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 CortezEarly 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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by Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya

Like other Promise Neighborhoods, our work has escalated due to COVID-19, but we’ve built the community infrastructure to meet this moment.

The challenge and the pivot
Latinos make up 80% of COVID-19 hospitalizations at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and 25% of all cases in San Francisco, despite being 15% of the population. The Mission District is the hardest-hit neighborhood in the city. Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is not only connecting many Mission families to testing and health care during this crisis, but also to relief funds, emergency tenants’ rights, food security, distance learning and mental health services.

MPN comprises 15 agencies working together to tackle challenges that no single organization can solve on its own. We’ve seen kinder-readiness and graduation rates go up in the Mission District since our work started. When the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order began, our Family Success Coaches (FSCs) reached out to their clients to assess their needs. Their caseload consists of more than 1,000 families at nine Mission schools, three early learning centers and 11 family child care providers (FCCs). This outreach happened via text message, WhatsApp and phone calls.

Because of our networked approach and pre-existing referral process, we were able to nimbly provide wraparound services for 343 unique families, as documented in our Salesforce database. (The true number is probably much higher, as we are still catching up on data entry given the high volume of clients.)

Many families in the Mission District work as back-of-house restaurant workers, housecleaners or day laborers. Sadly, they were among the first to lose their jobs when the shelter-in-place order began, and many didn’t qualify for unemployment and federal stimulus benefits. In a city as expensive as San Francisco, this could have disastrous consequences. Thanks to a $100,000 philanthropic donation, we were able to use our database to quickly identify 100 families to receive $1,000 checks; these families were otherwise unable to access emergency unemployment and stimulus grant benefits because of their status. We helped even more families complete other income-relief applications such as federal unemployment, Undocufund and the Mission Asset Fund Relief Fund. We connected community members to food distribution sites and helped them submit eviction moratorium letters to their landlords, and assisted school principals with distance-learning support. We also provided information to families on how to participate in the UCSF/Latino Task Force COVID-testing initiative in a 16-block census tract of the Mission District.

FSCs continued working in teams with school-site partners such as Instituto Familiar de la Raza, Jamestown and Mission Graduates; our K-12 Program Manager, Efrain Barrera, co-facilitated San Francisco Unified School District’s Partner Community Forum, where more than 250 participants worked on aligning our collective strategy for providing emergency-related services to families.

Here are a few ways that other MPN partners responded to ameliorate the challenges of COVID-19:

  • Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC) provided testing and healthcare to the MPN community.
  • Abriendo Puertas parent leadership workgroup began planning a way to continue implementing its curriculum via distance learning.
  • Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, moved to online read-alouds.
  • Felton Family Developmental Center provided food-security services by running a weekly farmers’ market where families can pick up food and also basic necessities such such as diapers, formula and toiletries.
  • Good Samaritan Family Resource Center connected with community members through its Family Resource Center and Child Development Center. Preschool teachers made wellness calls and prepared activity packets for children, while Family Advocates made connections to emergency services and resources.
  • Homeless Prenatal Program virtually continued programs, and was identified as a community food-security location and a diaper-distribution center.
  • Support for Families remotely provided developmental assessments for children, and moved their programs online.
  • La Raza Centro Legal is conducting interviews via telephone and continuing to file immigration cases and workers’ rights claims.

Donations made to the network
Many supporters came through for MPN to combat the COVID-19 crisis.

Highlights include:

  • The Warriors Community Foundation made a donation to MNHC to support COVID-19 testing.
  • Local business EAT Club donated ten boxes of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gloves to MNHC.
  • StriveTogether sent a $100,000 grant to support our parent advocacy work, which was instrumental in passing the San Francisco School Board’s Latinx Resolution as well as promoting the Promise Neighborhood model with legislators in the state capitol.

Moving forward
Promise Neighborhoods are supposed to create population-level change within five years. Heat maps show that the low-income communities in San Francisco most impacted by COVID-19 closely align with old redlining maps; in other words, the root causes of current inequities go back much further than five years.

