Co-authored by:
Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya
Associate Director of Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz Cortez

It’s now an unstoppable national movement: We are collaborating to improve the lives of children, breaking down barriers to build a better future for our next generation.

Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is honored to be accepted into the StriveTogether Network, which comprises nearly 70 cradle-to-career initiatives across the country. Of the 13 million children served by these initiatives, 50 percent are Latinx. MPN is equally honored to moderate the plenary discussion, featuring a keynote by renowned Stacey Abrams, at the national StriveTogether conference in Washington, D.C. 

Seven years ago, tapping into the vision of then-President Barack Obama, San Francisco’s MPN became a reality. We decided that the most impactful way for our kids to succeed was to provide wraparound resources to them and their parents along the cradle-to-career continuum,  and to build the capacity of parents to be their children’s first and best advocate. Think of it as a two-generation approach.

MPN joined with more than 20 other Mission community-based organizations and aligned with City and school district leaders. We agreed on a common agenda and shared data; we collectively held ourselves accountable to results. 

Over the years, this community anti-poverty education initiative saw the following collaborative results:

  • Families reporting a medical home for children 0-5 increased from 61 percent in 2016 to 80 percent in 2018.
  • 5-year olds who were assessed as kinder-ready increased from 25 percent in 2015 to 45 percent in 2018 at target schools.
  • Students testing at or above grade-level in eighth-grade math increased from 30.2 percent in 2015 to 41.8 percent in 2018.
  • Students testing at or above grade-level in English Language Arts increased from 22.1 percent in 2013 to 36.2 percent in 2018.
  • High school graduation rates, at the MPN target high school, increased from 68 percent in 2012 to 89 percent in 2018, with the greatest increases seen for the Latinx and African American student populations. 

We are not the only ones seeing results. 

StriveTogether Networks’ initiatives are seeing similar results, creating larger-scale systems by banding together.

Stacey Abrams was the first Black woman to be nominated by a major party for governor (that occurring in Georgia) and the first Black woman to deliver the formal response to the State of the Union address. She also tripled the Latinx, Asian-American and Pacific Islander voter turnout in her state. At this week’s conference, Stacey Abrams will share how community authority and mobilization are crucial to the advocacy and policy work that will improve the lives of children of color, and any of our kids living in poverty. 

Over the years, MPN’s host agency, Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), learned that it must do more than provide services to achieve systems change. MEDA pivoted to build parent voice and resident participation in the political process, creating a state bill with other California Promise Neighborhoods that, if approved, would legislate the creation of 20 state-funded Promise Neighborhoods. The reasoning behind the bill is that Promise Neighborhoods are “good government”: efficient coordination of services; data sharing among agencies; and accountability to results. This bill, SB 686, has experienced early success, and is currently working its way through the legislative process. 

SB 686 is part of a national movement for increased coordination of programs and greater accountability to results along the cradle-to-career continuum. We are grateful for the work that the StriveTogether Network is nationally undertaking to scale this approach, and we are proud to be part of the change. 

The theme of this year’s StriveTogether conference is “Unstoppable” — and that’s because we have proved that together we are, indeed, unstoppable. 


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Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) works daily to provide wraparound services to strengthen families.

Fernanda’s story showcases this success.

Her mother renewed her Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), filing her taxes. The family was connected to low-cost internet. She obtained an internship as a medical administrative assistant at an MPN partner organization.

The story starts with an early learning training given at MPN early learning partner organization, Felton Family Developmental Center. Mother Sandra (photo, fourth left) and her 19-year-old daughter Fernanda (photo, third left), were recruited to attend the Abriendo Puertas parent leadership training, co-facilitated by MPN Family Success Coaches Ana Avilez and Dannhae Herrera Wilson, along with Child Development/ Early Learning Specialist Magali Valdes-Robles of Felton. Fernanda lives with her mother, father and two siblings, including her five-year-old little sister.

Fernanda wanted to attend the Abriendo Puertas training to help her mother get her little sister off to the best possible start. Abriendo Puertas supports parents in their roles as their child’s first, and most influential teacher, and has been a contributing factor — along with Felton’s high-quality early care and education services — in the improvements we’ve seen in the children’s developmental assessment scores and the percentage of the parents reading to their children. (Blog).

