by Director of Promise City Programs and Partnerships Liz Cortez

The Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) team is honored to present at the 2022 StriveTogether Convening in Chicago. The title of our session is “Listen and Follow While the Community Leads.” In this session, Parent and Youth Engagement Specialist Ana Avilez and Associate Director of Data and Learning Michelle Reiss-Top will share lessons learned from the engagement of parents and youth in a human-centered design process to co-create a community report card that focuses on systems barriers and fosters our community’s ownership of data to influence systemic change.

StriveTogether, of which MPN has been a member since 2018, is a national network that supports cradle-to-career initiatives (providing prenatal to career services) across the country by providing technical assistance to backbone teams working to achieve systems transformation in their communities. StriveTogether has challenged our initiative to collect and analyze data that addresses systemic inequities. Traditionally, the main focus of our data collection across our partnership has been on behavior change of the individual (child, youth and parent) and academic scores. In addition to these traditional metrics, we are interested in developing actionable systems indicators that will help us advocate for shifting policies, practices, resources and power structures that produce more equitable prenatal-to-career outcomes in our community. This is the focus of our MPN community report card.

“Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.”
– Community Partner

Toward the end of 2021, MPN began engaging parents and youth using the human-centered design approach. A design team comprising parents, youth and staff began a dialogue with community members and collected information via one-on-one interviews and in focus groups. To work together in a virtual format due to pandemic challenges, we provided design team members with capacity-building around using both Zoom and the Miro collaborative platform, plus we surveyed members for any technology equipment needs.

Our meetings always started with the proposition that we would co-create something that would reflect the needs and desires of the community – and that we were open to what the group would come up with in terms of what it should look like. Parents and youth became researchers and developed the questions we would ask our community through one-on-one interviews and focus groups. After those interactions, interviewers from the design team had the opportunity to share the stories they were collecting: We started to see emerging themes. 

“I appreciated having a dialogue with my community rather than collecting feedback through a survey.”
– Design Team Member 

From surviving to thriving
We learned much about what our community members are experiencing when navigating systems, especially during the pandemic. Families are concerned about academic outcomes, but shared that many needs are not being addressed, creating barriers to students and families thriving. After analyzing all the information we gathered, we developed key insights that reflect our families’ needs and barriers.

Families shared that the system works against them and even takes advantage of them. The ability to obtain legal status is at the center of whether a family can thrive. Without such legal status, coupled with English-language skills to navigate systems (e.g., schools, city agencies, employment), parents are compelled to work more than one job and cannot spend quality time with their kids, with the latter harmed by this vicious cycle.

“Who is asking these questions? I’ve never been asked about my story.”
– Community Member

Families shared that they are experiencing survey and intake fatigue. Every institution that they navigate is asking them the same questions. They also shared that they rarely get feedback: They are curious about how things are changing in the community, but the data is not coming back to the community members to make sense of it. Consequently, we thought it was important that whatever we created to demonstrate community needs and desires should be immediately available to the community.

Prototype development: An MPN App to collect community data
After months of working collaboratively, we devised an App prototype that would allow us to collect community data on barriers and desires. Our App is in the pilot stage and includes questions about community members’ experiences as they navigate systems ranging from city agencies and community-based organizations to schools and others. Additionally, the App will be a place where community members can access videos and listen to stories that community members are sharing about their experiences, needs and desires. The App will provide community members with access to the data right after completing the surveys. They can see what other community members are saying and use the data in any leadership space they are in to advocate for their needs and those of the community.

Next steps
We have just begun the data collection through the App. We envision coding the data to develop systems-level indicators that will be tracked over time and used to paint a picture of what the community is experiencing and to begin a planning process with our community partners and parents, and youth around strategies and advocacy. We envision that families will have the data that they need to advocate for their needs and help to change the systems that are not working for them. 

Stay tuned for the next exciting phase of our work.


Community Report Card Design Team Members:
Rosario R., Parent
Abril M., College Student 
Jacqueline R., Parent
Maria G., Parent
Margarita G., Parent
Osiris L., Parent
Jacqueline H., Parent
Erick J., High School Student
Michelle Reiss-Top, Associate Director of Data and Learning
Ana Avilez, Parent and Youth Engagement Specialist
Alejandro Bautista Zugaide, Family Success Coach
Susana Gil-Duran, Early Learning Family Success Coach
Liz Cortez, Director of Promise City Programs and Partnerships

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by Evaluation Fellow Maria Dominguez

Every year, Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) administers the School Climate Survey (SCS) to middle and high school students who go to schools in the MPN footprint and participate in onsite programs that are part of the MPN service network. We are pleased to share the key findings from the spring 2022 survey.

This is the first time MPN has been able to administer the survey in three years, due to the challenges of distance learning and families’ urgent resource needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two MPN partners, Jamestown and Mission Graduates, administered the survey via SurveyMonkey to students at their on-campus Beacon Centers in May 2022.

The SCS has several purposes. The US Department of Education, which has funded MPN since 2012, requires us to report annually on community indicators that we track through the SCS. Findings from the SCS also support our network partners and community members: By hearing directly from our students, the MPN network can leverage our best practices and improve upon our service model. Hearing student perspectives also amplifies the needs of young community members to our elected officials and other key stakeholders.

This year, 153 students across four MPN schools[1] – Everett Middle School, Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 Community School, John O’Connell High School and Mission High School– participated in the survey. While the survey is anonymous, we collect core demographic data from respondents:

  • 25% of respondents were in middle school, 75% in high school
  • 40% of respondents identified as female, 56% male and 4% nonbinary/gender non-conforming 
  • 68% of students identified as Latino
  • 11% of students answered the survey in Spanish

The following sections present the key findings from the 2022 School Climate Survey across four domains: School Safety; College Readiness; Internet and Technology Access;  and Home Life.

School SafetyOur student respondents largely feel safe and supported in their school settings; however, when we disaggregate survey responses by age and gender, we see some disparate experiences among MPN students – disparate experiences that merit further inquiry.

The vast majority of survey respondents indicated that their school was a supportive environment: Eighty-one percent agreed that there was at least one teacher or staff member on whom they could rely, and 77% felt that staff and teachers treat students with respect. As Figure 1 shows, over two-thirds of MPN students feel safe at school, and traveling to/from school; however, high schoolers report feeling less safe traveling to/from school compared to middle schoolers, and are less inclined to report having a school staff member on whom they could rely. Conversely, middle schoolers were less likely to report that teachers and school personnel treat students with respect.

