In December 2012, MEDA worked with city agencies and 25 neighborhood partners to replicate New York’s successful Harlem Children’s Zone in the Mission District of San Francisco. The goal of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is to guide students on a cradle-to-college-to-career continuum, while helping their families achieve economic success.

Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya (photo, lower right) is now spearheading this innovative initiative.

What background do you bring to leading the Mission Promise Neighborhood?
I’m a third-generation Bay Area native who grew up in one of California’s largest Section 8 housing complexes. After dropping out of my predominantly Latino high school, I went to community college, then transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where I earned a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in Public Policy. I dedicated my life to helping transform lives the way my life was transformed. The Promise Neighborhood initiative is the embodiment of why I went to college: to help low-income families and communities of color maximize their extraordinary capacity to survive and thrive.

Over the past two decades, I’ve worked with elected officials, administrators and community leaders on data-driven, interagency collaboratives focused on improving program results in low-income communities, as well as on equitable development efforts resulting in affordable housing, below-market retail space and local-hire goals. My positions included director of administrative services for the Alameda County Public Health Department, executive director of Youth Radio and chief of staff for an Oakland city councilmember.

What is the greatest challenge of the Mission Promise Neighborhood?
The greatest challenge of the Mission Promise Neighborhood is that we are trying to solve a problem that no single organization can solve on its own — the challenge of getting every kid in the neighborhood to graduate prepared for college or career. Our collective impact approach of working with partners to provide wraparound services requires a great deal of trust between partner organizations, data sharing, coordination and communication. An additional challenge is that we’re doing all of this while also attempting to prevent these students from being displaced by the massive economic forces reshaping the face of San Francisco, and national policies threatening some of our immigrant families. Lastly, our initial federal grant is in its sunset phase; although we will be applying for an extension grant when it is released in the next few months, this award is not guaranteed. Our challenges are many, but we have the team, partners and infrastructure to meet these challenges.

What are the greatest successes of the Mission Promise Neighborhood to date?
A lot of people say they are working on collective impact, but few are pulling it off. The partners of the Mission Promise Neighborhood are pulling it off — collaborating and building relationships across silos and service system barriers, and using a common database to share information and provide wraparound services. In addition, MPN is also working with families to help them develop the assets to control their destinies, and preserving and building affordable housing to keep families in place and stabilize our community.

The high school graduation results are in: Rates increased dramatically for Latino and African American students. Over the five years of the MPN partnership, Latino graduation rates increased from 62 percent to 88 percent at John O’Connell High School, and African American graduation rates went from 46 percent to 93 percent.

It’s always going to be difficult to take direct credit for outcomes in a collective impact approach. The greatest success may be the relationships built among providers — the schools, the community agencies — and the buy-in to use a common referral system and share data.

MPN created a referral tool for partners to use to provide wraparound services to students and their families. After 2.5 years of collecting referral data (January 2014-August 2017), the MPN partners generated 4,389 referrals and impacted 2,303 individual families. (Read data brief.)

MPN has also built an awesome team. Our family success coaches have gotten to know students, families and school principals, and are responsible for making the referrals to community partners. Combined with our administrative and evaluation staff, this forms the backbone of the collective impact work. I’ve heard it said that with the right team you can accomplish anything. I feel that way with this team.

What is your vision for Mission Promise Neighborhood for 2018 and beyond?
The Mission District is one of the greatest neighborhoods in San Francisco, which itself is one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s an honor for San Francisco to host a flagship initiative such as a Promise Neighborhood. San Francisco has an opportunity now to decide what the next version of its Promise Neighborhood will look like. My vision is that we will double down on the collective impact infrastructure built by MPN, build on the relationships developed with partners, and expand services to more students and their families. This vision is not mine alone; it was developed by the MPN partners in a sustainability planning session last summer. Our vision is that we will continue sharing data across agencies as a means to make program decisions, while holding ourselves accountable to measured results, all framed by the agreement that we are responsible for each other’s children. In addition, we will strive to be guided by authentic community voice, and strengthen the ties of MPN to our broader MEDA asset building, affordable housing and parent leadership work. It’s an exciting time.

