Books open up new worlds to the reader — especially important for our kids after their experiencing nine months of shelter-in-place distance learning from home. For the past several years, the holiday season has meant it was time for the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) book giveaway at lead agency MEDA’s Plaza Adelante neighborhood center, with the goal of distribution of much-needed items for the season. With COVID-19 still in our midst, MPN and valued partners knew they had to pivot. The result? A reimagined “Sixth Annual Holiday Book Giveaway” still took place last Friday, much to the delight of low-income Latino and immigrant families.

In-kind donations of books
First up was the garnering of in-kind donations of books, with 1,600 collected. There were stories about emotions, especially critical during the stressful crisis. Books celebrating  immigrant neighborhoods, such as the beloved “Mi Papi has a Motorcycle.” And many more books popular with our kids young and old.

A trio of donors — all part of the annual event for the prior five years — again stepped up to the plate. Tandem, Partners in Early Learning contributed 800 books, while Children’s Book Project donated 500 and the San Francisco Public Library added 100 more to the total. There were even some books donated by community members and friends of MPN staff. Additionally, this year featured a generous donation from San Francisco philanthropist Leagrey Dimond, whose laudable efforts during the pandemic have already translated to on-the-ground support to best help families weather the economic crisis (blog). Ms. Dimond has always loved books; she even owned a popular bookstore in the city for many years. Knowing of the need, Ms. Dimond made an in-kind donation of 175 books for our kids, so that they could have presents for the holidays.

In addition to books, gift bags included numerous age-appropriate items: board games, such as vocabulary cards; memorization tools;  puzzles; school supplies, ranging from crayons to colored pencils to notepads; and holiday baking kits for high schoolers. For the parents, Ms. Dimond again came through, acting as liaison for the sub-granting of 200 personal-care kits from The Hispanic Star, part of a Procter & Gamble program through nonprofit ALAS.

Second was logistics: This meant figuring how to safely disburse 189 gift bags, with the bulk in the 94110 and 94103 ZIP codes that comprise MPN’s footprint. Other MPN families lived outside the footprint, but had kids attending schools in the Mission. In all, seven delivery routes were delineated. Staff were able to catch a glimpse of where families are hunkering down during the pandemic, from visiting neighborhoods that have been historically neglected of resources to new affordable developments housing some of our MPN families who are fortunate enough to have won the City’s below-market-rate (BMR) apartment lottery.

To determine recipients, family success coaches identified five to 10 families most in need — families with whom they engage at the nine MPN schools, Felton Family Developmental Center and 13 family child care sites that provide 120 infant/toddler and preschool-age children quality care and education. Staff registered each family by identifying the number of children in the household and their age/grade.

The socially distanced idea was for masked team members to ring bells and drop off the gift bags at the doorstep. No easy task, with 305 kids excitedly waiting on the routes and with only a two-hour delivery window. Thanks to District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s staffers, who were a great help with the distribution of the bags.

The good news this year was the San Francisco Public Library additional donation of 200 books earmarked for students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School for their annual read-a-thon, whereby students can win prizes for the most books read over the winter break. Parents safely picked up these books at the school, with grade levels from kindergarten to fifth grade and titles in both English and Spanish. 

Not letting the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic deter them, the MPN team was honored to still be able to help our families in need during this season of giving. 

As the gift bags were delivered, parents and kids alike beamed with delight: A true present not just for these families, but for the MPN team itself.

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Started spring 2016, the MPN Scholarship Fund celebrates deserving college-bound seniors at John O’Connell High School with scholarships to attain a postsecondary education. Now in its third year and in partnership with Mission Graduates, MPN has set a bold goal to raise $12,500 in scholarship funds to support more Mission youth toward academic achievement.

Here is update #2 of 3 showcasing what our previous scholarship recipients are up to at college.

Alicia Rodriguez,
UC Merced
(photo, left)

What is your major and why did you choose this career path?
My major right now is Psychology. The reason why I chose it is because I always wanted to either work with little kids or be a counselor to other students who struggle with school.

What has been your biggest lesson as you wrap up your first year of college?
My biggest lesson has been to never leave things until the last minute or think that you can get something done quickly. College is very different than high school, and when you get behind with one assignment then it’s a struggle to catch up with the rest.

What has been your favorite aspect of college?
My favorite aspect of college is being able to meet other college students who have already finished their freshman year and getting a few tips from them on how to be successful in college.