Figure 1: MPN Student Perceptions of School SafetyWhen disaggregating the data by gender, we noticed that female students are more likely to report that they have experienced bullying or harassment (see Figure 2). However, there was a contrary trend in the school safety data: Girls were more likely to report feeling safer at school and traveling to/from school than male survey-takers.

Figure 2: Gendered Differences in School SafetyAs the SCS is almost entirely multiple choice, we can only speculate why these statistical differences emerged in the data. For instance, it is possible that high schoolers feel less safe between home and school because they are less likely than middle schoolers to get a ride from their parents; and there is a chance that boys are simply less likely to report that they have been bullied, out of a sense of pride. These are intriguing findings that we will need to research further to understand more clearly.

College ReadinessThe majority of MPN students who took the SCS intend to pursue higher education; however, disaggregating the survey responses reveals that Latino and male students are less likely and less confident in seeing college as part of their future.

Over two-thirds (69%) of MPN students plan to attend a four-year college, either straight from high school or as community college transfers; however, only 62% of boys/men in high school noted that they plan to attend college, compared to 90% of girls/women. As a whole, women in the U.S. are more likely to attend college than men; however, the nationwide gender imbalance in college students is nowhere near what we see in the SCS data.

While a majority of MPN students, regardless of gender, intend to earn a bachelor’s, Latino students were far likelier than non-Latino students to report uncertainty about their ability to attend and/or succeed in college. Half of non-Latino respondents noted that they were confident in their ability to go to college, compared to just one-third of Latinos. Per Figure 3, Latino students were also more likely to report their concerns over an array of specific barriers to college success, from academic preparation to financial capability.

Figure 3: Percentage of Students Reporting Various Concerns Over Barriers to CollegeThe School Climate Survey also asked respondents to name any specific resources they thought would help them succeed in college. Notably, the most frequently cited response was access to mental health resources – perhaps an indicator of the psychological stressors youth have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and/or widespread understanding about the benefits of mental health care. Other common responses ranged from additional academic support to financial aid to peer mentorship.

As with the data on school safety, we will need to explore in greater detail why there was such an imbalance between male and female respondents regarding their college plans, what else MPN partners can do to support Latino students on their pathways to college and what kinds of mental health supports would best help MPN students in postsecondary education.

Internet and Technology Access Remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the importance of equitable access to the internet and computing devices at home. Disparate quality in home internet and personal computers could exacerbate systemic disparities in achievement for students from low-income families.

As Figure 4 below shows, nearly all (95%) MPN students have access to the internet at home; however, over one-quarter (28%) of respondents do not have access to a home computer or laptop. Students with home internet but no home computer reported that they could access the internet through their smartphone, a tablet device and/or a video game console instead. Compared to a computer, none of those devices are optimal for students to complete homework, write essays or apply to jobs/colleges.

Figure 4: MPN Student Access to Home Internet and ComputersIn this context, MPN partners could connect students without home computers and internet to onsite technology, or work with families to secure access to low-cost computing devices and internet subsidies.

Home LifeFinally, the SCS asks students about a few components of their home life and daily activities.

  • Nutrition: The majority (83%) of students eat two or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day; however, only 18% meet the Department of Education’s (DOE) benchmark of five-plus servings a day.
  • Exercise: The majority (86%) of students are engaging in regular physical activity; however, only 27% meet the DOE benchmark of 60+ minutes of daily physical activity, and even fewer Latino students meet this benchmark (19%).
  • Student Mobility: Three-quarters (73%) of MPN students have lived in the same home for the past year; however, 13% of students report having moved two or more times in the past year, which can disrupt students’ ability to learn. This is of particular concern in the Bay Area, where the housing crisis imperils many low-income families and their living situations.

Conclusion and Next StepsOverall, the SCS reveals positive trends: The majority of MPN students feel safe at school, intend to go to college and do not face housing instability. In contrast, we can also see disparities in the experiences of male and female students, and Latino and non-Latino youth. It will be important for us to delve deeper into these trends, as well as the other challenges and barriers that our respondents named.

Data from the SCS serves as a foundation for additional exploration. Because the survey is only 18 questions and mostly multiple choice, we would benefit from different kinds of data activities with students, families, MPN staff and school personnel to better understand some of the findings from this year’s survey data. For instance, we could explore further:

  • Why do high schoolers feel less safe traveling to/from school?
  • Why do female students feel safer, even though they experience more harassment?
  • Why are male MPN high schoolers far less likely to plan to attend college?
  • Why are Latinos less confident in their ability to attend college?
  • Why are mental health resources the most commonly cited need for college?

We are excited to dive deeper into these questions and learn the context for them in future analyses, including longitudinal analyses, and comparisons to statewide and national data. Be on the lookout for further analyses posted here, as well as updates on our work based on this year’s survey data. 

[1] Ninth-graders are not represented among the survey population, which is a trend evident in past years’ responses and is reflective of who participates in the high school Beacon Center programs. James Lick Middle School students were unable to participate this year due to logistical challenges with survey administration.

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[Click for English, which follows Spanish.]

Al regresar a sus puestos de trabajo en el verano de 2020, un grupo de maestras de educación de temprana edad  en la Mission se vio ante un desafío que no habían vivido antes: decirle a los niños que no podían jugar juntos. 

“Por el distanciamiento social fue un desafío, era bien complicado”, recuerda Irma Chereno, una de las educadoras de Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, un aliado educativo de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission que por más de 100 años apoya a las familias inmigrantes con la educación y cuidado de sus hijos más pequeños. 

En los últimos 18 meses, las maestras de Good Samaritan han vivido un proceso transformativo en varios aspectos de sus vidas para poder cumplir con su misión dentro de una comunidad impactada desproporcionadamente por la pandemia del COVID-19. Las condiciones de vida de las familias y el protagonismo de los inmigrantes en la fuerza laboral resaltan aún más el trabajo de este tipo de organizaciones.

“Fue algo bastante complejo para maestras, para las familias, para los niños, sumado al riesgo que estábamos tomando al reintegrarnos acá cuando el COVID estaba en su peor etapa”, dice Chereno, quien fue una de las primeras maestras en retomar el trabajo presencial en  Good Samaritan después de cerca de dos meses de cierres obligatorios en San Francisco y educación virtual.

La pandemia representó cambios en la forma de trabajar para Good Samaritan, pero nunca modificó su misión de “ayudar a las familias vulnerables, incluidas las familias inmigrantes, a acceder a los servicios necesarios, desarrollar la autosuficiencia y participar plenamente como miembros de la comunidad de San Francisco”.  La demanda por sus servicios se hizo mayor a medida que las necesidades de las familias se apilaban. Durante el encierro se hizo obligatorio recurrir a la tecnología para mantener el contacto con los miembros de la comunidad.

