enroll their children in high-quality early care and education programs, and to be informed about the resources that are available to promote school readiness with their little ones.

As a country, we have become more aware of the importance of healthy development,high-quality early education and school readiness and this is a message that gets shared daily with the community in the Mission. Based on data collected in 2014 for the Mission Promise Neighborhood Survey, 29.5 percent of the families with a child 0-5 reported that their child attended a formal center-based or home-based program. We know that there are higher numbers of children ages 3 to 5 that are attending a pre-K program; the bigger challenge is the infant-toddler population. The Mission Promise Neighborhood community is working to address this challenge. An example of this is the Mission Neighborhood Centers Early Head Start and Head Start program. “They are responding to the need by increasing their infant-toddler slots,” says Liz Cortez, Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Manager.

There are many resources for families in San Francisco. For example, San Francisco is a leader in universal preschool, or Preschool For All (PFA), which aims to expand preschool access and improve preschool program quality for all 4-year-old children residing within San Francisco County. Depending on whether the school is private or public, the costs are partially or completely covered by First 5 San Francisco.

In addition to formal programming, there are many resources available for families with young children. Funded through First 5 SF, the Department of Children, Youth and their Families, and the Human Services Agency, every neighborhood has a Family Resource Center (FRC), where families can access child development and family development resources. In the Mission, there are four FRCs: Felton-FSA; Good SamaritanHomeless Prenatal; and Instituto Familiar de la Raza. Three of the four organizations are Mission Promise Neighborhood partners. Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Family Success Coach Ada Alvarez is placed at two of these FRCs, where she provides a variety of services, but mostly focuses on connecting families to four main services of immigration, housing, workforce, and early care and education resources.

Ada Inside Alvarado, a former preschool teacher, brings vast experience to her work and is very passionate about informing families in the Mission about the many resources and opportunities for young children and families. She does this by connecting with families in various ways: by helping families to place their children on the San Francisco Child Care Connection (SF3C), an online system that uses a single application for families seeking subsidized care, by providing workshops, and by attending events that promote early literacy. A good example of this is a recent workshop she helped to coordinate with Good Samaritan staff on the importance of a preschool experience and how families can access the variety of programs that are available (photo). They partnered with two other Mission Promise Neighborhood partners — the SFUSD Early Education Department and Mission Neighborhood Centers Early Head Start/Head Start — to present to a group of parents on March 23.

A high-quality preschool experience can lead to readiness at kinder, critical to a child’s later academic success. Alvarado explains, “It is expected that a kindergartener will understand things such as being able to identify letters, numbers and shapes. If that is not the case, a child is already behind on Day One.”

Then there are social skills, with conflict resolution and being able to follow a routine expected upon enrollment in kindergarten.

Continues Alvarado, “Parents do not always have the tools necessary to get their child on the right track, especially if they are immigrants with circumstances that translated to them not being able to achieve a high education level in their homeland, or if they do not speak English well.” Good Samaritan provides ESL classes to many families, so they focused on this group of immigrant families to impart the importance of preschool.

Alvarado has come to realize that the families with whom she works experience many barriers in accessing high-quality early care and education programs in the Mission. Some of the barriers are the lack of infant-toddler capacity compared to the number/need of children under 4 years of age, families’ comfort level with accessing services, and the cost of high-quality care for children that do not qualify for a subsidy. Early Head Start/Head Start, for example, requires a family to meet the Federal Poverty Level Income Guidelines. For 2016, a family of three would need to make under $20,160 to qualify.

A high-quality preschool experience is critical to school readiness, and early care and education providers in the Mission are working hard to provide the highest quality possible to the children in their programs. Data on the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for Mission Promise Neighborhood sites from 2013 to 2015 shows a higher level of overall quality at 4.1, compared to the rest of the City’s 3.5 rating. (Data source: First 5SF.)

As “Week of the Young Child” is celebrated in the Mission Promise Neighborhood, let’s honor all of the teachers, partners, families and community members that better children’s lives every day, meeting challenges and creating impact.


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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