Community development and public health are deeply linked. I join the chorus of voices saying that we cannot go back to normal: Normal is what got us here. It’s time for big, bold, new ideas. Promise Neighborhoods have always been big and bold — believing that we can change the trajectory of an entire community by working together across sectors, and along the cradle-to-career continuum. The large-scale progress that we have made in our communities — and the vision of which this progress is a part — is more important now than ever before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are not the only ones seeing results. 

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

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

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

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

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


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photo by Alejandro Bautista

Hundreds of community members got their kids ready for the upcoming school year by taking part in the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) “2019 Education Forum.” This sixth annual event was held on Saturday, Aug. 10, with the venue graciously offered by City College – Mission Campus. 

The day started with a hearty breakfast featuring tamales and sweet bread, complemented by champurrado, a chocolate drink. Attendees were then welcomed by MPN Director Richard Raya, who was excited to see faces old and new in the crowd as he explained that the day was all about our families. As MPN is a place-based community anti-poverty initiative in San Francisco’s Mission District, 15 community organizations were represented at the event.

Mission Parent Advisory’s Abraham then echoed Raya’s words, adding that it was impactful that so many parents helped plan the event by brainstorming and taking an active role in choosing main themes, workshops and activities. Abraham also put forth a strong message that parent involvement is critical to student success. 

There were then concurrently running workshops and activities, as the City College campus bustled with activity.

A trio of workshops were offered on: getting kids kinder ready, centered on tips for families to keep in mind about the transition from early learning centers to kinder, plus an introduction to Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, which has a mission to support parents in their role as family leader and as their child’s first and most influential teacher; cyberbullying and tips for internet safety, with suggestions around what parents can do at home to ensure their children safely use technology; and promoting literacy at home, with strategies for engaging young ones with books.

Activities were varied and compelling, as noted by MPN Family Support Manager Celina Castro-Saelao, who stated “The feedback has been that the children were having an instructional yet fun time playing and creating things. Parents were excited about all of the activities that were planned for the day.”

Kids could be seen bettering their athleticism by jumping rope, using chalk to create a colorful mural showcasing summer in San Francisco, and even face painting.

For the youngest attendees, a quiet space, complete with age-appropriate toys, was provided for infants and toddlers.

One popular activity was the Mission PhotoVoice Project, which has been making the rounds the past few years. Titled “An American Dream?,” this  is the work of women who met, learned, cried, laughed and worked together to produce powerful portraits of courage. Topics include the living conditions that families are forced to endure, their impact on health and well-being, fear of eviction and ending up on the streets, the fires and displacement occurring in the Mission, resiliency and hope, and potential changes and solutions. This exhibit, with an explanation by Early Learning Program Manager Ada Alvarado Freund, sparked many an insightful conversation with “2019 Education Forum” attendees, who told of their own issues in securing affordable and quality housing — an issue MPN is successfully working to combat.

A resource fair, with 13 partners tabling, was also well attended. Topics ranged from after-school programs and health to City College’s offerings and resources available at the San Francisco Public Library.

For the upcoming school year, families of children in K-12 received a backpack for each student, provided already stuffed by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services. Inside each backpack was a bevy of much-needed items for academic preparedness: binders; paper; calculators; crayons; markers; rulers; and the like.

Additionally, MPN provided 55 of its own tote bags geared toward kids ages 0-5, with books and activities offered for parents and children.

Concludes Castro-Saelao, “The annual MPN Education Forum always sets our families and students off on the right foot for the upcoming educational year. Every child deserves the tools to succeed in school, and this event is part of making that happen. MPN looks forward to seeing everyone again next year.”


MPN wants to thank the following for their support of the “2019 Education Forum.”

Mayor London Breed
MPN Parent Council
Common Sense Education
Tandem, Partners in Early Learning
MPN Early Learning Collaborative
Instituto Familiar de La Raza
Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc.
Mission Graduates: College Connect
Jamestown Community Center
Support For Families
Felton Institute
Parents for Public Schools
San Francisco Public Library
Mission Neighborhood Health Center

MPN also wants to thank our volunteers for the “2019 Education Forum.”