“La tarea principal fue la comunicación ya que muchas familias no tenían acceso a internet, o no tenían computadoras”, explica Angélica Torres Castillo, educadora líder de niños entre 3 y 4 años en Good Samaritan. “Las maestras empezamos a reunirnos con programas como WhatsApp, ya que muchas familias estaban familiarizadas con eso, y también usando el Zoom”.

Pero comprender el mundo virtual fue apenas una parte de los cambios. La operación presencial en la sede de Good Samaritan en Potrero Avenue tuvo que ser modificada para poder servir a la comunidad para poder garantizar la seguridad de niños, familias, maestros y otros trabajadores esenciales que hacen parte de la organización.  Hasta el día de hoy hay protocolos estrictos de limpieza, distanciamiento social y uso de mascarillas.

“Cuando las circunstancias parecían más extremas, nuestros maestros respondieron a nuestro llamado para satisfacer las necesidades de los niños más pequeños de nuestra comunidad,” dice Melissa Castillo, directora del Centro de Desarrollo Infantil de Good Samaritan. “Si bien reconocemos que la pandemia ha ampliado la brecha educativa y desafía el futuro de nuestros niños, nuestros maestros continúan brindando estabilidad y cuidado, y brindan entornos de aprendizaje enriquecedores en nuestro programa.”

Otra realidad, nuevos enfoques
Cumplir con su misión de servicio a la comunidad implicó sacrificios y esfuerzos en casa de los educadores, que, como el resto de la población, luchaban para proteger a sus familias.

“En casa puse desinfectantes en la puerta, al llegar me quitaba los zapatos y los desinfectaba; desinfectaba manijas porque tenía que cuidar a la familia”, recuerda Chereno, quien vive con dos adultos de 90 años. 

Tanto rigor tenía un precio emocional. La protección llegaba a representar distancia de los seres queridos por más que se compartiera el mismo espacio.

“Me vi en el punto de no abrazar a mis padres”, dice Torres. “Fue un cambio fuerte, especialmente en lo emocional, pero teníamos que tener un sistema riguroso porque no sabíamos mucho sobre el virus”.

La nueva realidad impulsó a robustecer los servicios de Good Samaritan tanto para sus educadores como para miembros de la comunidad. En el último año se implementó un desarrollo profesional más sólido para los maestros, mientras que a las familias se les pudo proveer con alimentación y asistencia económica. En el campo de salud mental se trabajó con especialistas para dar un mejor respaldo a las familias.

“A medida que Good Samaritan comience a reinventar su modelo de prestación de servicios en la post-pandemia, las relaciones auténticas que los maestros han construido con los niños y los padres serán un modelo de cómo las comunidades se unen para apoyarse mutuamente y abogar por el cambio”, dice Ada Freund, gerente de aprendizaje de temprana edad de Comunidad  Promesa de la Mission.  

Un pueblo entero
A más de un año de pandemia, las maestras de Good Samaritan se movilizan inspiradas por las familias a las que sirven en tiempos en que se redoblan los esfuerzos. Su trabajo tiene otra dimensión como consecuencia de una mayor interacción con los miembros de la comunidad. 

“Casi que nos convertimos en trabajadoras sociales”, dice Torres, quien pide mayor atención, inversión y reconocimiento a la labor de maestras de educación temprana. “También somos maestros, nos preparamos para esto, estamos enseñando”. 

La multiplicación de los esfuerzos sirvió para renovar y reforzar los lazos de Good Samaritan con otras organizaciones. La estrecha colaboración ha sido fundamental para resolver el presente y decidir la hoja de ruta del futuro.

“Entendemos que realmente se necesita a todo un pueblo, y trabajamos en estrecha colaboración con socios de la comunidad para brindarles a los niños todas las oportunidades para que alcancen su máximo potencial”, dice Castillo. “Nuestro socio en alfabetización, Tandem, nos proporciona libros y acceso a materiales de alfabetización culturalmente diversos. Otros socios de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission nos ayudaron con cajas de alimentos, suministros de protección sanitaria y artículos de emergencia para las familias durante el pico de la crisis pandémica. Lo más importante es que todos aprendimos que somos más fuertes cuando todos trabajamos juntos”.

Good Samaritan: Pivoting to Best Educate Children and Serve the Community During a Pandemic

Upon returning to their Mission District job site in summer 2020, a group of early education teachers were faced with an unusual challenge: telling children they could no longer play together.

“Social distancing created a challenge. It was very complicated,” recalls Irma Chereno, one of the Early Child Educators (ECE) at Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, an organization that for over a century has supported immigrant families with the education of their young ones. Good Samaritan has also been a decade-long partner of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, a community anti-poverty education initiative for which MEDA is the lead agency.

In the last 18 months, Good Samaritan teachers have pivoted to support a community disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to overcrowded living conditions of families coupled with the majority of Latino immigrants being frontline essential workers.

“The situation was quite complex for teachers, for families and for children, and this was all the riskier because we were reintegrating our programs when COVID-19 was at its peak,” says Chereno, who was one of the first teachers to resume face-to-face work at Good Samaritan after about two months of shelter-in-place and virtual education.

While the pandemic changed the way Good Samaritan operates, it never changed its mission “to help vulnerable families, including immigrant families, access needed services, develop self-sufficiency and participate fully as members of the San Francisco community.” The demand for their services grew as the urgent needs of families piled up. During confinement, technology became instrumental to maintaining contact with community members.

“The main task was communication since many families did not have access to the internet, or did not have computers,” explains Angélica Torres Castillo, a Master Teacher of 3- and 4-years-olds. “We began to meet through programs such as WhatsApp, since many families in our community use it, and also using Zoom.”

But understanding the virtual world was only part of the changes. The operations at Good Samaritan’s site on Potrero Avenue had to be modified to serve the community while ensuring the safety of children, families, teachers and other essential workers who are all integral parts of the organization. To this day, there are strict protocols for cleaning, social distancing and mask wearing. 

“When circumstances looked most dire, our selfless teachers answered our call to meet the needs of our community’s youngest children,” says Melissa Castillo, Child Development Center Director at Good Samaritan. “While we recognize the pandemic has widened the educational gap and challenges the future for our children, we are proud that our teachers continue to provide stability and care, and always provide a nurturing learning environment.”