Fernanda, a native of San Francisco’s Excelsior District, was a waitress at the time, even though she had graduated from a medical administrative assistant training program at Mission Language and Vocational School in 2018. She was unable to begin her career as a medical assistant because she could not garner an internship that would give her the 160 hours she needed to begin her career.

Upon hearing this, Avilez immediately reached out to MPN partner Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC) — and Fernanda had an interview with this community-based organization two days later. A couple of days after that successful interview, Fernanda started training and interning at MNHC. At the same time, Fernanda’s mother was connected to financial capacity-building services at MEDA, including ITIN renewal, tax filing and low-cost internet.

We are pleased to share that MNHC has now hired Fernanda as an employee.

This success story is a prime example of how our partners come together to provide a wraparound, two-generation approach to working with families and their children, and the persistence and desire to achieve that exists within our community.

MPN is proud to be part of Fernanda and her family’s success story.

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by Director of Program Evaluation, Learning and Impact Morgan Buras-Finlay

The seemingly innocuous “referral” is a mainstay of nonprofits — the most-basic way organizations ensure they meet the needs of the communities they serve. Such referrals support individuals and families as they navigate the ever-complex and changing network of nonprofits, government agencies and institutions.

Yet even in 2018 the majority of referrals are still shared via fax, phone or paper, hindering accountability and leading to a paucity of insights into the services offered.

From its inception in 2012, the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) education initiative has taken a collective-impact approach to community engagement and service delivery. The defining factor was the creation of a 20-partner network supporting families and their children along a continuum of asset building and academic achievement.

It was imperative that MPN require a method for measuring the health of the partner network, thereby providing accountability as it relates to service integration. This need evolved into MPN’s Referral Network Tool.

“I have firsthand seen the power of the implementation of the Referral Network Tool. Our partners no longer work in silos, and impact is now all the greater, as we strengthen our families,” explains Family Support Manager Celina Ramos-Castro.

After 2.5 years of collecting referral data, MPN is now able to see trends and speak to lessons learned.

The numbers tell the story: The MPN network generated 4,389 referrals and impacted 2,303 individual families between Jan. 1, 2014 and Aug. 1, 2017.

During that time, the following lessons were learned around three main topics:

  1. Digital Referral Networks. These networks are where hardware (technology) meets software (real people), and both must be mutually reinforcing. Ensuring that the human needs are being met will make certain the technological solution takes hold.
  2. Network hubs. Think of this as spokes on a wheel. It is crucial to have a few designated individuals out in the field and dedicated to connecting families.
  3. Service Areas. Networks must include the services areas most needed by the community. Data on referrals will illuminate these service areas.

View the full brief.

Note: The article was presented as a poster at USF Data Institute Conference in November, 2017.

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The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a prenatal-to-career continuum of support services for families in San Francisco’s Mission District. The beginning of the pipeline includes many partner strategies and programs working to promote kinder readiness by ensuring that children have a medical home, are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program and that families support learning.

Mission Promise Neighborhood has learned that there are some key predictors of readiness in the Mission District, including: child well-being; frequency of family activities; not having special needs; family income level; and having a preschool experience. (Read Applied Survey Research report on kinder readiness in the Mission.)

Children are healthy
Mission Promise Neighborhood partners offer services that address the top six predictors of readiness. An example of how one partner is addressing most of these predictors by having an integrated approach to serving families is how Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC) offers prenatal services and is the medical home to most Mission Promise Neighborhood families. In 2016, the program supported 87 Mission women with the need for prenatal care. Of these women, 93 percent of their babies were born at both normal birth weight and gestational age at delivery. Additionally, 60 percent of those mothers initiated pediatric care at MNHC.

So far in 2017, MNHC has provided San Francisco children under five with 4,431 well-baby visits to ensure that children have a stable medical home and are healthy. In addition to not being sick, child well-being is also about their not being tired or hungry at school. MNHC has a family-support staff person that connects families to the resources and information they need to access food and, in some cases, a stable home. MNHC also houses a staff person from Support for Families who administers a developmental screening for children under five years old. This is a critical early-intervention service that ensures that children are developing in a healthy way and that if there is a concern, the family can be connected to the appropriate services. So far in 2017, Support for Families has conducted 93 screenings at MNHC. Lastly, the family support staff at MNHC ensures that families are connected to other Mission Promise Neighborhood partners that can provide families with information on early-childhood development, help families enroll in a high-quality preschool program and offer families financial services, such as MEDA’s financial capability program.

