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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by Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martinez C. (photo, center)

As time-honored “Pomp and Circumstance” played, the gym at John O’Connell High School yesterday teemed with school staff, administrators, community partners … and visibly proud families. In walked 70 seniors — with four unaware they were about to have their lives bettered via the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship.

The excitement was palpable as I had the honor to read their names.

“Karen Guzman.” Karen is heading to Holy Names University in Oakland.

“Anahi Velazquez.” Anahi will be attending San Francisco State University.

“Ivonne Villanueva.” She will be joining Anahi at San Francisco State. 

“Elwood Mac Murray.” Elwood is heading to UC Merced.

These appreciative students were selected for their exemplary academic achievement and community service, plus for representing the vision of the Mission Promise Neighborhood. The award given to each student will help them close any gaps they had left from their financial aid award and will ensure they attend their freshman year of college without any financial burden.

Getting students prepared for college
The aim of the Mission Promise Neighborhood is college readiness for all students in the Mission. While a big piece of this work is having the educational foundation and grades needed to get into a good college, the final part of the challenge is being able to pay for such higher learning.

According to the College Board, the average cost of such schooling is daunting for most families, with tuition and fees for the 2015–2016 school year being $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. Meeting such costs is especially difficult for low- and middle-income Mission families, already on a tight budget as they attempt to just pay the monthly bills.

This need was the genesis of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship.  

Show me the money
For the last couple of months, the Mission Promise Neighborhood set a goal to raise $5,000 for two scholarships — and ended up raising double that at $10,000 for four awards.

The Mission Promise Neighborhood scholarship was a true community effort and showcased the fact that everyone knows they have a stake in this education initiative.

How was this money raised? First, there was a crowdfunding site where community members came together for the cause, giving whatever they could. Also, Mission Promise Neighborhood held two fundraising events at local businesses, with venues generously offered by Cease & Desist and Cha Cha Cha. Guest bartenders included Mission Promise Neighborhood staff and partners from Jamestown Community Center, MEDA, Mission Graduates and SFUSD. All tips from food and drink orders were donated to the scholarship fund.

At these fundraisers, there was also a successful raffle for prizes. Donors included Body Alignment SF, FAZE, Fitness SF, the Exploratorium, Little Baobob, Tartine Bakery & Cafe and ¡VIVA MEDA!, plus individual donors Cindy Clements and Zoe Farmer.

Special recognition goes out to First Republic Bank for its generous grant that helped us complete our fundraising goal. You have made college dreams come true.

Thanks to all of the residents, partners, community members and businesses who made four Mission Promise Neighborhood students — and their parents — very happy yesterday!


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

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

“Child Development.” That was the agreed-upon referral goal at the April 13 meeting of Mission Promise Neighborhood partners. That means these partners actively sought such referrals this month.

There were 30 staff from 10 partners who met at Good Samaritan Family Resource Center that day. The aim is to foster a referral network – using Salesforce technology – with the ultimate goal of bettering families’ lives.

This work is being spearheaded by Mission Promise Neighborhood Program Coordinator Leticia Contreras (photo). She acts as a connector to bring together all service partners, reserves the venue, outlines the agenda based on her team’s input and facilitates the meeting, including the data exercise.

Contreras explains her role as follows: “I see my purpose as that of making sure that all partners are on the same page. It’s a streamlining process, with the ultimate goal of bettering Mission Promise Neighborhood families’ lives through collaboration.”

With regard to referrals, Contreras pulls data on a weekly basis to ascertain whether the goals set are being met. Since the meeting, the group has already referred 18 Mission Promise Neighborhood families to early childhood programs provided by organizations in the partnership. True impact.

One family’s impact
To educate community partners on the importance of the Salesforce referral network, Family Success Coach Celina Ramos-Castro, who is based at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, told the story of the bundled services accessed by one Mission Promise Neighborhood family (whose confidentiality will be protected by not giving their name).

Ramos-Castro presented the group data on referrals made by her and other service providers for this family, linking all of the programs successfully accessed across Mission organizations.

Mission Promise Neighborhood partners started working with this family in 2014. The family includes parents and two children, one a 7th-grader and one a 5th-grader.

One of the initial items to be addressed from switching the parents from Individual Taxpayer identification Numbers (ITINs) — used for undocumented workers to file taxes — to their new Social Security Number. The mother’s credit also needed to be rebuilt, which was done via one-on-one financial coaching.