In my first four weeks, I’ve met dozens of partners, and I’ve visited all four of our Promise Neighborhood campuses: John O’Connell High School, Everett Middle School, and Bryant and César Chávez elementary schools. Our schools are the centers of our community, the fulcrum of our collaboration and the best places to meet our young people and their families. There is a lot that happens before children even enter school, so I’ve also toured the Felton Family Development Center, one of our early learning partners. This outreach will continue throughout the next few months, culminating in a report this spring sharing the considerable accomplishments of our collaborative over the past years, and where we hope to go from here, together. Please email if you’d like to arrange a meeting with me.

There is so much going on in a Promise Neighborhood, so many moving parts, that communication is key. Our team will be redoubling our efforts in using this blog to provide you with regular updates on the great work that our schools and partners are doing.


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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As the aim of the Mission Promise Neighborhood is family economic success translating to student achievement, the 20+ partner agencies are always collaborating to devise ways to best serve families. This can mean bringing services directly into the quartet of Mission schools served by the initiative.

One idea for this fall was to tackle immigration issues head-on. This meant La Raza Centro Legal — the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s trusted legal partner — was chosen to lead immigration “mythbuster” information sessions. This community-based organization has a mission to “empower Latino, immigrant and low-income communities of San Francisco to advocate for their civil and human rights.” An advantage of having La Raza Centro Legal take part is that families are given the opportunity to sign up for consultations right on the spot and can have their questions answered. With 85 percent of respondents claiming they were foreign born when asked during the Spring 2016 Mission Promise Neighborhood survey, the need for such information sessions is great.

“We know it’s really important to combat the misinformation in the community. We especially don’t want our families to be taken advantage of based on their fear. We don’t want them going to notarios, who charge fees and may not be able to provide our families the services they need,” explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C.

Starting a few weeks back through mid-November, the immigration workshops will be held at the schools, at times convenient for parents’ schedules.

Martínez concludes, “This is another example of the the quick response we bring to the community as needs arise. That’s an integral piece of the work of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.”


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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Most of us have fond memories of reading in the library as a youngster, and with February designated as “National Library Lovers’ Month,” this is the perfect time to reflect on the importance of reading in everyone’s lives. “National Library Lovers’ Month” is a celebration of school, public and private libraries of all types.

At Bryant Elementary School — one of two elementary schools in the Mission Promise Neighborhood — Family Success Coach Dannhae Herrera-Wilson (photo, center) knows that not all Mission Promise Neighborhood families have the tools to foster reading in the home.

“It’s vital that parents take an active role by reading to their children at a young age. This creates a love of books, and simultaneously builds language skills. This is especially important for children from immigrant families, of which there are many in the Mission Promise Neighborhood,” explains Herrera-Wilson.

As part of “National Library Lovers’ Month,” Herrera-Wilson recently brought a group of parents to the San Francisco Main Library.

None of the parents had ever set foot in this monumental building near City Hall at the Civic Center — or any library at all. With a collection of over 3.5 million books, this place can seem daunting. That’s why Herrera-Wilson set up the excursion, gave a tour and ensured parents obtained library cards.

AhmedTour participants included Safa, a native of Yemen, a country she explained  has no libraries for children. Safa applied for a library card, as did her two children. The oldest, her son Ahmed (pictured with his new library card), attends Bryant Elementary School. Safa is looking to start ESL classes at City College.

MaryRose, originally from the Philippines, was also in attendance. MaryRose’s daughter, an ardent reader named Aubry, attends Bryant Elementary. The youngest daughter, 4-year-old Nikki, is looking to start Transitional Kindergarten. “This is a great place. Thank you for bringing us here!” stated MaryRose.

Another parent taken to the library was Luis, originally from Guatemala. The youngest of six children, Luis had only made it as far as third grade because to needed to work the land as a way to help his family survive. Luis’ daughter attends Bryant Elementary. He explained why he took this trip as follows: “I want to get my library card so that I can get books in Spanish and read to my daughter, and she can read books in English to me. I feel like I am learning, just like her. I plan to return with my two children and make it a family experience.”

