by Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Raquel Donoso
On a fluke, I attended a Barack Obama rally in Oakland back in 2006. The affable senator from Illinois was not yet running for president, but he drew an impressive crowd.
Obama was magnetic. His audience was electrified.
I left that day filled with incredible hope. That feeling carried forward into the 2008 presidential campaign, with the word “HOPE” emblazoned in capital letters on posters hung in windows and planted in lawns across the land. Many downplayed my early support, claiming Obama’s time had not yet come. They were proved wrong that November.
This Friday, as our nation ushers in its 45th president, it is the perfect time to reflect on the past eight years of a historic presidency. Let’s applaud the legacy of success of President Obama.
Immediately upon taking the helm, President Obama was tasked with the enormous challenge of an economy in dire straits. Not since the Great Depression eight decades earlier had things seemed so shaky. It was time to act with resolve.
One core piece of President Obama’s economic strategy was the initiation of a set of place-based programs and funding to redefine how low-income neighborhoods fight poverty. These programs — Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Zones — have created a model for achieving results. This model needs to carry on.
As the director of San Francisco’s Mission Promise Neighborhood, which is one of 18 federally funded Promise Neighborhood implementation sites, I know firsthand the continued need for such an innovative, place-based initiative. The Mission District is San Francisco’s historically Latino, immigrant community, overflowing with the promise of a better future for the young families and children living in the neighborhood. Sadly, it was once all too often the case that our families’ aspirations were not coupled with tangible prospects.
The Mission Promise Neighborhood has been changing that reality … block by block, family by family, student by student.
In just four years, we have seen graduation rates at our target high school increase by 10 percent (now 78 percent), nearly reaching the average for San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) as a whole. Our middle school is now deemed one of the most improved and sought after in the district. At the elementary level, last year both of our target schools had major gains in third- and fifth-grade English Language Arts proficiency — a true high point. Our schools have also seen major increases in attendance, accompanied by decreases in chronic absenteeism and expulsions.
These improvements have been possible because of President Obama’s vision of a whole-community, results-focused approach.
Perhaps President Obama’s greatest legacy is that there are now hundreds of thousands of parents, students and community leaders who have forever been impacted by the investments he pushed forward. Families are gaining momentum, working in new ways to ensure every child receives impactful schooling, with the opportunity for a post-secondary education. This translates to success on so many levels.
Thank you, President Obama, for having the foresight and courage to tackle neighborhood poverty as a way to strengthen our communities. Your legacy will live on through the creation and sustainability of Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Zones. The seeds have been planted, and now is our time to scale and strengthen the cradle-to-college-to-career pipeline that is already working in so many neighborhoods across the country. Our nation’s future depends on it.
Let’s keep “HOPE” alive.
About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.