How does it feel to have the Mission community’s support to further your education?
I feel honored and grateful that the Mission community helped me be where I am today. Without the Mission community’s support, I would not be at university right now — and probably not trying to continue with my education.

Are you still on the same career track or have you changed your career path?
Although I know that I want to work with kids, I don’t know what age group I want to work with yet. I do know that I want my career to be in the psychology field.

Where do you see yourself in four years, upon graduation from college?
In four years I see myself graduating but also have an idea as to whether I want to move back home and look for a job there or move somewhere else. I do see myself being prepared for the real world.

Can you support deserving Mission students, like Alicia, so they can make college a reality this fall?
Give today to the MPN Scholarship Fund and empower more students toward academic success.


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MEDA and Mission Promise Neighborhood are fulfilling our vision by keeping families in San Francisco via connections to viable options for stable and affordable housing. We are solving the affordable-housing crisis through collective solutions. In addition to connecting families to eviction-protection services and the below-market-rate (BMR) apartment lottery, Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coaches connect families to affordable housing that MEDA is purchasing through the City of San Francisco’s innovative Small Sites Program. To date, MEDA has purchased 20 buildings comprising 128 homes and 16 commercial spaces — with all units kept affordable. Nearly 30 Mission Promise Neighborhood families have been housed as part of this program.

Due to the skyrocketing cost of housing and no new affordable housing having been built, the Mission District saw 8,000 Latinos displaced since the year 2000 — over 25 percent of this community. Since Mission Promise Neighborhood began working in schools, the student mobility rate has actually gone down, from 13.9 percent in 2012 to 7.9 percent in 2017. Student mobility reflects when students unexpectedly change schools, often as a result of eviction or other changes in housing. Stability is important to academic performance, adolescent development, and students’ relationships with peers and teachers. In addition to Causa Justa :: Just Cause, Mission Promise Neighborhood partner La Raza Centro Legal has been key in helping inform our families of their tenants’ rights.

One family’s story
Elena Macario emigrated from Guatemala in 2001, making San Francisco her new home. She dreamt of a better life, despite initially living in cramped quarters with her parents and three brothers on Revere Avenue in the Bayview.

In 2014, her firstborn Jonathan joined the Bryant Elementary School family upon his entering kindergarten. Bryant is one of a duo of Mission District elementary schools in which the Mission Promise Neighborhood has a focus. Life was moving along just fine.

The situation changed for the worse in early 2016 when the family was faced with an all-too-common issue for Mission Promise Neighborhood families: securing affordable and stable housing. That’s because Elena and her children (Jonathan has a brother, Darwin, two years his junior) were vulnerable to losing their home, even though she invariably paid her share of the monthly rent. Turns out two of Elena’s three siblings failed to pay their share each month, thereby making all residents a target for eviction by the landlord. After receiving several warnings of eviction by the verbally intimidating owner, Elena hesitantly accepted a monetary offer to voluntarily vacate the premises — an offer she accepted solely to prevent having to go through an eviction ordeal.

Elena was fearful for her family, uncertain she had made the right choice. That’s when she quickly pivoted and turned that fear into action.

Elena sought the assistance of Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Luis Ostolaza, who strengthens families at Bryant Elementary School. Ostolaza offered culturally relevant information on tenants’ rights in San Francisco, referring Elena to community-based organization Causa Justa :: Just Cause for additional support.

Causa Justa :: Just Cause helped Elena find a pro bono lawyer who alleviated her concerns by explaining that the prospective time frame was around one year for an eviction to occur in San Francisco. He also helped her wade through the steps of the typical eviction process, later representing Elena during her October 2016 eviction trial.

Knowing there was a year before an eviction could take place, Ostolaza began working with Elena on applying for BMR lotteries in San Francisco. Additionally, he helped her garner a Displaced Tenant Housing Preference (DTHP) — based on her being evicted — which offers far better chances of winning the BMR lottery.

The other part of the equation was getting Elena rental ready, which meant bettering her credit and building savings for the required security deposit.

The good news? At the end of December, Elena was called in for an interview for a BMR apartment at Trinity Phase 2 at 1190 Market St. Ostolaza accompanied her to the property to complete the final step of her BMR rental application.

A few weeks later, Elena was contacted with good news: Her household was selected for a one-bedroom BMR apartment.

Now with a signed rental contract, Elena says, “I can’t believe I now have a place for my kids and me to rest and study.”