High-quality preschool
Mission Promise Neighborhood was designed to leverage much of the investments that First 5 San Francisco has made in the Mission District. First 5 SF supports the following MPN partners that offer preschool services:  Felton Institute, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, and Mission Neighborhood Centers. These partners have been supported to meet the specific needs of the Mission’s Latino community, including culturally relevant training and enhancement funds to provide high-quality care.

Ingrid Mezquita, Executive Director of First 5 SF,  explains, “Providing a high-quality preschool experience means teachers receive ongoing support in their professional development, funding is available for children to have meaningful engagement, and programs reflect on student data to fine tune how to best meet children’s needs.”

Felton Institute exemplifies the impact being made for kids in the Mission Promise Neighborhood. The agency serves 400 children from birth to age 6, including those with special needs. After 46 years solely in the Mission, Felton Institute recently expanded to serve other San Francisco communities of color, with two centers in the Bayview and one in Visitacion Valley.

Explains Felton’s COO Yohana Quiroz of the power of being part of the collective: “Mission Promise Neighborhood has supported Felton Institute to achieve its mission and vision by leveraging and building upon existing community partnerships and coordinating our efforts for all to focus on a shared goal, using a Results-Based Accountability and collective-impact framework. This has supported our ability to continuously reflect on data, and focus on our collective efforts and how they align —  or not — to ensure we are continuing to move the needle to improve child outcomes.”

Quiroz has many client success stories to share, but one family’s experience truly showcases the impact being made in getting children kinder ready. States Quiroz, “A family with twins was struggling to find a service provider that could meet the needs of their children, who had a formal diagnosis. One of Felton Institute’s Early Childhood Education programs was able to enroll them in their infant-development program, which provides an inclusive learning environment for children with special needs and those typically developing. Now, after a few years, these children are thriving and will be transitioning into kindergarten next year, plus the mom has been able to get a full-time job, knowing that her two children are receiving comprehensive services that are ultimately supporting their school readiness.”

Eighty-two percent of San Francisco Latino 4-year-olds are now enrolled in Preschool For All — a huge success.

Despite this success, there are issues that remain, with First 5 San Francisco and Mission Promise Neighborhood committed to closing these gaps.

“Your ZIP code shouldn’t determine the quality of preschool. Every child deserves quality early education — it’s about creating opportunity for all of our kids,” concludes First 5 SF’s Mezquita.

Families support learning
To scale parent education/leadership programs — and in partnership with First 5 SF — six Mission Promise Neighborhood early-learning partners participated in the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors facilitator training last spring. Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors is the only evidence-based parent education/leadership 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.

Mission Promise Neighborhood’s goal is to support partners in scaling Abriendo Puertas in the Mission community and across San Francisco. Mission Promise Neighborhood created an Abriendo Puertas Learning community for facilitators to support each other and share best practices. Since April, there has been an increase in the amount of families that are accessing Abriendo Puertas, especially via partners that had never offered the curriculum before.

The initial five years of life are critical for shaping childhood outcomes. That’s why a collective impact approach has been put in place by the Mission Promise Neighborhood to address gaps, provide high-quality preschool and make sure all of our children in the Mission District are kinder ready.

A common value of closing the opportunity gap is what drives this work.


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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“For all families, health starts with food on the table and a roof over our heads. It warms our hearts to see the smiles on the faces of these families in their new and secure homes,” says Executive Director Brenda Storey of Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC). She was speaking in general about Mission Promise Neighborhood families, and specifically of the families of siblings Jazmin and Marcos Florian. MNHC has served the Mission’s Latino community for almost five decades and is a valued Mission Promise Neighborhood partner.

Jazmin Florian, spouse Antonio Chunux and their two children (photo, left) are now in a below-market-rate (BMR) apartment rental at Abaca on Third Street in Dogpatch, while Marcos Florian and wife Jessica Alvarez (photo, right) found affordable housing at Five 88 in Mission Bay. Both are brand-new developments featuring many amenities.