Herrera-Wilson also made sure to avail the parents of the venue’s growing eLibrary, especially eLearning materials that can assist students. This ties into Making Connections, a digital literacy course for parents that teaches how to use myON, an online reading platform for students. Last fall, the Mission Promise Neighborhood was asked to partner with SFUSD to lead the Making Connections program. Ana Avilez, a mother to two young children of her own, now spearheads this initiative, bridging the eLearning divide for Mission Promise Neighborhood families. Ana builds courses for parents and goes directly into schools to provide access to supplementary tools for the home, so that all students can continue building their literary skills.

Such work is vital, with the statistics showcasing the need for families. At an early age, only 8.6 percent of 3-year-olds in the Mission Promise Neighborhood meet Desired Results Development Profile (DRDP) standards for English-language ability. Once in elementary school, 15 percent of third-grade students (compared to 48 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in English-language arts, while 22 percent of fifth-grade students (compared to 55 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in the same category.

Today’s excursion was a step in the right direction, Herrera-Wilson acting as a connector to resources, as she does every day. As with any movement, those initial steps can lead to much bigger things, especially as participants go back in the community and tell of their experience.

Summing up why this outing was so important to Mission Promise Neighborhood families, Herrera-Wilson, a first-generation immigrant from Nicaragua, stated, “My desire to advocate for, empower and work with low-income families, immigrant families and multicultural families is fueled by my strong conviction that access to education is a human right regardless of race, or economic or legal status. I particularly enjoy working with women and children because I witness their vulnerability and at the same time recognize their potential, which can be beyond their imagination.”


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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An initial look at John O’Connell High School, nestled in the heart of San Francisco’s vibrant Mission District, reveals an inviting atmosphere and evidence of plenty of forward-thinking education ideas being put into play for its over 400 students. This innovative school, under the auspices of Principal Mark Alvarado, is the sole high school for the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), a federal initiative to help families succeed so that students achieve.

As an MPN school, O’Connell gets many benefits. These include having a community school coordinator, a family success coach acting as a connector to services, Wellness Center staff and a quality after-school program.

Then there are school partnerships. O’Connell is meeting student needs because of internal expertise and the succor of a community of dedicated partners: Compass Education Group; CUESA Schoolyard to Market; FACES for the Future; Generation Citizen; JCYC Upward Bound; JVS (Jewish Vocational Services); the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA); Mission Graduates; Tech21
; UCSF EAOP; Urban Services YMCA; Youth Arts Exchange; and Youth Speaks.

These are the four primary ways student needs at being met:

Safe and supportive environment
O’Connell is a small community school. Its 6:1 student-to-staff ratio demonstrates a commitment to developing strong relationships with students and the adult community. Teachers stay with students for two academic years at a time to personalize learning.

High expectations for students
O’Connell’s student learning outcomes are clearly defined. Students are also encouraged to pursue AP and honors courses, plus concurrent enrollment in City College of San Francisco. O’Connell’s Spanish Immersion program develops high levels of English and Spanish proficiency and literacy, academic competency and multicultural understanding.

Academic excellence
O’Connell’s curriculum prepares students for the future. Students learn through integrated curriculum, project-based learning and group work. Juniors and seniors solve real-world problems through the lab of their choice: Health Behavioral Sciences; Environmental Technology; Building, Construction and Trades; or Culinary Entrepreneurship.

College and career readiness
Students engage in college and career readiness throughout the day. Teachers collaborate with industry professionals in the classroom. Students receive direct support and opportunities from student success coaches, college and career counselors, and Career Technical Education teachers.

Jamie A., a senior at O’Connell, knows she has been prepared for a bright future. She describes her typical day as follows:

“I spend two hours per day in my Culinary Entrepreneurship Lab. I’m an advisor in that, too, so I help with prom and dances, things like that, and the rest of my day is spent in chemistry, statistics, English … the usual classes. During lunch, I go to clubs: Tuesday is Gay-Straight Alliance; Thursday is the Mission Graduates Latino Club, and sometimes I meet with the Book Lovers.