Another reality, new approaches
While trying to accomplish their mission with the children, ECE teachers navigated through a series of sacrifices and efforts at their own homes as they tried to protect their loved ones, just like the rest of their neighbors were doing.

“At home, I put disinfectants on the door. I would take off my shoes and disinfect them. I sanitized handles because I had to take care of the family,” recalls Chereno, who lives with a pair of 90-year-olds.

Such discipline took an emotional toll: Protection meant distancing from loved ones in the space they usually shared.

“At one point, I saw myself not hugging my parents,” says Torres. “It was a strong change, emotionally challenging, but we had to have a rigorous system because we didn’t know much about the virus at that time.”

The new reality prompted the strengthening of Good Samaritan’s services for its educators and community members. In the last year, stronger professional development was implemented for teachers, while families were provided with food and financial assistance. In terms of mental health, Good Samaritan worked with specialists to give better support to families.

 “As Good Samaritan begins to reimagine their post-pandemic service delivery strategy, the authentic partnerships teachers have built with children and parents will be a model of how communities come together to support each other and advocate for change,” says Ada Freund, Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Manager.

The future
A year and a half into the pandemic, Good Samaritan teachers continue to pivot, inspired by the families they serve in this time of a doubled effort by staff. Their work now offers a more intricate interaction with members of the community.

“We basically became social workers,” says Torres, who urges for more attention, investment and recognition of the work ECE teachers do. “We are also teachers, we have studied to be educators, we are teaching.”

 This time of multiplying efforts and redefining roles for Good Samaritan has also been one to renew and strengthen ties with other community-based organizations. Close collaboration has been essential to resolving current challenges — and for drawing a roadmap for the future equitable recovery needed in the Mission.

“At Good Samaritan, we further understand that it really, really does take a village, and we work closely with community partners and supporters to provide children with every opportunity for them to achieve their full potential,” says Castillo. “For example, MPN literacy partner, Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, provides us with books and access to culturally diverse and language-appropriate literacy materials. Other MPN partners helped us with food boxes, PPE supplies and emergency essential goods for families during the height of the pandemic crisis. The most important lesson is that we are stronger when we all work together.”

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Co-authored by:
Associate Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz Cortez
Early Learning Program Manager, Mission Promise Neighborhood Ada Freund
Chief Operations Officer, Felton Institute, Dr. Yohana Quiroz

Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) was honored to speak this week at the Community Indicators Consortium (CIC) impact summit, an annual conference with an audience of national and international policymakers, researchers and practitioners. This year’s powerful theme was “Community Indicators for Change: Responding, Rebuilding, and Advancing Equity.” We showcased MPN partner Felton Institute, together sharing best practices from our equity-focused collective impact work to improve school-readiness outcomes for the Latino and immigrant community of San Francisco’s Mission District.

Why school readiness matters
Overwhelming evidence indicates that children who enter kindergarten behind are likely to remain behind throughout their educational careers and beyond. For the 2019-2020 school year in San Francisco, Latinx children showcased the highest disparity in school readiness: Latinx children were 44% ready compared to 76% of their white peers.*

MPN focuses on combatting this disparity and has inspired a movement with partners and families to reverse this trend. MPN early care and education programs serve 85% Latinx children, with 99% of them eligible for local, state and federal subsidies. Of the approximately 68% of children who qualify for a federal subsidy, families qualify using the 2021 federal poverty level of $26,500 for a family of four — exceeding low by San Francisco standards.

The equitable-focused, community-centered, collective impact strategies that MPN has devised and implemented over time have led to positive results. For instance, a recent MPN PreK longitudinal study demonstrated that participation in preschool is not enough for our community’s low-income children of color. Our 2018 study found that children who attended an MPN preschool and whose families participated in various programs and services across our network were 71% ready at kindergarten compared to the Mission District average of 43%. 

MPN as a model, with infrastructure in place to meet a crisis head-on
MPN works to close the achievement and opportunity gap. For close to a decade, MPN has developed deep relationships with 15+ partners, including nine early learning partners, and recently with an additional 13 family child care educators who collaborate on a common agenda to support children and families in being ready for school — and for schools being ready for children and families. Our unique prenatal to post-secondary pipeline of supports always puts families at the center as a way to create a strong foundation for economic stability and academic success. 

That success stems from our working together to break down organizational silos based on our commitment to a collective impact and Results-Based Accountability approach that includes: a common agenda; collecting data and consistently measuring results; coordinating mutually reinforcing activities; open and continuous communication; and, most importantly, taking a strengths-based approach when partnering with families in a culturally responsive and authentic way. 

MPN develops authentic partnerships with parents and caretakers by growing leadership capacity and addressing the critical role parents play in their children’s education. Parents are, in fact, their child’s first and most important teacher. Since 2017, when partners began aligning the Abriendo Puertas parenting and leadership program strategy, a total of 985 parents from eight partner agencies have participated in this evidence-based program. Additionally, 14 of these parents have completed the Abriendo Puerta facilitator training and are now actively facilitating the program in the Mission. Community agencies partnering with parents equals the latter becoming active changemakers. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our community, MPN partners were best equipped to respond to the demands families were facing. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the Latinx community accounted for 50% of the COVID-19 positive cases while only making up 15% of San Francisco’s  population. Overcrowded living conditions and many being frontline essential workers coupled to cause a perfect storm. Most partners paused their usual programming and pivoted to a triage approach to ensure families had access to basic needs. Because of the existing MPN collective impact approach, we had the infrastructure in place to address the pandemic’s disproportionately negative impacts on our community. 

Partner highlight: FeltonDuring COVId-19, early learning partner Felton Institute became a community hub that provided immediate wraparound services to families. Additionally, Felton Institute continued to address children’s social and emotional needs to ensure young ones were kindergarten-ready.

Rooted in equity, Felton’s mission is to transform quality of life and promote social justice to accelerate community-led change. The vision is to drive positive and sustainable community-led change where all have equitable access to innovative, high-quality, evidence-informed services.

As an established community-based organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, Felton has built on its 133-year history addressing inequities to pivot and continue to innovate to address the conditions that were already prevalent before COVID-19 but have been exacerbated during the pandemic. Such issues include isolation, economic stress, food insecurity, stress and trauma, just to name a few, all which according to research are proven to negatively impact the well-being of families, their young children and the educators who care and educate them.