To make affordable housing a reality, it took determination by the families and a partnership between MNHC and MEDA, the latter the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

MNHC knows that a lack of safe, secure and quality housing can lead to major health issues.

Chronic Disease Coordinator Iran Pont explains the issue as follows: “Studies show that if you are under stress because you don’t have a home, then major health issues can occur. if you don’t have the roots of your home established, you can’t build anything else.”

That’s why MNHC’s Storey reached out to MEDA to provide affordable-housing workshops at her clinic. This formal request occurred during one of Mission Promise Neighborhood’s monthly referral network meetings, where the 20+ partner organizations share information and best practices around direct services.

Last December, Jazmin Florian attended the first workshop at MNHC, with MEDA Community Planning Manager Dairo Romero availing Latino families of the affordable-housing opportunities in San Francisco’s pipeline, plus how to get rental ready so that eligibility requirements can be met once you win the housing lottery. At this meeting, a distressed Jazmin shared with the group that her entire family was in the throes of an owner move-in eviction from their Bayview neighborhood home — a home where her family of four lived in one unit, and her brother and his spouse lived in the other flat.

Jazmin was made aware of how San Francisco’s Displaced Tenant Housing Preference (DTHP) for evicted residents could help her family win the lottery and find a new affordable home in the form of a BMR rental. So she and sister-in-law Jessica filled out the necessary DTHP paperwork. They then applied for BMR rentals at multiple properties.

Jazmin won three lotteries, but was initially denied because her family had not filed for the 2015 tax year. MEDA helped appeal Jazmin’s case with the developer, plus the MEDA tax team prepared the taxes for free. Jazmin, Antonio and their children moved into Abaca in July. Additionally, during the process of obtaining a BMR rental, Jazmin decided to become an affordable-housing advocate, even providing Board of Supervisors’ public testimony in favor of MEDA’s 1296 Shotwell affordable-housing development for seniors.

Jessica was a victor of five lotteries, but was denied at one project because of too high a household income (every development has its own minimum and maximum income requirements.) Their case for Five 88 was closed, but later reopened by Romero.

Romero states, “Our Latinos families who win the lottery need support throughout the leasing process because some developers do not offer bilingual staff. Plus, families don’t always understand what additional documents are being requested by the developers.”

Jessica was also counseled by Family Success Coach Yadira Diaz at Cesar Chavez Elementary — a Mission Promise Neighborhood school — to apply for a Hamilton Families housing subsidy that covered the required first month’s rent and security deposit. Marcos and Jessica moved into Five 88 at the end of June.

“MNHC is excited and eager to continue our collaboration with MEDA, with the goal of having many more Mission Promise Neighborhood families find their secure home in San Francisco,” concludes Storey.


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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With an eye toward the exciting start of school, 110 families attended Mission Promise Neighborhood’s third annual Education Forum at the Mission Campus of City College on July 29. The theme was ”Putting Success in a Backpack,” but the event offered so much more. (See photos.)

The majority of students were from pre-K to 8th grade, with families having been made aware of the day’s agenda from fliers, partner agencies or other family members.

Mission Promise Neighborhood Associate Director Liz Cortez welcomed attendees, sharing her own inspiring story that showcases the importance of parents taking an active role in their child’s education. Cortez explained how her own parents lent such support, despite their being newcomers not cognizant of how to get into college in this country. Such support translated to Cortez earning her degree.

Next up was a panel conversation moderated by Amelia M. Martínez-Bankhead, a Mission Graduates board member. Five parents provided information about the upcoming workshops, telling of their experiences applying for affordable housing, getting family finances in order, promoting reading at home or creating a college-going culture at home. Their words definitely resonated with the crowd for their attending following workshops; Abriendo Puertas; Literacy Champions; How to Pay for College; Family Financial Health; Overcoming English Language Barriers in Schools, Housing Lottery Readiness; and Reclassification. The latter proved popular, with Mission Graduates and Familias Liderando la Educación Exitosa (FLEE) leading education around this reclassification campaign.

A survey was handed out as a way to better gauge parents’ understanding of Latino reclassification issues for English Language Learners. There were 76 surveys completed, and parents will now be invited to attend groups at Mission Promise Neighborhood schools, plus become active participants in the reclassification campaign.