Karen Aguilar
Cammy Blackstone
Leonor Texcucano Cedeno
Diana Diaz
Gabriela Gody
Amaranta Korngold
Mireya Lopez
Loretta Pollard
Serenity Pollard
Daniela Rivas
Rosa Solorzano
Rita Vieira
Julian Yannacone
Sarai Tannacone



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Co-authored by:
by Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya
MEDA CEO Luis Granados

(NOTE: Read eight-page report on which this blog is based here.)

Asset building is in MEDA’s organizational DNA — and we’re proud that it’s part of our origin story, which began 46 years ago.

But our future is in collective impact with partners. 

To resist and, ultimately, reverse the tidal wave of gentrification in San Francisco, MEDA moved beyond providing direct services and added an equity lens that focused on placekeeping for a community of color. 

Pivoting to reflect new challenges
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a five-year, $30 million Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) grant to MEDA so that it could work with 20 community partners to close the academic achievement gap for Latino students in San Francisco’s Mission District. As a result of becoming a backbone organization for this community-wide collective-impact initiative, MEDA began to double in size. Our nonprofit rapidly pivoted from being a direct-services provider to tackling community-development work as a means to proactively responding to the pressures facing the community, from rising income inequality to rapid gentrification to anti-immigrant policies. 

For students to succeed, MEDA’s premise was that their families needed to have the tools to move out of poverty, complemented by affordable places to live and the fostering of political power to affect systems change.

The strategy also called for the array of community organizations providing support services in the neighborhood to band together, so that the scale of the solution began to match the scale of the problem.

This pivot in work led to the creation of:
The MEDA Community Real Estate team, which is preserving and producing almost 1,200 units of affordable housing in the Mission, in just five years since the program’s inception;
Permanently affordable commercial spaces for nonprofits and community-serving retail in the Mission, with 100,000 square feet to date;
Fondo Adelante, a small-business lending arm that is now a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), having in five years disbursed $2.5 million to small-business owners unable to access capital from traditional lenders;
Mission Adelante, a 501 (c)(4) advocacy affiliate of MEDA able to endorse or oppose candidates based on whether they have our community’s best interests at heart;
The California Promise Neighborhoods Network (CPNN) to build the impact of Promise Neighborhoods statewide; and
Leadership development and advocacy opportunities, resulting in parents organizing for political power for systems change, such as the need for community-centered schools, more City funding for affordable housing and limits on market-rate development in the Mission.

Where we are now: A focus on MPN accomplishments
To close the achievement gap for Latino students in the Mission, 20 partners agreed to a cradle-to-career continuum of wraparound services, a common agenda and shared measurement. Based on the theory that economic stability for families will lead to improved outcomes in school, this two-generation approach now serves families at nine K-12 public schools, three early learning centers and 11 family child care providers — connecting families to services, supporting students and guardians. Results-Based Accountability is collectively used to define and measure outcomes.

The scale of this collective impact initiative is unprecedented:

  • 20,873 individuals served across all MPN programs since 2013.
  • 9,893 below-market-rate (BMR) housing applications completed for 2,850 families since 2015.
  • More than 6,458 referrals across the partner network since 2014, connecting families to jobs, health care, legal services and more.

The results have been promising indeed:

  • Families reporting a medical home for children age 0-5 increased from 61 percent in 2016 to 80 percent in 2018.
  • Preschool slots are now available for 100 percent of subsidy-eligible children in the Mission.
  • 5-year olds who tested as Kinder-ready increased from 25 percent in 2015 to 45 percent in 2018.
  • Students testing at or above grade-level in Eighth-Grade Math increased from 30.2 percent in 2015 to 41.8 percent in 2018.
  • Students testing at or above grade-level in Eighth-Grade English Language Arts increased from 22.1 percent in 2013 to 36.2 percent in 2018.
  • High school graduation rates at target high school increased from 68 percent in 2012 to 89 percent in 2018, exceeding the overall district rate.

Our opportunity
MEDA, with its new lines of work, and service-provider partners in the Mission have invested in aligning their work around a common set of goals, and that collective work is now bearing fruit – in improved outcomes for students and families, as well as in greater capacity for organizations on the ground. We have an opportunity to leverage what we have learned, and the momentum gained, to support families who are vulnerable to the continuing displacement pressures during this housing crisis and are under increasing pressure from anti-immigrant policies by the federal government. 