“I check in with my two mentors each week. One is the Young Life area director. The other is a software engineer at Google who I met through Girls Who Code, which I did because the job council at O’Connell got me an internship at Facebook, so I got really interested in engineering. I’m applying to college now and hoping to go to UC Irvine because it’s the only UC with a Computer Science School; otherwise, I’ll probably go to a program at a smaller private school. Yeah, I guess I do a lot!”

A typical day … at a school that is anything but typical. That’s John O’Connell.

Contact information:
John O’Connell High School, 2355 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.


Rebeca Flores, Parent Liaison, Room 103
(415) 695-5470 ext. 1004
Email Rebeca.


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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MPN-Streetside Stories at Everett-Blog 120815

Imagine being new to this country … as an 11-year-old.  You need to learn the language. You need the learn the culture. You need to just learn, period. To make this process interactive and fun, Streetside Stories and classroom teachers have partnered up to get creative.

On Tuesday at Everett Middle School, 6th-graders who are newcomers to the U.S. were excitedly working on transforming  narratives into digital form as a science project in Ms. Bautista’s English Language Development (ELD) Science class. A six week, step-by-step process fosters the creation of the final product: a personalized ebook titled “How Do We Survive in our World?” Students must write a narrative, design a storyboard, create images, record voiceovers and edit the final cut.

Ms. Bautista co-developed the curriculum with Streetside Stories’ Van Nguyen-Stone (photo, top). Students develop literacy and arts skills, and begin to close the digital divide. For more than a decade, Nguyen-Stone’s work has encompassed independent filmmaking, complemented by teaching video production for nonprofit organizations.

This innovative duo designed a true learning experience. For example, in the creation of their author page, the students learned a few of the eight parts of speech, as they were asked to fill in the blanks for such questions as “I would describe myself as (adjective),” “I like to (verb)” and “(Noun) inspires me.”

Through their collaboration they also cultivate young people’s voices, using compelling storytelling that values diversity and builds community. Streetside Stories, a valued Mission Promise Neighborhood partner, is up to this challenge and has been succeeding.

A recent National Endowment for the Arts study found that African American, Latino and low-income youth receive significantly less arts education than white and higher-income youth. Streetside Stories is working to close this gap. Their core programs comprise innovative arts workshops that improve literacy via the integration of tech. The programs are aligned with state Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) standards per the California State Board of Education, as developed by the Instructional Quality Commission.

Streetside Stories’ programs are also aligned to Common Core language arts standards for the state of California. While Common Core guides what students need to know and be able to do, the curriculum defines how students will learn it and is designed by school districts and teachers.

Students in Ms. Bautista’s class will share their final work with peers, families and community members on December 17th. At this event, Everett’s first iBook library of student’s ebooks will be displayed. The middle schoolers will read from their ebooks and describe their creative process via a Q & A session.

MPN-Laura Andersen at Everett 120815Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) Education Manager Laura Andersen (photo, left) was on hand today to watch this project come to life. A former kindergarten teacher, Andersen enjoyed helping students practice their oral language skills and think through their ebook content.

Explaining the importance of today’s event, Andersen highlighted the teacher collaboration: “Teaching ELD classes can be challenging; usually there is one fluent English-speaking teacher and twenty students who are trying to learn the language. This model leverages co-teaching to integrate technology with language skills, creativity and science to motivate students. These MPN students are in great hands with Ms. Bautista and Streetside Stories.”

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Shared Database-Blog

“The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.”
–Arthur C. Nielsen, market researcher and founder of ACNielsen

The need and challenge
Michelle Reiss-Top (photo, top right) definitely understands the aforementioned quote about data. MEDA’s technology and data systems manager was tasked with implementing and optimizing Salesforce internally–a Herculean task by itself. Imagine then being asked to do so for a cadre of neighborhood partners.

Good thing Reiss-Top showcases over 12 years experience implementing systems and making processes more efficient, user friendly and economical. This is complemented by her experience in the nonprofit and human services arena, with a focus on bringing innovative technology to the service providers of San Francisco’s Mission District.

The latest challenge for the Salesforce expert was to bridge the data-collection gap among service providers of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), a citywide community partnership with the goal of ensuring that every Mission District family is economically prosperous, and that every child succeeds in school and graduates from college. MEDA serves as lead agency of this federal initiative.