To keep six- to 13-year-olds engaged and learning while parents attended workshops, a trio of Mission organizations were on hand. The Mission YMCA taught STEM via intriguing science experiments. Instituto Familiar de la Raza offered drumming, the joyous sounds filling the campus’ courtyard. Project Commotion  featured jump roping, with athleticism showcased by numerous youngsters.

Once parents exited their workshops, it was time for the distribution of backpacks generously donated by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (MONS). These sturdy backpacks contained everything from notebooks to coloring pens. A raffle was then held for backpacks teeming with even more much-needed items for the school year, with 10 delighted families having their numbers picked.

Additionally, there were raffles for a pair of $20 gift cards from Mateo’s Taqueria, located on Mission Street.

To fostering reading in the community, 280 Spanish- and English-language K-12 books were doled out by the San Francisco Public Library. Volunteers from the library also handed out Talk, Read, Sing bags for infants and toddlers.

For a touch of art, MONS also divvied up complimentary museum passes to a number of San Francisco venues.

To strengthen families, there were 12 resource tables offering materials and free services. Topics ranged from affordable housing and low-cost internet to after-school programs for children and literacy information. Parents walked away with information, pamphlets … and the tools they needed to succeed.

By the time the five-hour Education Forum 2017 came to a close, families were definitely ready for the 2018-2019 school year. Let’s make it a great one!


The Mission Promise Neighborhood acknowledges the partners, volunteers and community members that made the Education Forum 2017 a success. Thank you to Mission Graduates, MEDA, Mission Neighborhood Centers, SFUSD-Early Education Department, Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, Project Commotion, Instituto Familiar de la Raza, Mission-YMCA, La Raza Centro Legal, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, AT&T, ScholarMatch and Innovate Public Schools.


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 importance of reading can never be underestimated. The staff of the Mission Promise Neighborhood always keep this fact front of mind when speaking to our families, whether at community-based organizations or in the four schools that comprise this federal education initiative.

To ensure that everyone in our community has the books they need to help their children thrive, the “Second Annual Mission Promise Neighborhood Holiday Book Giveaway & Resource Fair” was held Friday at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante. (MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.)

Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martinéz C. and her team have been hard at work planning the event.

“Our Mission Promise Neighborhood families were so appreciative of the donated books at the first holiday book giveaway last year, so I knew we had to hold another event this season. It definitely gets everyone in the holiday spirit and is a means for parents to learn how to foster their children’s reading skills,” explains Martinéz.

Collaboration with partners is always needed. That meant donations of hundreds of books — for infants to eighth-graders — from the San Francisco Public Library and Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, the latter having a designated room to hold storytime for infants to 6-year-olds. This activity was a definite success, based on the abundance of smiles on the faces of kids … and their parents.

Also joining as part of the resource fair were four partners. Good Samaritan Family Resource Center and Mission Neighborhood Centers availed parents of child care services, while the San Francisco Public Library and One Degree helped families connect to resources online and assisted those without an email to open an account.

In MEDA’s Digital Opportunity Center, parents with library cards were assisted in downloading free tickets to popular neighborhood attractions, including the Exploratorium. Holiday outings will definitely be amazing this December because of this “Discover and Go” activity.

To add a holiday touch, Papa Noel showed up (a.k.a. Executive Director Eddie Kaufman of Mission Graduates). Kids excitedly toting their new books took a picture with Santa. Kaufmann masterfully played his role, enthralling the youngsters.

To complete the community effort, volunteers from John O’Connell High School and promotoras were on hand.

¡Felices pascuas y próspero año nuevo!


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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Last weekend, politicians, community partners, parent advocates and a bevy of dedicated volunteers came together to offer support to the habitually underresourced families of the Mission District. With 450 attendees — and 300 of them kids — the impact was huge. From educational workshops to partners offering free resources to supply-laden backpacks being distributed, the Mission Promise Neighborhood Education Forum 2016 was a definite success.

“The community came out on a Saturday to help you get your children ready for the next school year. The Mission Promise Neighborhood is excited to head into our fourth school year. We are seeing impact and know we will see even greater successes in 2016-17,” stated MEDA Executive Director Luis Granados in his welcoming statements. MEDA is the lead agency of this education initiative.