But the funding for much of this infrastructure is set to end in less than a year. 

The risk to or community
MPN funding ends June 30, 2020, when the current federal grant sunsets. The California Promise Neighborhoods Act of 2019 (SB 686), which MPN families helped to create and champion at the capitol in Sacramento, would create a new program to award competitive grants to 20 Promise Neighborhoods across the state. The bill has been approved by the full Senate and the Assembly Education Committee, but is currently being held until next year, at the Governor’s request. If this bill is successful and approved in July 2020, the state funding could eventually help MPN; however, the funding would be too late to cover MPN’s operating costs between July 1, 2020 and time to full implementation of the new grant program. 

We are now seeking both stop-gap and ongoing funding from alternative sources. MPN partners have invested in building infrastructure that makes the alignment of our work possible. Losing funding means not just losing valuable services to students and families in the Mission, it also means the loss of the multiplier effect of many organizations complementing one another’s strengths during a time when they are needed the most. 

How the money is spent
It costs $3.5 million per year to operate MPN. The majority of the funding is allocated to community partners (43 percent) and staffing the backbone infrastructure (43 percent). The loss of this infrastructure at this moment in time would have a devastating impact on the community’s families, schools and integrated network of service providers. 

Here is how the majority of monies are allocated:


MPN-Funded: $1.5M
Felton Institute

Good Samaritan Family Resource Center Homeless Prenatal

Instituto Familiar de la Raza

Jamestown Community Center

La Raza Centro Legal

Mission Graduates

Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc. Mission Neighborhood Health Center Nurse-Midwives of SFZGH

Parents for Public Schools

Seven Teepees

SFUSD—Early Education Department Support for Families

Tandem, Partners in Early Learning

YMCA Urban Services

Backbone Support Personnel: $1.5M
Promise Neighborhood Director

Associate Director

K-12 Program Manager

Early Learning Program Manager

Family Support Program Manager School-Based K-12 Family Success Coaches (8) Early Learning Family Success Coaches (3) Administrative Coordinator

Institutional Partners
Children’s Council of San Francisco

Department of Children, Youth and Their Families

First 5 San Francisco

San Francisco Department of Public Health

San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing & Community Development

San Francisco Office of Early Care and Education

San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development

San Francisco Unified School District San Francisco Office of the Mayor

We must keep this momentum going as an anti-poverty strategy. Data sharing, collaboration, accountability to results: Promise Neighborhoods are the embodiment of what we call “good government.” It’s time for this type of initiative to move beyond being simply a boutique operation for select communities, and for it to become the normal way that government delivers services and strengthens underserved communities. As we all prepare for the biggest election of our lifetime in 2020, we should highlight the need for a more-just society. 

Now is the time for bold equity initiatives — based on proven models.

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by Director Richard Raya

These are exciting — and busy — times for the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), so I wanted to make sure you are updated on recent events and what’s ahead. Thanks for being part of MPN!

By the Numbers: MPN is All About Relationships
MPN has Family Success Coaches (FSCs) embedded at eight schools in the Mission, plus at early care and education centers. These FSCs work with MPN partners to connect families to a web of supports in the community, ranging from housing to health, financial literacy to legal rights, and more. So far this year, FSCs and community partners have made 823 such connections (referrals) for 461 families. Read more about our powerful referral tool here.We’re currently working with community partners to revamp the referral tool, using human-centered design. If you are a partner and would like to participate, please contact Technology & Data Systems Manager Michelle Reiss-Top at

State Passes California Promise Neighborhoods Act
I’m thrilled to announce that SB 686, The California Promise Neighborhoods Act, was passed by both the full Senate and the Assembly Education Committee. Now, it is heading to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. This legislation would fund up to 20 Promise Neighborhoods at up to $5 million per year, and is part of a package of proposals that could significantly reduce child poverty within four years. As part of the End Child Poverty Campaign, we participated in an awareness-raising bus tour that started in Chula Vista and ended in Sacramento. Mission families and community-based organizations have played a leading role in this effort! Ten MPN partners submitted letters of support, and four accompanied us to hearings, including Instituto Familiar de La Raza, Parents for Public Schools, Support for Families, the San Francisco Board of Education, and the City and County of San Francisco.