Reiss-Top was aware that there was no cookie-cutter application for data sharing among 11 MPN partners. MEDA Evaluator Elisa Baeza had the laborious assignment of standardizing partner data she collected. These data were in Excel files, but no style guide had ever been created, leading to fellow MEDA Evaluator Severin Saenz having to always clean up files for consistency (e.g., dates being entered in a consistent manner). The information would then be sent to the U.S. Department of Education, with the biggest drawback being that partners would never see what other organizations were doing and which clients they were jointly serving.

The outcome
The good news is that with the completion of this intensive, four-month project, consistent data collection has become a reality.

The other good news is that there are now important insights provided by these partner data that have been collected. Take the case of MPN partner Mission Graduates, which assists high schoolers in being college ready via mentorships. The organization can now see if the student’s parents have or have not accessed other neighborhood services relating to family economic success.

On a grand scale, information can now be garnered on the status of approximately 600 MPN families. The MPN team can now also know how many clients are being served by multiple agencies, plus how much time these families are spending accessing various services. Later, there will be matching of these data with students’ school outcomes. There are built-in security measures to protect client confidentiality.

There had some initial forays into the world of data sharing among partners. Explains Reiss-Top of the lessons learned from these attempts: “The MEDA evaluation team learned some valuable lessons. The first thing we did was develop a questionnaire for partners to learn the data-collecting reality at each organization. We asked what’s missing and what would add value. This was imperative.”

Each partner’s data coordinator receives training at MEDA. The initial training was held last Thursday in Plaza Adelante’s computer lab. Training topics include: avoiding duplicate records; quickly replicating service records; a holistic view of a household’s services and needs; reports, dashboards and ways to request more analysis and support.

As a reference tool, Reiss-Top has created a comprehensive, 44-page manual. There will later be a one-on-one training from a MEDA evaluation team member at the partner’s office, using that organization’s data.

“MPN’s hope is that each organization will find synergy with a number of partners. We have 100 community member licenses for partner users of different types. A ‘light’ user, like an executive director, can access reports. A program manager can quickly communicate with the community to share resources or expertise. This is a powerful tool. The partners at our first demo clapped when they saw their services and clients on a dashboard!” concludes an enthusiastic Reiss-Top.

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Support for Families-BlogOn a nondescript stretch of Mission Street—straddling the trendier Mission, Castro and SoMa districts—is the location of the offices of Support for Families of Children with Disabilities (SFF). While this area showcases little of the historic charm for which San Francisco is renowned, inside 1663 Mission, an elevator ride away on the seventh floor, some history of a different sort is being made daily.

A pioneering concept of a community of support is being built by SFF–client by client–with families helping each other become effective advocates for their children with special needs.

JoAnna Van Brusselen (photo right), came to SFF as a client a few years back, later being groomed to work at this nonprofit that is a vital partner of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN). JoAnna’s background in social services in the Mission made her a natural fit. Success has definitely been achieved over the past two years, with 45 Spanish-speaking clients turned mentors under JoAnna’s auspices.

How do clients turn into mentors? It’s actually an integral facet of SFF’s model: a new client comes to the nonprofit to obtain information and education about their child’s special needs and enlist support for themselves; as they learn and gain experience, many want to “pay it forward” by becoming a mentor to other parents new to the program. More than 130 parents and family members have completed SFF’s comprehensive training to become “Parent Mentors.”

Take the case of Gloria Diaz Galicia (photo left), a doting mother of three living in San Francisco’s Excelsior District, who came through the welcoming doors of SFF two years ago when her oldest son, then five, was diagnosed as having language delays. Gloria knew that her husband’s father had not spoken until he was seven years of age, so there was a possible genetic element; however, the root of the problem was secondary to immediately bettering her son’s academic experience.

Gloria needed help. Help on how to advocate for her son. Help in learning how to use the correct terms to garner that assistance for her child.

After seeking such help in various locales, with little success, a friend counseled Gloria to come to SFF.

That’s where JoAnna stepped in. She explains, “At Support for Families, we lend support. The staff works to help the parent learn how to stand up for their child’s rights.”

These rights are defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that ensures access to vital educational services for children with disabilities. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to the millions of infants, toddlers, children and youths with disabilities and special needs.