Granados was followed by Assemblymember David Chiu of the 17th District, who took to the podium toting baby Lucas, who turned 5 months old that day. Chiu explained how his parents were immigrants, as is his wife, so he understands the importance of a community making their voice be heard. He then implored the crowd to vote for this November’s Immigrant Parent Right to Vote proposition, which would allow undocumented parents to vote in School Board elections. “One-third of school parents in San Francisco currently have no say in their children’s education. When you are engaged in schools, my son, Lucas, will benefit,” Chiu explained to loud applause.

Following Chiu was Dean Jorge Bell of City College-Mission Campus, which generously offered its Mission campus on Valencia Street as the venue for the day’s event. This was the first time City College and the Mission Promise Neighborhood had teamed up. Bell extolled the need for parents to take college classes to better their lives by saying, “We have so much talent in the neighborhood, but that talent is a diploma away from translating to true success.”

Next up was Trustee Brigitte Davila of City College of San Francisco, who echoed Bell’s advice on the life-changing effect of obtaining an education. Davila was the first in her family to go to college, and she is now a professor at San Francisco State University, where she teaches government and policy classes.

The final speaker was Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Lucia Obregon, who took to the podium and showed an in-depth data presentation of issues needing to be addressed in the community.

As families then headed to take 60-minute workshops over the next couple of hours, some parents brought their young ones to the child care room, replete with activities to foster early learning. There was a large poster stating “Yo Soy la Mission,” with little ones drawing an outline of their handprints in crayons of various hues and then writing their names inside. There was even a “Design Your Neighborhood” interactive exhibit, with kids building community landmarks out of shoeboxes and placing them on the Mission map laid out on the floor. Finally, with reading to children ages 0-5 a major goal of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, Tandem, Partners in Learning was brought in to do what they do best. Said Program Supervisor Kaitlin Pearce of Tandem, “We had many meaningful interactions with families and child care providers, and we really appreciate you providing us access to share our information with the participants. I’m impressed at how the Education Forum continues to grow each year.”

Members of La Colectiva served as caregivers. One of their tasks were to feed the always-hungry children, finding a way to satisfy even those with the most finicky of palates.

Univision was also in attendance, setting up a booth in the City College courtyard and handing out “Vota” bags, as the Latino station backed today’s message of the community letting its voice be heard. Univision even provided a number of keepsakes to fill the bags.

Heading back to the auditorium, it was time to learn of parent advocacy. That occurred by Marco Ponce, Lourdes Dobarganes and Luz Rodríguez of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Parent Advisory Council (Concilio de Padres) taking turns at the podium — a powerful moment, as this was the first time any of them had addressed such a large crowd. Each spoke profoundly about how becoming a parent-advocate had bettered their lives, and the lives of those in the Mission community. The advocates made a call to action to those in the crowd to join the next cohort of the Parent Advisory Council, which starts this fall.

The excitement then grew as ScholarShare drew names for a raffle of five Chromebooks that the nonprofit had donated. Attendees clung to their raffle tickets as numbers were called out, with audible shouts of glee from winners. Being connected to a computing device at home is important for Mission Promise Neighborhood families, so these devices were definitely appreciated … and will be well used.

It was then time for distribution of supplies and backpacks. The Mission Promise Neighborhood team staffed a table of donated books, with exuberant children finding their favorites. All courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library.

There were even 750 tickets doled out for free admission to the Asian Art Museum, the Exploratorium and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Backpacks came from combined donations: 300 from Mission Lodge 169, with Factory 2-U’s donated supplies for these backpacks running the gamut from notebooks and pens to calculators and folders; 250 from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (MONS), 46 from DoubleDutch; and 25 from LinkedIn’s HOLA group, with these brought to Mission Promise Neighborhood offices during a recent scavenger hunt held by the tech giant’s Latino group.