As an MPN early learning partner, Felton offers culturally relevant, trauma-informed early care and education and wraparound family support services for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families to reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress using the Five Protective Factors: strengthening parental resilience; augmenting social connections; increasing knowledge of parenting and child development; providing concrete supports in times of need; and supporting social-emotional competence in young children. These services are offered in Felton’s early care and education programs, which are critical settings providing opportunities for prevention and early intervention support, allowing families to heal, build community and grow as leaders and advocates.

During the past 18 months, in addition to increasing access to food, basic needs and financial relief, Felton has also responded to children under the age of five who have and continue to suffer from mental health and stress. They have worked with their family/caregivers to ensure that kids’ social-emotional needs are addressed and they can bounce back from these stressful experiences. They have offered parenting support groups, small playgroups, one-on-one support for children, and mental health consultation for early childhood teachers and their families. Felton has added a School Counselor role to focus on on-site individual trauma recovery and family crisis intervention to program participants. This includes intake, assessment and diagnosis, plus treatment-plan development and referrals to other early-intervention services. In this role, the School Counselor provides child-family psychotherapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), case management and advocacy services within a multi-disciplinary team — and as part of the treatment plan of children and families. 

Their goal is to promote well-being and prevent mental health conditions by addressing the needs of young children ages 0-5, given the unique opportunity for positive development during these foundational years and by leveraging authentic family partnerships. This is important because the K-readiness data shows that our Black and Brown children are lagging in comparison to their peers. Felton’s role is to increase awareness of infant and early childhood mental health to reduce stigma and ensure they open (access) and maintain the doors open (continuity) to prevention and early intervention services for families in community-based settings. Felton believes addressing the social and emotional needs of children now is more critical than ever.

Many San Francisco children and families, particularly those in our BIPOC communities, are under significant and escalating toxic stress. These families are under siege due to the simultaneous pandemics of COVID-19 and racism. The current public health crisis has exposed the historical and modern inequities BIPOC and underserved communities have experienced throughout life, which include: poverty; racism; discrimination; trauma; financial hardships; education; health; and mental health. These twin pandemics, along with the current racial reckoning that has flared up in the United States, necessitate a holistic whole person and systems response. In addition, with the pandemic, this stress and the inequities have become even more profound, and many of these communities are part of the “essential” workers, being placed at increased risk for being infected with the virus; and vulnerability to take adequate sick and isolation time and may also not access timely health care for multiple reasons. The added mental stress and safety of their families and communities will also become critical factors but balancing basic shelter and food security and health for some economic survival will become tough choices. These challenges will continue to exacerbate these inequities and have negative short and long–term consequences for our community.

As an MPN partner, Felton values the partnership focused on collaboration, and taking a collective impact approach to systems change. The partnership with 15+ community-based organizations has allowed for the breaking down of silos as we align services, reduce duplication of services and move the needle on many fronts, but in particular, kindergarten readiness.

As a result of our success in aligning efforts across organizations and partnering with families, we have seen an increase in the percentage of children entering our schools kinder-ready. MPN has provided partners with intentional opportunities to collaborate, share data, and create new strategies to address the most pressing disparities in our community.

As we look at post-pandemic recovery, Felton continues to be nimble and proactive, and will continue to use a collective impact approach to ensure they can impact and improve the health and well-being of their families. They look forward to the strong and long-standing partnership with MPN to continue a collective agenda, goals and advocacy. Felton is committed to being part of the solution by providing a community-led, two/multi-generational, whole child, whole family approach — all while advocating for systems level response investments and infrastructure.
*Data Source: San Francisco Kindergarten Readiness Inventory,  2019-20. 

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[Click for English, which follows Spanish.]

La determinación de un padre y una red de organizaciones ayudan a un niño migrante con discapacidad a navegar las primeras etapas de su vida.

Hace cerca de dos años, Arold Josué Hernández llegó a San Francisco junto a su hijo Samuel como consecuencia del asesinato de su esposa en Honduras. Desde entonces su vida se ha concentrado en brindar al niño, de cuatro años y con una discapacidad visual (retinopatía de bebé prematuro), todas las herramientas que necesita para su cuidado y empezar su proceso formativo.

En ese camino ha contado con el respaldo de los socios de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission. Arold y Samuel vivieron en albergues desde su llegada, auxiliados por Compass Family Services.

Hace un par de meses, Arold logró uno de los mayores hitos de su proceso al mudarse un apartamento de vivienda económica luego de ganar una lotería de vivienda de la Oficina de Vivienda y Desarrollo Comunitario del Alcalde de San Francisco (DAHLIA) y obtener un subsidio de vivienda de Hamilton Families, una organización que asiste a familias sin hogar.

“Al comienzo de la pandemia tuve la oportunidad [de mudarme a vivienda económica], pero al quedarme sin empleo no pude”, dice Arold, quien tendría una nueva chance casi que un año después, cuando se recuperaba de una cirugía que le impedía trabajar. “Hace dos meses me enviaron la documentación, pero tenía dos semanas de que me habían operado. Con los ingresos por beneficios de desempleo pude enviar mi solicitud [de lotería de vivienda]. Dos días antes de que DAHLIA me enviara una confirmación, Hamilton aprobó un subsidio de vivienda para pagar mi renta por 20 meses”.

El proceso hizo de Arold un “experto” en las loterías de vivienda económica de DAHLIA y una voz que puede ofrecer recomendaciones a otros miembros de la comunidad.

“Si había ofertas a diario, pues a diario solicitaba, de eso se trata porque por eso es una lotería, es la suerte”, dice Arold, que insiste en que el seguimiento de los miembros de la comunidad a los procesos es vital para obtener servicios. “No por el hecho de aplicar le van a dar a uno vivienda. Es cierto que la ciudad ofrece todo el apoyo necesario, pero necesitamos buscarlo nosotros mismos”.

Una red de servicios
Arold entró en contacto con Comunidad Promesa de la Mission por recomendación de una de las terapistas de Samuel en el Distrito Escolar Unificado de San Francisco. Así fue que conoció a Ana Avilez, quien se desempeñaba como Early Learning Family Success Coach en Comunidad Promesa de la Mission. Avilez determinó los servicios que ayudarían mejor a la familia a instalarse en su vida en San Francisco y, al mismo tiempo, encontrar la mejor atención para Samuel.

“Por medio de Ana apliqué a DAHLIA para vivienda de bajo costo, pude aplicar para la escuela (Tule Elk Park Child Development Center) pude dar con recursos para alimentación y conseguir ayuda económica cuando empezó la pandemia”, dice Arold. “La verdad que Ana ha sido mi mano derecha”.

