Mind the gap may mean watching the space between the train and the platform at tube stations in London, but it definitely means something else for college students in the States. With the exorbitant cost of a postsecondary education in this country, the “gap” refers to the difference between how much money you have on hand to pay for college and the amount still needed to make your education dreams a reality.

Knowing of the need in the habitually underresourced Mission, the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship was created this year, with $10,000 raised from a concerted community effort. At May’s graduation ceremony, four John O’Connell High School seniors were elated when Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C. called out their names as recipients of these funds.

The City also knows of the need. That’s why in 2011 Mayor Ed Lee started the “I am the Future” Scholarships for graduating seniors and currently enrolled college students who pursue higher education. The award is primarily designed to support students who are first in their family to attend college. The Mayor’s Office has teamed up with the San Francisco Education Fund to identify scholarship applicants through partner organizations, one being the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

Administration and Special Projects Coordinator, Education and Family Services Florence Corteza from the Mayor’s Office graciously acted as liaison to Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Martínez to ensure that all required paperwork was submitted correctly and on time. Applications comprised a personal statement, details of the funding gap, demographic information, and a list of extracurricular activities and internships.

There were 47 awards of $1,000 each doled out this year. Monies were donated by Brown and Caldwell, CH3M, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and anonymous donors. The City is looking to expand this impactful program next year.

At a ceremony last Monday, excited recipients were handed a certificate and a City pin as they smiled from ear to ear for their picture with the Mayor and other City officials. The checks are being directly mailed to each freshman’s college of choice.

The great news is that of the seven students nominated by Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Martínez, five received an award. Funds were granted to: Ivonne Villanueva, who was also a Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship recipient; Joelene Pangilinan; Yvonne Ngo; Henzon Zambrano; and Jamie Palencia Batres. The latter will be attending UC Irvine in the fall, with all others staying local and heading to San Francisco State University.

Stated award recipient Henzon Zambrano (photo), “I am very grateful to be one of the recipients of  an ‘I Am the Future’ Scholarship. I will use this scholarship as motivation and to fund my college expenses. This puts me one step closer to achieving my dream. Thank you for the opportunity!”

On hand for this ceremony were other integral players from the Mayor’s Office, including Director of Neighborhood Services Derick Brown and Education Advisor Hydra Mendoza. Also in attendance was Commissioner at San Francisco Board of Education Shamann Walton, plus Mission Promise Neighborhood Director Raquel Donoso.

At the end of the event, Mayor Lee invited all students to apply to work for the City once they had their hard-won degrees.

Explained Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Martínez of the event: “It’s wonderful for our underresourced students to have opportunities such as the ‘I Am the Future’ Scholarship to help them go to college and have fewer of the stressors associated with funding gaps for higher education. It was impressive to see all of community support here tonight, from the families and students coming together to the many mentors from community-based organizations in the Mission. What a wonderful night for our students!”


Donate today to next year’s Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund to support the college dreams of another deserving student from our community. Any amount helps!


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


What: Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fundraiser
When: Friday, April 15, 6pm to 9pm
Where: Cease & Desist, 2331 Mission Street (near 19th)
How: All tips and donations from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m will go toward the scholarships
Why: Two college scholarships for John O’Connell High School students!

One of the goals of the Mission Promise Neighborhood is to create a college-going culture at home. This is a vital step in the cradle-to-college-to-career continuum for optimum student achievement.

Research demonstrates that parental engagement in schools improves student engagement and is a good marker for academic achievement (Pagliarulo McCarron & Kurotsuchi Inkelas, 2006). The encouragement and involvement of a students’ family has been found to be one of the best predictors of postsecondary educational aspirations, with messages from parents being the main influencers of post-secondary attainment.

While a December 2014 Mission Promise Neighborhood School Climate Survey showed that 90 percent of parents think it is important for their child to go to college, only 81 percent actually talk to their children about doing so. Also, when broken down by ethnicity, the survey found that only 78 percent of Latino students were confident that they would attend college, eight percent lower than non-Latinos. Why the gap?

“We work with many families who immigrated here as adults, so they have not experienced college in the U.S. It is difficult for them to describe and support the steps to get to and through college without that experience,” explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Education Manager Laura Andersen.

A community of support
Mission Promise Neighborhood partner Mission Graduates meets this need: the organization is committed to getting more youth from the Mission District into college, as a means to achieve economic equity and strengthen the fabric of the community.

Mission Graduates has an embedded College and Career Team at John O’Connell High School. The nonprofit has worked with all sophomores through seniors on everything from transcript reviews and internship applications to completing the FAFSA and successfully applying to college.

To foster a college-going culture with an even younger audience, Mission Graduates will hold its Parent University at Everett Middle School on March 24. The goal is to map a path to college, and to ensure that families can remove any potential obstacles. The understanding is that it is never too early to whet students’ appetites for higher education.

There are other community-based organziations providing college prep in Mission Promise Neighborhood schools, including Seven Teepees, 100% College Prep, First Graduate and PIQE at Everett Middle School, plus FACES for the Future and Jewish Vocational Services at John O’Connell High School. This collaboration provides many levels of support for families looking to successfully guide their children through the college process.

Financial need
Even with all of this support, financing a college education can seem daunting. That’s why a fundraiser is being held on Friday, April 15; the venue has been generously donated by Cease & Desist, a popular Mission bar.

The goal is to fund one-year scholarships, ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 each.

These one-time awards will be granted to a pair of first-generation college-going students from John O’Connell High School, one who has been accepted to a four-year college and another who will be attending a two-year college, with enrollment in the 2016 to 2017 school year. Grantees are students who have participated in services from community organizations and school programs, been active in the community and been academically successful. Financial need must also be demonstrated.

At the fundraiser, volunteers will serve as bartenders: Gabriel Medina and Nathanial Owen from the Mission Economic Development Agency; Laura Andersen from the Mission Promise Neighborhood; and Gabriela Navarro from Jamestown Community Center.

Even the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has generously offered to volunteer, with Jonathan Garcia and Matt Haney taking part. Haney serves as president of the Board of Education.

All tips from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at both the front and back bars, will go toward the scholarships. Donations will be accepted (credit card or cash). There will also be raffles.

Please join the community for a guaranteed fun time as we make two college dreams come true in 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.

Read More



(415) 569-2699
2301 Mission Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94110

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