Senior Advisor/Director of Neighborhood Services Derick Brown of MONS spoke of the importance of this event as follows: “For the past 10 years, MONS, together with several City agencies, corporations such as Target and community-based organizations like Mission Promise Neighborhood, has worked to improve the educational experiences of children in the Bay Area by providing them with the resources necessary for academic success. San Francisco is home to thousands of elementary and middle school age youth in need of support inside and outside the classroom. The Mayor’s Annual Backpack Giveaway represents our unyielding commitment to the City’s youth, and helps to ensure thousands of young students are prepared for the upcoming school year. We really appreciate Mission Promise Neighborhood’s commitment to youth and leading by example. The Education Forum 2016 was a wonderful event and a much-needed resource for our community. Great job!”

The stuffing of so many backpacks was made possible courtesy of the formidable efforts of Mission Promise Neighborhood staff and partner volunteers. Executive Director Edward Kaufman of Mission Graduates could be seen filling backpacks for hours. Kaufman later donned City College’s ram mascot outfit for the backpack giveaway, much to the delight of the kids — and their parents.

Stated Kaufman of why his organization took part in today’s event: “Mission Graduates was proud to be a partner once again of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Educational Forum. I was impressed at the array of services available to the parents attending by the partnering agencies, ranging from health care to housing to child care to legal support. Parents and families were engaged and excited to learn more. The energy was infectious!”

Other partners were tabling all day, a steady stream of attendees learning of free resources to strengthen their families. Community-based organizations present included Housing Rights Committee, La Raza Centro Legal, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Mission Neighborhood Health Center and Support for Families.

Summing up the day’s event, Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C., who spearheaded the event, explained, “It takes a solid community effort to ensure our students are prepared for the school year. We had families lining up a couple of hours before we opened the door for registration. This showcases the need in the community — a need that I am proud to say was successfully fulfilled today. Not only was that need fulfilled, we also put forth the message of advocacy, which is vital in our community. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this event.”


The Mission Promise Neighborhood would like to thank our Education Forum 2016  event sponsors:

Factory 2-U
Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services
Mission Lodge 169
San Francisco Public Library

Thanks also go out to our partners who were part of our event planning committee:

City College of San Francisco
Good Samaritan
Housing Rights Committee
Jamestown Community Center
La Raza Centro Legal
Mission Graduates
Mission Neighborhood Centers
Mission Neighborhood Health Centers
San Francisco Unified School District
Support for Families
Tandem, Partners in Early Learning


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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Emigrating from Mexico at the young age of 15 gives Magali Valdez-Robles empathy for her 24 students at Felton’s Family Developmental Center (FDC), a Mission Promise Neighborhood partner. Valdez-Robles came to the U.S. to study English – a need for most of the 4- and 5-year-olds in her dual-language preschool classroom primarily serving Latino children.

This is a job at which the social advocate thrives, and why she was honored last night with a “Preschool for All Excellence in Teaching Award” from First 5 SF. This well-deserved accolade arose from a nomination by the Leadership team at Felton. (Watch video.)

Speaking of her “Preschool for All Excellence in Teaching Award,” Valdez-Robles (photo, right) humbly exclaims, ”I wasn’t expecting this award. I always tell my supervisor that I may not be the best teacher, but I really care if my students and families succeed. There are many great teachers out there, so this is an honor.”

Felton Preschool Program Supervisor Phyllis Hogan knows of the caliber of Valdez-Robles’ work, stating “Magali Valdez Robles is committed to providing a classroom environment that views all children through the lens as learners who are competent, skillful and intelligent. Magali values and respects all childrens’ home language and culture. The Bumble Bee classroom is one of our dual-language classrooms at the Family Developmental Center, where you will see and hear this in action.  Magali  is committed to support kindergarten readiness for our preschoolers. As a ‘Teacher of Excellence,’ Magali aims to ensure children have the skills and social emotional readiness for kindergarten.”

Valdez-Robles is a model teacher with one goal: to make sure every child under her auspices is kindergarten ready. Located in the Mission District and serving over 85 percent of the Latino community, Felton’s FDC is one of San Francisco’s largest  inclusive early care and education program serving children age birth to 6 years old. For the past 45 years, FDC has been serving children with physical and developmental disabilities, offering a broad range of on-site specialized services in the child’s natural environment, with typically developing peers. Felton serves approximately 230 families, of which 30 percent of the children being served have identified special needs, ranging from speech and language or developmental delays including autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, just to name a few.