Once Gloria was taught how to speak on behalf of her son, becoming his staunchest advocate, the youngster started to do better in school. He is now in the second grade and is on an upward trajectory.

The need for SFF remains for Gloria, as her youngest son was recently determined to also having language delays. This diagnosis was made when the youngster participated in an Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) screening, which Support for Families conducts at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC), another MPN partner.

While JoAnna is gladly prepared to offer Gloria assistance again, the latter is starting at a much better point, with knowledge of how to deal with the issues in front of her.

Sums up an enthusiastic Gloria, “Support for Families has been amazing. They truly help parents who don’t know their children’s rights. The ‘Parent Mentor Program’ provides support on both sides. It continues to help me.”

SFF continues to build a community of support—one that has kept growing day by day over the past 32 years. It’s history in the making.









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Mission Head Start Image BlogDolores Terrazas speaks with pride of her dedicated staff of 90 that has made Mission Head Start a mainstay for San Francisco’s Latino community for over 40 years, myriad young lives positively affected over that time.

Dolores Terrazas“I enjoy the wonder of experiences of children who have a voice,” profoundly exclaims the Mission native, whose career has showcased a well-honed focus on early education. “I see Mission Head Start as a catalyst for a child’s success.”

So started an hour-long interview with the engrossing, two-year Division Director, Children Services–a visionary of a nonprofit that serves as a vital partner of the Mission Promise Neighborhood. Located at 362 Capp Street, just a stone’s throw away from MEDA’s Plaza Adelante, Mission Head Start/Early Head Start is part of Mission Neighborhood Centers (MNC). Executive Directive Santiago “Sam” Ruiz spearheads the work of the organization.

MNC offers its services to a trio of vulnerable age groups: zero to five; youths; and seniors. Mission Head Start’s vital services–offered to an under-resourced, mostly Latino clientele–are offered at ten facilities, seven of which are located in the Mission zip code of 94110 and all of which offer bilingual staff. Despite a recent demographic shift, with Latinos compelled to move from the ever-pricey Mission, many of the agency’s 400+ clients come back out of familiarity (48 of these 400+ are part of a recent surge in clients).

Liz Cortez, MEDA’s Early Learning Manager, knows all too well the important work of MNC. She explains the need as follows: “Mission Neighborhood Center-Head Start is a critical partner for MPN. They offer early care and education services to the majority of families with young children in the Mission. They are on the frontline, working every day to assure that every child in their care enters school ready to learn.”

The long-term vision of Mission Head Start recently overcame a major obstacle, as grantee San Francisco State University was no longer in the picture. This lead to Mission Head Start having to apply for the grant on its own—a new experience.

The great news? A five-year, federal grant was successfully garnered by the agency, for reasons ranging from excellent grant writers and systems being in place to innovation and long-term staff. (Half of Mission Head Start’s staff has been intact for over a decade, rare in a world where job skipping seems to have become the norm.)

With the organization’s eyes on the prize, September is seeing the advent of new programs to further better the trajectory of school readiness. One novel program will include home-based services that will be coupled with the already-existing hub services, the latter to ensure a proper socialization experience still occurs.

Continues MEDA’s Cortez, “I’m very excited about the new Early Head Start home-based model. It will offer families with infants and toddlers ideas for how to turn their home into a learning environment and, more importantly, it will promote the parent as the child’s first teacher. It will also connect families that are not connected to formal care with other families through socialization experiences. This will mutually benefit the children and the families.”

Also innovative is a new “push-in model,” whereby a therapist from the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) will be housed at Mission Head Start’s main facility to provide therapeutic services for children. This centralized therapeutic experience often took parents and children on buses across town. Those days are over, much to the relief of the community’s families.

“Working with SFUSD is integral to success. Half of our children transition to kindergarten in any given year,” explains Terrazas. “Mission Head Start offers family field trips to elementary schools and workshops on kindergarten readiness. All are key to success.”

Success comes almost daily, with full-time enrollment from 8am-5:30pm for 246 days a year. Part-time is offered for half a day for 128 days. Eligibility is based on federal poverty guidelines, with the parent needing to be employed or attending school for their child to be eligible for full-time enrollment. Filling a need for having children in a welcoming atmosphere provides emotional support that is paramount to logistical support.