Una vez conectado con organizaciones, Arold se ha concentrado en formar un equipo con socios comunitarios de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission como Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, que brindó al padre información sobre sus derechos y los servicios que recibiría Samuel a través de su Plan de educación individualizado. Adicionalmente, Felton Institute ha prestado servicios para el cuidado de Samuel.

“Cuando Arold recibe un ‘no’, él no se detiene”, dice Avilez sobre la determinación del padre hondureño. “Ahora sabe que puede solicitar recursos que le pueden beneficiar. Ahora tienen una vivienda permanente, su hijo tiene todas las terapias y una escuela que cumple con sus necesidades”.

Un niño que navega el mundo
A punto de cumplir cinco años, el pequeño Samuel empieza a desenvolverse en el mundo como ha sido la intención de su padre. En Felton Institute se le apoyó por medio de asistencia individual para que navegara su espacio en el salón de clases y formar amistades con otros niños. Según el padre, el niño desarrolló habilidades como usar la cuchara para comer, tomar un vaso para beber y ponerse de pie sin elementos de apoyo durante su paso por Felton.

“Son cosas que antes no hacía”, dice Arold. “Mis respetos para ese programa [Felton] porque se ve reflejado en mi hijo todo el empeño, el entusiasmo y esmero que ellos le ponen para que los hijos aprendan”.

Ese sentimiento de admiración es recíproco por parte de Felton.

“Arold siempre ha sido un gran defensor de sí mismo y de Samuel”, dice Azul Muller, maestra de preescolar en Felton Institute. “Hizo un gran trabajo al conectarse con tantas personas diferentes porque tiene un gran grupo de apoyo e hizo un trabajo increíble al asegurarse de que todos estuvieran en la misma página”.

La maestra también destaca la influencia de Samuel en el salón de clases. De acuerdo con Muller, Samuel trajo al aula un nuevo elemento de cuidado y de cómo ser humano con otros menores.

“[Los niños] se dieron cuenta de cómo realmente preocuparse por alguien que necesitaba ayuda adicional, y lo hicieron de una manera tan amorosa y cariñosa que sentí que si Sammy no hubiera estado en nuestro salón de clases, no hubiéramos podido experimentar ese tipo de atención por otras personas. Sammy nos enseñó eso a su manera”.

Samuel actualmente asiste a una escuela del Distrito Escolar Unificado de San Francisco y recibe todas las terapias que necesita. Después de recibir su alta médica, Arold regresó a la fuerza laboral. Es importante añadir que La Raza Centro Legal, otro socio comunitario de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission, lo conectó con un abogado de inmigración pro bono que lo ayudó a obtener un permiso de trabajo hace unos meses.

Con la determinación de esta familia y el apoyo de los socios de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission, el futuro es ahora brillante tanto para el padre como para el hijo.

To Better the Future for his Disabled Son, An Immigrant Father Harnesses the Power of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Support Network  

The determination of a father plus the collective support of a network of organizations are combining to help an immigrant child with a disability navigate the early stages of his life.

Arold Josué Hernández and son Samuel arrived in San Francisco around two years ago. Arold was fleeing violence after his wife was tragically murdered in their homeland of Honduras. Since arriving in the U.S., the loving father’s life has focused on providing the 4-year-old the necessary tools to assist with the child’ visual impairment (retinopathy caused by Samuel being born prematurely).

Arold’s journey has included wraparound support from Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) partners. Arold and Samuel had lived in shelters since their arrival from Honduras, being assisted by Compass Family Services during that time

The good news is that Arold recently achieved a major milestone by moving into affordable housing: He won the lottery for a below-market-rate (BMR) apartment from the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (DAHLIA). Support also arrived in the form of his obtaining a housing subsidy from Hamilton Families, an organization that assists homeless families 

“At the beginning of the pandemic I won a lottery and had the opportunity [to move into affordable housing], but then I was left without a job, so I couldn’t do so,” says Arold, who would have a new chance almost a year later, just right when he was recovering from the surgery that prevented him from working. “Two months ago, they [DAHLIA] sent me the documentation, but it had been two weeks since my surgery. I was able to submit my [housing lottery] application because of my income from unemployment benefits . Hamilton approved a housing allowance to pay my rent for 20 months two days before DAHLIA sent me a confirmation of getting an apartment.”

The process made Arold an “expert” in DAHLIA’s lotteries — and a voice that can offer recommendations to fellow community members seeking affordable housing in San Francisco.

“If there were offers daily, well, I applied daily, That’s what it’s about because that’s why it’s a lottery — it’s luck,” says Arold, who insists that the follow up of applicants is vital to obtain services. “Just because you apply, they are not going to give you a home. It is true that the City offers all the necessary support, but we need to look for it ourselves.”

An entry to a networkArold contacted MPN on the recommendation of one of Samuel’s therapists from the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). This is how he met Ana Avilez, who then served as an MPN Early Learning Family Success Coach. Avilez determined the services that would best help the family settle into their life in San Francisco while also finding the best care for Samuel. 

“Through Ana, I applied to DAHLIA for BMR housing, I was able to apply for school (Tule Elk Park Child Development Center), plus I was able to find resources for food and get financial aid when the pandemic began,” states Arold. “The truth is that Ana has been my right-hand person.”

Once connected with organizations, Arold has focused on working as a team with MPN community partners, such as Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, who provided information on his rights and what services Samuel will be receiving via his Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Additionally, Felton Institute has been a care provider for Samuel.

“When Arold receives a no, he won’t stop there,” Avilez explains of the Honduran father’s determination. “He now knows how he can apply for resources from which his family can benefit. Now they have a permanent home, and the child has all the therapies and a school that can fulfill his needs.”

A boy ready to navigate the world
About to turn five years old, little Samuel is now beginning to develop as his father always hoped. At Felton Institute, Samuel was supported through individual assistance to navigate his space in the classroom and form friendships with other children. According to his father, the boy also developed skills such as using a spoon to eat, taking a glass to drink and standing up without support — all accomplishments achieved during Samuel’s time at Felton.

“These are things that he didn’t do before,” explains Arold. “I have respect for all of the effort, enthusiasm and care Felton puts in so that children learn.”

Such admiration is reciprocated on Felton’s part. 

“Arold has always been such a great advocate for himself and Samuel. He will go out of his way to make sure his son got what he needed,” says Azul Muller, Preschool Mentor Teacher at Felton Institute. “He did a great job in connecting with so many different people because Arold has a big support group, and he did an amazing job in ensuring that everyone was on the same page.”