All of FDC’s work is rooted in the belief of inclusion. FDC believes that an inclusive classroom offers high-quality early childhood experiences and instruction is meaningful and builds upon the interests of the children, plus is developmentally appropriate, responsive and inquiry based. Providing an inclusive environment means addressing children’s needs through an individualized approach, while focusing on social, emotional, physical and cognitive aspects of learning.

That means tackling the challenge of focusing on social, emotional, physical and cognitive aspects of learning. A big piece of the puzzle is Valdez-Robles connecting with parents to make sure that they are on the same page as far as the child’s development.

It is Valdez-Robles’ job to meet these challenges and help students succeed.

A model creating impact
During her time at FDC over the last two years, Valdez-Robles has helped many families via the teacher-based model for dual-language students. This means that throughout the day one teacher speaks only Spanish, while another one speaks only English. This method is used to help strengthen children’s skills in both languages, while still allowing all students to be exposed to both. While many families want their child to learn English only, Valdez-Robles counsels parents about the value of students being bilingual.

Consistency in a dual-language learner program is important. The center has worked to create a flow for children who participate in the DLL classrooms. After leaving the Rainbow Room, children who enter the Butterflies classroom are part of the DLL cohort and will follow the flow until they are ready to leave FDC and start kindergarten. This consistency ensured that each child has the opportunity to strengthen their home language and a second language before leaving the program. (See model).

Valdez-Robles works daily to create a classroom environment where all students can thrive, despite their challenges. Impact has been powerful and swift. Valdez-Robles recently had a child experiencing great difficulty maintaining focus in class, with this student exhibiting disruptive behaviors. The educator noticed that their was a high need, especially since this child had only a few months left to graduate. That’s when she turned to a social-emotional component to combat the challenging behaviors the student exhibited; she worked with the classroom team and internal support systems to develop an individualized Positive Behavior Support plan.

For preschoolers who exhibit challenging behavior, the teaching staff conduct Functional Behavior Assessments (FBAs) and how to approach challenging behavior using Positive Behavior Support. By collecting Behavior Observation Reports, for example, teachers are able to identify the function of the child’s behavior and how to create plans that can effectively prevent, address and change negative behavior to become more socially appropriate and more effective when communicating.

Valdez-Robles explains, “I was very concerned about this child. I wanted to ensure this student will go to the right school to get the services they needed and the supports for the family. It took a couple of months to have everyone on the same page as to how to best support the child. Part of the challenge was working with the family to agree to partner with us and be on the same page. As many of the families deal with multiple risks factors, this particular family was going through a hard time. I worked with many people at various agencies to remedy this situation. There were many obstacles to success, but a community effort changed this child’s life for the better.”

The good news is that Valdez-Robles formidable effort translated to the student becoming part of a bilingual kindergarten class, with the services offered that were needed by the youngster and the family.

When the student’s mother recently saw Valdez-Robles on the street, she gave the educator a big hug, smiled from ear to ear and stated, “Gracias, maestra. Mi hijo es muy inteligente.” (Thank you, teacher. My child is very intelligent.”)

Valdez-Robles could see how proud the mother was of her child, so she also smiled.

One other success story was around test scores. SFUSD mandates that all students take a kinder-ready test to determine if they recognize shapes, letters and numbers. Valdez-Robles was so proud when one child obtained a 100 percent score. This child’s English was very limited at first, but she aced the test … with her teacher’s invaluable support and dedication.

Another impactful item is that lately Valdez-Robles’ students have been getting their first choice of schools in San Francisco — no easy task. The top five elementary schools into which FDC is feeding are Buena Vista, Leonard R. Flynn, Alvarado, Bryant and Cesar Chavez (Cesar Chavez and Bryant are the two elementary schools that are part of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.)

The future
Valdez-Robles loves her job. As she cherishes the happiness of others, she remains honored to help families succeed by connecting with each other. That’s because Valdez-Robles strongly believes that family is the foundation for any type of success in life.

As a model for the community, Valdez-Robles is gearing up to further her own education. The goal now is to obtain a Master’s degree in counseling and psychology, with a concentration in community mental health. This is a three-year program and will take determination for someone with a full-time job teaching at FDC.

There is no doubt Valdez-Robles will succeed, just like the students she inspires every day.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More



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