Exemplifying the need in the community was the story of Carmen. She brought a number of her eight children to Mission Head Start over the years. At first, the client barely mouthed, “Hola” when dropping off and picking up her children. Staff knew they would have to work hard at gaining Carmen’s trust. Being from a high-needs family, the challenge was great. The Mission Head Start staff was not daunted by the challenge.

With nurturing and compassion, the benefit has been reaped: Carmen now engages with staff, realizing that the site supervisor never judged her. Carmen not only feels supported at the center; she also feels supported by school staff. Success has been achieved on many levels.

With hundreds of other Carmens to serve, the team at Mission Head Start is always ready for a new day, prepared to meet any challenges they may face as they help the Mission community however possible.


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Backpack-Preview-Image-BlogA sweet eight-year-old approached a volunteer from Target, the awaiting youngster being handed the first of 2,000 free backpacks the company had generously donated to Mission District schoolchildren.

The child’s face was aglow as she rifled through the supplies in the backpack–her backpack.

Gracias. Thank you,” the grateful child sheepishly stated, cognizant that she was now prepared for the upcoming school year.

The student’s parent, who asked to remain nameless because of the dire financial situation that led her to be one of the first in line at John O’Connell High School for today’s free event, was equally grateful. She had arrived at 7:30am for the 10am event, just to ensure her daughter had what she needed to achieve this upcoming school year.

Gracias por la mochila. Muchas gracias,” echoed the mother as she thanked the volunteer for the free backpack, and then grasped her daughter’s hand as they walked inside to partake of the rest of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) activities.

School supplies fall down the list when you are trying to pay ever-escalating Mission rents and need to put food on the table every night. The reality is that around $28K a year–the average household income of MPN families, as determined by a recent Family Climate Survey–does not go very far these days in San Francisco. Especially if you are a single mother. Especially if you are an immigrant.

Backpack Giveaway
There were still 1,999 backpacks left to distribute to the anticipatory queue, snaking around three blocks for the first part of the 3-in-1 “Back to School Event.” This portion was made possible via the support of the San Francisco’s Mayor’s Office, Kindergarten 2 College, Walgreens, and Comcast, with Target donating the backpacks.

Backpack-6These backpacks had been stuffed with school supplies over the past few days. A bevy of volunteers from Google, LinkedIn, Deloitte Consulting and others was pieced together by MEDA to undertake this Herculean task.

Some volunteers were long-time neighborhood residents. Some were newcomers to the Mission or even lived elsewhere in the Bay Area. Regardless, they all selflessly chose to give back to the community.

At 11am, speakers took to the podium, with MEDA’s rousing Mattias Kraemer emceeing. The throng, which at this point packed the corridors to the max, was first welcomed by MEDA Executive Director Luis Granados, followed by District 9 Supervisor David Campos (pictured). The speakers continued, with sponsors of the event being given the chance to put forth their message.

Backpack-Campos-2By the time this part of the day’s event was concluded at 11:45am, all 2,000 backpacks had been given out—quite the feat.

“Get Connected!”
There was still much going on for the rest of the afternoon. MEDA’s third “Get Connected!” event, presented by Google, LinkedIn and the California Emerging Technology Fund, was held as a vital second part of the day, with the goal of continuing to bridge the digital divide in the Mission. Despite the neighborhood being action-central for the next greatest thing in tech, there are still residents who do not have an email. Yes, in 2014.

“There are issues regarding cost and relevancy. It can cost on average $65 a month to have high-speed internet in the home. And with two-thirds of our clients being immigrants, they may not see tech as being relevant to their lives. Our recent Family Climate Survey confirmed that 23% of MPN students do not have access to high-speed internet and a computing device in their home,” explained MEDA Technology Manager Richard Abisla.

MEDA deals daily with these two issues at Plaza Adelante, its neighborhood center. Today, the solution to that challenging issue was brought directly to MPN families.