The teacher also highlighted Samuel’s influence on others while he was at Felton. According to Muller, Samuel brought into the classroom a new element of caring and how to be human with other kids.

“They [students] were noticing how to really care for someone who needed extra help in such a loving and caring way that I felt that if Sammy wasn’t in our classroom, we wouldn’t have been able to experience that sort of empathy for other people,” says Muller. “In his own way, Sammy really taught us that in our classroom.” 

Samuel currently attends an SFUSD school and receives all his needed therapies. After receiving his medical discharge, Arold has returned to the workforce: MPN partner La Raza Centro Legal connected him to a pro bono immigration lawyer who helped him obtain a work permit. 

With this family’s determination and the support of MPN partners, the future is now bright for both father and son. 

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by Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya

My great-grandparents were indigenous Yaquis compelled to head north to the Bay Area a century back after waging battle in the Mexican Revolution. My parents toiled as farmworkers in the fields of Northern California and came of age during the Chicano Movement. And my tribute to the experience of those who came before me was to leverage their hard work and determination into earning my master’s from the University of California, Berkeley. The truth is, all of their names should have also been listed on my diploma.

I never forget my roots. That’s why I consistently bring a racial equity lens to my work as Director of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), which is a place-based initiative in San Francisco’s Mission District, long a welcoming immigrant hub. The Mission was also a historically redlined community and, more recently, the neighborhood’s working-class Latino residents have faced federal anti-immigrant policies coupled with displacement pressures caused by income inequality and the high cost of housing. 

Inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone, MPN worked to combat these discriminatory legacies by partnering with 20 long-entrenched neighborhood organizations to provide wraparound services to families along the cradle-to-career continuum. One goal was to reverse the trend of gentrification and its subsequent displacement of a community of color by six-figure-earning tech workers, drawn to the urban experience the Mission offers. This staggering fact tells the story: Over 9,000 Latinos are now gone from their neighborhood of choice. This amounts to nearly one in three Latinos.

Meeting these challenges head on, MPN has been making great strides to create equity in the neighborhood, ensuring everyone still has a place at the table. Our success is due in large part to having schools serve as community hubs, which are vital to any thriving city. After all, a city is simply a patchwork of neighborhoods — and the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts. That’s why MPN places Family Success Coaches (FSCs) at eight schools, plus several early learning and care centers. These FSCs act as a connector to the neighborhood’s culturally relevant services, with a goal of family economic success that translates to student academic achievement.

To activate community members so they could make their voices heard, MPN also began a parent leadership program and a policy arm. Partly as a result of our community’s advocacy, we began to preserve existing rent-controlled units and even build new 100% affordable housing developments in a neighborhood that had been seeing nothing but market-rate gleaming towers constructed for a decade.

This work has always been about power-building and systems change. In addition to working with the City to create a fund for affordable housing development, we partnered with the San Francisco Unified School District to pass the Latinx Resolution, which mandates that the district work with the community to develop strategies to reduce academic disparities for Latino students. 

The aforementioned fostered the beginning of the stabilization of the Mission, and a promise kept to our kids via a dramatic increase in kinder-readiness and graduation rates. 

Then in March 2020 the pandemic hit. 

Latinos are only 15% of San Francisco’s population, but since the start of the crisis they have at times comprised 50% of the positive COVID-19 cases in the city. Systemic inequities created the perfect storm for this disproportionate effect on the Latino and immigrant community, with frontline essential workers living in overcrowded conditions that afforded little opportunity to isolate. Sadly, many were compelled to choose their livelihoods over their lives, the immediacy of putting food on the table tonight and paying next month’s rent paramount to the possibility of falling ill to the virus.

The good news is that MPN was built for this moment: The community infrastructure that we built to respond to historical inequities was primed to respond to this new inequity. Our FSCs were able to immediately reach out to the nearly 1,000 families on their caseloads and connect them to emergency income relief funds, affordable housing, eviction-moratorium applications and small business loans. The City, school district and philanthropy tapped us to distribute new emergency benefits because of that community infrastructure we already had in place, including the trust of our most vulnerable residents. We also worked with our partners to use anecdotal and data-driven evidence to convince Mayor Breed to identify $28.5 million in urgent COVID-response funding for our community, since we saw first hand the on-the-ground, unmet need.

We must work together to institutionalize place-based investments, such as Promise Neighborhoods, not only as part of a long-term equitable recovery solution, but also as a way to begin reversing the negative legacies of redlining and other discriminatory policies.

Let’s all have this honest discussion. Now is the time to create thriving cities replete with equity of opportunity.

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

Early Learning Program Manager, Mission Promise Neighborhood Ada Freund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Co-authored by:
Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya
Associate Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz Cortez
Family Support Manager, Mission Promise Neighborhood Celina Castro-Saelao

The name says it all: A Promise Neighborhood is, indeed, a promise to a neighborhood. A promise to strengthen families. A promise to create equity in early learning. A promise to our kids that they will have opportunity.

And it’s a promise we should all make.

That’s why the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) was created seven years ago in San Francisco’s Mission District. It’s also why MPN has been invited to the 10th Annual Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference, presenting our lessons learned over the years and, specifically, around our recent COVID-19 response, affordable-housing work and use of Results-Based Accountability (RBA) to measure our impact.

Some background: MPN is launched
Based on the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, then-President Obama launched around a dozen Promise Neighborhoods across the land. Thankfully, one was created in San Francisco’s Mission District in December 2012. MPN is a partnership of 15+ community agencies annually providing cradle-to-career, wraparound supports to more than 5,000 community members. The Mission District has long been a welcoming hub for Latino immigrants, with a need for culturally relevant services offered to help these newcomers create the life they seek in their new community. When the neighborhood became popular with six-figure-earners, fueled by a booming tech industry, rapid gentrification led to displacement of 8,000 Latinos from the Mission in just a decade — that’s over 25% of our community.

The genesis of MPN quickly showcased the need to define it as a community anti-poverty education initiative. The data showed that a household earning under $75,000 a year could no longer stay in their neighborhood of choice. The data also showed that our families were making a median of just $30,000 a year per household.

To create equity, the MPN team and its partners rolled up their sleeves and collectively got to work to turn the curve on displacement of our families: A two-generation approach was employed to strengthen families so students succeeded academically. That translated to every year from 2013 to 2019 showcasing phenomenal results, running the gamut from increased kinder-readiness to improved high school graduation rates.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 then descended upon the neighborhood.