Other services were soon accessed, ranging from mentoring to create a college-going culture in the home, job training, free tax preparation and learning tenants’ rights because of a pending no-fault eviction.

To better language skills, ESL classes were also taken by the parents, who were immigrants.

These comprehensive services, offered by various community nonprofits, have led to family economic success and student achievement. This two-generation approach is followed closely by the Mission Promise Neighborhood initiative as a way to build long-term community capital.

The future
Also at April’s meeting, “Housing” was determined as the word of the month for May. The good news is that partner Causa Justa :: Just Cause, which specializes in tenants’ rights, has agreed for the month of May to accept more Mission Promise Neighborhood families having housing issues, with five referrals already having occurred.

Concludes Contreras, “It’s exciting to see the power of the Salesforce referral tool go from concept to action, leading to impact for our Mission Promise Neighborhood families. This is just the start!”


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 night, hundreds gathered in the Mission Promise Neighborhood for the second community meeting on the Mission Action Plan 2020 (MAP 2020). The theme was “A Plan for and Community Discussion on Affordability, ” with the venue Buena Vista Horace Mann School on 23rd Street. A resource fair on tenants’ rights — and other issues of community importance — was part of the event presented by the City and County of San Francisco, Calle 24, the Cultural Action NetworkDolores Street Community Services, MEDA, Pacific Felt Factory and other community-based organizations.

The goal of MAP 2020 is to retain the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the Mission neighborhood by providing solutions to help protect tenants at risk of eviction, increase affordable housing, stem the loss of social and community services offered to low- to moderate-income residents, and support and retain local businesses, including employers providing working-class jobs. The aim is to keep 65 percent of the Mission as low- or middle-income residents.

City officials on hand included District 9 Supervisor David Campos, Director of Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services Joaquin Torres and Jeff Buckley, who is senior advisor to Mayor Lee.

To welcome the attendees, City Planning Director John Rahaim took to the mic, explaining how San Francisco is trying to address the needs of Mission residents by being part of these community meetings.

Rahaim was followed by Director Antonio Aguilera at San Francisco Day Labor Programand Women’s Collective, who explained the need for the community’s voice to be heard.

Next up was Chirag Bhakta, of the Mission SRO Collaborative, who shared data from a PowerPoint. Bhakta’s dialog was peppered with these sobering facts: there were 989 eviction notices in the Mission from 2009 to 2014, with 1,174 Latinos compelled to leave the neighborhood between 2010 to 2013. He then explained that these numbers are probably conservative, as eviction numbers do not showcase buyouts and that undocumented people may be fearful of being part of a census.

Urban Planner Claudia Flores, from the San Francisco Planning Department, then continued on with the presentation. Flores spoke of the major accomplishments in the Mission community since the initial meeting one year ago. In that time, a set of community organizations and the City have been working to research and discuss the ideas collected, and implementing some immediate, short-term solutions.

There have been major wins, including:

  • Pushing for neighborhood-preference legislation.
  • Increasing resources for legal representation for tenants.
  • Expediting 100 percent affordable sites (more than 300 units).
  • Acquiring an additional affordable site at 490 South Van Ness.
  • Dedicating funding of $50 million for the Mission from the Prop A housing bond that voters passed last November.
  • Implementing higher scrutiny of market-rate projects through interim controls.
  • Launching a nonprofit and creative-space displacement program, with $4.5 million in funding.
  • Augmenting resources for PDR enforcement and technical assistance.

“We’ve already had some major victories in the past year, but there is much more to do. Mission Promise Neighborhood community input is vital to this process, so I am excited to see so many partners, city officials and neighbors here tonight,” stated MEDA’s Director of Community Real Estate Karoleen Feng.

Topics for discussion tonight ranged from how to preserve existing rent-controlled housing/SROs and increase job opportunities to stemming the loss of community-serving businesses and building more 100 percent affordable-housing developments. Attendees broke into groups, in English and Spanish, to discuss these weighty topics. The clear topic of interest was affordable housing — and how it could be funded. Community Engagement Manager Dairo Romero of MEDA acted as a facilitator for the Spanish-speaking tables.

The community’s valuable input will be discussed by organizations and the City, collaboratively working on solutions based on the ideas collected.

The final meeting will be in June, with the date and time to be determined.


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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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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