MEDA Broadband Coach Erica Castillo’s table was abuzz with activity, as she counseled people on deals to obtain low-cost internet at home. Castillo explained that anyone whose child qualifies for free or low-cost lunch in school can partake in a program that is currently six months free and just $9.95 per month thereafter. An added plus: the first 50 people signing up today received a Nexus 7 tablet, generously donated by Google, so MPN families would actually have a personal computing device for their home.

Backpack-5By day’s end, there were 50 Mission residents who had signed up and were booting up their gleaming, new devices.

To deal with the relevancy issue, a cadre of tech volunteers offered to spend their Saturday teaching digital-literacy workshops. Some of these classes started with the basics, such as the fundamentals of using social media. Yes, in 2014.

All participants of the 21 workshops were eligible to enter a raffle to win other Google-donated Nexus 7 tablets. Google also sent a number of volunteers to help Mission families. LinkedIn employees did the same, the tech world banding together for a good cause.

To inspire the crowd, a Latino Career Panel was convened, with power players from the tech industry. Kim-Mai Cutler, a reporter for the popular online site TechCrunch, moderated the discussion with her usual panache. As panelists’ stories were revealed, the crowd realized there was a place at the table for them in the tech world.

Connections were made today–in more ways than one.

Mission Promise Neighborhood Resource Fair
Attendees of today’s event got to see the power of community partnering. After all, it’s not easy making sure that every family succeeds and every student achieves at four of the poorest-performing schools in San Francisco. That’s why MEDA initially rounded up over a score of neighborhood agencies to win this long-term battle, with many of these partners coming out in force today as part three of this back-to-school event.

Some of these nonprofits were tabling, availing financially challenged Mission residents of the resources that can better their lives. Other partners presented workshops on the same subject. It was all about helping people rise up.

Backpack-4-Crowd1“I am glad to know that there is so much available for my family. I never knew there were so many agencies willing to help,” stated Mission resident Lydia as she clasped a grouping of brochures.

It takes a community effort to make a far-reaching program, such as the Mission Promise Neighborhood, a success. It takes partners. It takes everyone in a community feeling they have a stake.

It takes a village–and today that village was called the Mission.

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PartnerIt’s always great when synchronicity occurs. This was definitely the case recently for MEDA Job Developer Orrian Willis.

How so?

Willis had attended a job fair, where he met two recruiters for UCSF, with their niche being temp to perm administration positions in the medical field. Willis nurtured this relationship so that MEDA Workforce Development Program clients were considered pre-screened for such positions, meaning once they applied online, a call was made and they were given a definite look.

Since MEDA did not have enough clients with the credentials to fill UCSF’s need, Willis reached out to a Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) partner, Mission Language and Vocational School (MLVS), located not far from Plaza Adelante, the Mission neighborhood center.

According their website, “MLVS has been in continuous operation as a community-based education center for over 45 years, administering federal, state and locally funded programs. More than 70% of graduating students continue to be employed after one year, managing to escape the poverty cycle and become self-sufficient, productive individuals in their communities.”

Willis then called his contacts at UCSF, who were receptive to MEDA’s partner sending over candidates. UCSF’s recruitment team was composed of Frank Burgoyne, Rebecca Kesler, Jennifer Wilson-Fischer and Belinda Espinoza.

Willis worked with MLVS staff of Executive Director Rosario Anaya, Natalie Hopner and Rosamunda Ayala.

UCSF 1 FrankUCSF’s Burgoyne, Talent Acquisitions Specialist, offered up good advice for those looking to work at UCSF, which is the second-largest employer in San Francisco–after the city itself. States Burgoyne, “When looking for a job, research the company, customize your resume to the job, prepare for the interview so you shine, dress to impress and make sure to ask engaging questions before you leave the interview. Put yourself in the driving seat of your job search through preparation.”

That is exactly what MEDA does every day with its clients, as does MLVS.

49.-Orrian-WillisWillis gladly facilitated this relationship, recognizing that MPN is a community initiative, owned by all organizations in the Mission for the good of all neighborhood residents.

“Since we didn’t have any more clients who fit UCSF’s employment needs, I was glad I could help MLVS’s clients. That’s what community is all about,” explains Willis.

Synchronicity had definitely occurred, as MEDA partnered for success.

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