Pivoting, with housing a priority
When San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order commenced in mid-March, MPN partners immediately started hearing a collective tale of woe from community members. For our families, there was no working from home. No computer for distance learning. No money for next month’s rent and, far too often, to even put food on the table that night. The Latino and immigrant community of the Mission was being disproportionately affected: While just 15% of the city’s population, Latinos were accounting for 50% of positive COVID-19 tests. One of the reasons was that these were still our frontline essential workers (think food delivery), out in public for their livelihoods while potentially risking their lives. Additionally, many families were residing in overcrowded conditions, meaning self-quarantine was impossible if one contracted the virus.

This challenge led to MPN, as a direct connection between families and elected officials, being part of a push to inform the City’s emergency-funding decisions to meet urgent needs in the community. Food pantries appeared overnight, relief funds were structured and small-business assistance was delivered. The success of this movement for equitable resources was made possible because MPN could leverage its seven years spent building relationships and earning the community’s trust. This was complemented by schools and early care and learning centers already being community hubs. MPN Family Success Coaches (FSCs) had long been serving thousands of families each year at nine Mission schools, with other FSCs based at early care and learning centers dotting the community. These FSCs acted as connectors to free resources available from the bevy of MPN partners, from legal services and financial coaching to job training and health care. When the shelter-in-place order was implemented, these FSCs pivoted in their work and joined newly formed action teams at MEDA, the lead agency of MPN. Two of these buckets of work are: Income, with 1,553 family income-relief applications processed; and  Small Businesses, with 86 loans disbursed. 

The third bucket of work centered around housing, as affordable and stable housing remained a priority, despite San Francisco’s eviction moratorium that had been implemented. That’s why a “Housing Action Team” was cobbled together with FSCs, promotora community outreach workers and MEDA staff. This tireless team has assisted thousands of families with everything from garnering housing subsidies to submitting below-market-rate apartment applications. The latter was vital, as there were finally 100% affordable-housing developments in the Mission after a decade of no such units being built. Two of the properties — 2060 Folsom and 1990 Folsom, a block apart — were built by MEDA itself. Time was of the essence, as the City had stringent guidelines for submitting the initial application, conducting a lottery and, eventually, getting needed financial paperwork to verify eligibility. The good news is that 2,448 below-market-rate (BMR) applications were completed for entry into City lotteries.

The “Housing Action Team” strategy included the early adoption of every means possible to stay in contact with families to assess their immediate needs — meeting these community members where they are at. Some communications methods are tried and true, such as a phone call, email or text; conversely, new communications strategies include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lives, the latter to disseminate expert information on housing matters to a wide audience in one fell swoop.

RBA ASAP .. and for the long term
An essential part of MPN’s success is due to the collective adoption of the Results-Based Accountability (RBA) model. RBA tools help to improve the lives of children, families

and communities by setting the collective intention around community-level conditions of well-being, plus it aims to improve programs that contribute to those population-level results. How so? RBA augments collaboration and consensus by: quickly moving from talk to action; creating an easily digestible process; offering the space to challenge long-held assumptions and breaking down obstacles to innovation; and using data and transparency to ensure accountability.

Having RBA as part of the culture of MPN means this model is currently being used by partners to adapt to the current conditions under COVID-19. RBA is also helping us answer important equity-focused questions, such as:

“How do we collectively determine a family has been given the necessary wraparound supports to best weather this crisis?”

“What does a true, immediate recovery from COVID-19 look like on a population level for the Latino and immigrant community of San Francisco’s Mission District?”

“How do we measure the eradication of the systemic inequities that led to San Francisco’s Mission District Latino and immigrant community being disproportionately affected by a crisis?”

It must be acknowledged that communities of color will suffer more-adverse effects of any crisis (e.g., an earthquake or the climate crisis). The power of RBA must be harnessed so that we can properly measure that equity has been achieved.

While turning the calendar to 2021 is something we all look forward to doing in a month, we must keep in mind lessons learned and best practices. Promise Neighborhoods are a model for creating multi-generational equity of opportunity in communities of color. MPN successfully combatting issues in the epicenter of gentrification in the nation means this model can — and should — be replicated in other cities experiencing such issues. This must be done during the ongoing pandemic, and long thereafter as we collectively define what an equitable recovery should look like.

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Photo: Alejandro Bautista

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

(Read report.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya

The new school year school begins this week in San Francisco, and remote learning makes for unusual times for all of us. But the extensive groundwork we laid over the summer ensures that Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is ready to support our students, families and school district.

Throughout the summer, MPN used its infrastructure and community trust to respond quickly and comprehensively to the COVID-related needs of low-income neighborhood families. This work was done in partnership with community agencies, and in alignment with city and school district priorities. 

Service delivery
Since the shelter-in-place order was implemented March 16, 10 MPN family success coaches have helped 745 unique clients and more than 1,000 children with COVID-related income relief, eviction moratorium letters, below-market-rate rental (BMR) applications, distance learning, food resources and more. MPN coaches have also helped distribute nearly $6 million in COVID-related small-business relief loans and grants, including to family child care providers. 

Here are a few specifics:

Collaboration and systems alignment

  • Worked with the City of San Francisco and San Francisco Foundation to become a lead agency for SF Family Relief Fund; will distribute $850,ooo in family relief funds to San Francisco families.
  • Worked with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to become the lead agency for the San Francisco Latino Parity and Equity Coalition (20 Latino-serving CBOs).
  • Hosted several town halls with School Board members and SFUSD administrators to obtain parent input on return-to-school planning, and shared anonymous MEDA client data on family needs with SFUSD to help it plan return-to-school programming.
  • Worked with school principals and MPN school teams (academic enrichment and mental health providers) to plan coordinated service delivery to students and families at schools for the fall semester.
  • Worked with SFUSD and the Latino Task Force to distribute early-learning materials to incoming kindergarteners and to create and share online videos regarding these learning materials; worked with partner agencies to also deliver parent leadership programming (Abriendo Puertas) online.
  • Network of 15 partners continued to provide wraparound services to our community, as described in our last blog. We will go into more detail on some of this work in upcoming blogs.

 National voice

  • MPN is honored to be leading a session at the annual StriveTogether Cradle to Career Convening, titled “The Role of Housing from Cradle to Career.”  We will share how we integrate bold solutions for housing and cradle-to-career achievement by: creating access to affordable housing for public school families; preserving existing affordable neighborhood housing; and building new multi-family housing with educational achievement programs integrated on site. Together, these strategies are preventing displacement of low- and moderate-income Latino and immigrant families, and anchoring San Francisco’s Mission District community. Find out more about the conference here
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2301 Mission Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94110

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