Connecting Family Child Care Providers to the MPN Support Network
MPN is expanding its Family Success Coaches’ reach to bring Family Child Care providers (FCCs) into the MPN network of supports. MPN hosted an orientation on June 4 for newly added FCCs. We now have formal working agreements with 10 FCCs. We are excited to collaborate with our MPN partners such as Instituto Familiar de la Raza and MEDA’s Business Development Program team, who also support some of these providers.

MPN Manager Ada Freund Appointed to Children’s Planning and Advisory Council
MPN Early Learning Manager Ada Freund has been appointed to San Francisco’s Children’s Planning and Advisory Council (CPAC). The CPAC identifies local priorities and policies for child care and early education. We’re thrilled that Ada will be representing Mission Promise Neighborhood in this new leadership role! This appointment is a recognition of the groundbreaking work that Ada and her team have been leading in the early-education community. CPAC members are appointed to three-year terms by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Board of Education, in accordance with state and local law. Please join us in congratulating Ada!

New MPN Advisory Board Member from San Francisco Foundation
Director of Strategic Learning and Evaluation Jessica Dalesandro Mindnich, Ph.D., of San Francisco Foundation has agreed to join the Advisory Board. Jessica is joining Board of Education Commissioner Gabriela López as the newest MPN Advisory Board members.

The next Advisory Board meeting is scheduled for July 19.

Capacity Building for Parents of Children 0-5: Abriendo Puertas
MPN partner Support for Families hosted its Abriendo Puertas graduation on June 12. Abriendo Puertas is a parent capacity-building program created by Latino parents for Latino parents. Our parents are their child’s first and most-important teachers, and Abriendo Puertas supports families in growing their leadership skills. MPN’s Early Learning partners are projected to provide a total of 14 cohort trainings to over 200 family members this year.

Tools for Transitioning from Pre-K to Kinder
One of MPN’s Early Learning partner strategies is to support families, as they transition from Pre-K to Kinder, through the use of transition tools known as Family Portfolios, and over 280 families have been reached so far this school year. Seven Early Learning partners have participated: Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc. Head Start; Good Samaritan; Felton FCD; and SFUSD schools Bryant, Las Americas, Chavez and Sanchez elementary. With the support of these partners, we were able to provide 16 Family Portfolio workshops to 118 parents.

Summer Schedule for Family Success Coaches
Another school year has come to an end, but school-based FSCs will remain at sites and continue to work with families at the following summer program sites: Sanchez; Flynn; and Everett (Mission Graduates and Urban Services YMCA; BVHM; and James Lick (Jamestown).

School Board Resolution for Latinx Students
We continue to work with School Board Commissioner Gabriela López, MEDA Board Member Paul Monge, and the San Francisco Latino Parity and Equity Coalition to develop a Latinx School Board Resolution. The first draft was completed and is now being reviewed by the full SFLPEC body and external community groups, with a goal of submitting to School Board committees by August, and the full Board in September.

Sharing Best Practices from Mission Promise Neighborhood
MPN joined Hayward Promise Neighborhood and Marin Promise on a panel discussion of Bay Area Promise Neighborhoods at the Rise Together Opportunity Summit in San Jose.

You can access the presentations from the Summit here.

More MPN Staff Accolades
Family Support Manager Celina Castro-Saelao was selected as a 2019 NALCAB Fellow and participated in the fellowship training in Portland. This highly competitive program was developed to ensure that next-generation Latino leaders build the skills needed to fill the increasing leadership gap in the community economic-development field. Congratulations, Celina!

Associate Director Liz Cortez completed the RBA Professional Certification from Clear Impact. Results-Based Accountability is the framework MPN uses to measure impact in the community. Liz has been MPN’s in-house expert for some time, and is now recognized outside of MPN as well. Congratulations, Liz!

Upcoming Events

Planning for the annual MPN Education Forum is underway: The free community event will be held on August 10 from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at City College – Mission Campus. We are reaching out to MPN partners to lead workshops and offer resources during the event. We are looking for volunteers to help run fun interactive activities for families. Thanks to the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services for providing us with 300 backpacks.

For more information, contact Celina Castro-Saelao at

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