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by MPN Director Richard Raya

All San Franciscans should be dismayed by the Chronicle story [“A child left behind: SF student failed every class in high school,” March 28, 2018 ], which showcased a student who Booker T. Washington Community Service Center agency staff claim garnered straight F’s over many years — without intervention — while attending Washington High School in the Outer Richmond District. We implore the populace to demand students and parents of our most-underserved schools be given the tools they need to succeed. That means equitable allocation of funding, staffing and family support dollars, with a prioritization of our children’s futures in San Francisco’s robust $10+ billion annual budget.

The 20 community partners of the Mission Promise Neighborhood — an education initiative working in a quartet of Mission District schools — know of the endemic challenges our primarily low-income students face. But we vehemently disagree with the statement in the article that: “Nothing has changed in years and years. There’s no help. There’s no intervention.”

Our students’ narrative is different.

With Mission Promise Neighborhood’s network of support, our students are definitely not slipping through the cracks. That is because each school, a family success coach and neighborhood partners lock arms to serve as a supportive community for students and families who are most in need. We work collaboratively to identify at-risk students — and focus our resources to meet the needs of those students and their families. Individualized action plans are developed to meet students’ academic goals, including connecting these youth and their families to health care (mental/physical), housing, child care, employment and more. Most importantly, we meet regularly to set goals, measure our results and hold ourselves accountable to getting the work done.

During our five-year initiative in partnership with SFUSD, John O’Connell High School graduation rates for our Latino students increased from 62 percent to 88 percent, and graduation rates for our African American students increased from 46 percent to 93 percent. These are dramatic numbers, showcasing the fact that something “has changed.”

The article mentioned that communication between the child’s school and parents was limited. In contrast, Mission Promise Neighborhood provides trauma-informed, culturally responsive programming. Surveys indicate that more than 94 percent of our parents feel welcome at our elementary schools. At our middle and high school, the percentage of parents who feel welcome is 92 percent and 93 percent, respectively.  

All kids are resilient and want to succeed: This belief in the ability of our children is part of the foundation of the national Promise Neighborhood movement. The first Promise Neighborhood was started in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood by Geoffrey Canada, when he made a promise that every child in his community can graduate prepared for college.

In San Francisco Unified’s Promise Neighborhood, we’re keeping that promise, and it’s only the beginning.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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With an eye toward the exciting start of school, 110 families attended Mission Promise Neighborhood’s third annual Education Forum at the Mission Campus of City College on July 29. The theme was ”Putting Success in a Backpack,” but the event offered so much more. (See photos.)

The majority of students were from pre-K to 8th grade, with families having been made aware of the day’s agenda from fliers, partner agencies or other family members.

Mission Promise Neighborhood Associate Director Liz Cortez welcomed attendees, sharing her own inspiring story that showcases the importance of parents taking an active role in their child’s education. Cortez explained how her own parents lent such support, despite their being newcomers not cognizant of how to get into college in this country. Such support translated to Cortez earning her degree.

Next up was a panel conversation moderated by Amelia M. Martínez-Bankhead, a Mission Graduates board member. Five parents provided information about the upcoming workshops, telling of their experiences applying for affordable housing, getting family finances in order, promoting reading at home or creating a college-going culture at home. Their words definitely resonated with the crowd for their attending following workshops; Abriendo Puertas; Literacy Champions; How to Pay for College; Family Financial Health; Overcoming English Language Barriers in Schools, Housing Lottery Readiness; and Reclassification. The latter proved popular, with Mission Graduates and Familias Liderando la Educación Exitosa (FLEE) leading education around this reclassification campaign.

A survey was handed out as a way to better gauge parents’ understanding of Latino reclassification issues for English Language Learners. There were 76 surveys completed, and parents will now be invited to attend groups at Mission Promise Neighborhood schools, plus become active participants in the reclassification campaign.

To keep six- to 13-year-olds engaged and learning while parents attended workshops, a trio of Mission organizations were on hand. The Mission YMCA taught STEM via intriguing science experiments. Instituto Familiar de la Raza offered drumming, the joyous sounds filling the campus’ courtyard. Project Commotion  featured jump roping, with athleticism showcased by numerous youngsters.

Once parents exited their workshops, it was time for the distribution of backpacks generously donated by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (MONS). These sturdy backpacks contained everything from notebooks to coloring pens. A raffle was then held for backpacks teeming with even more much-needed items for the school year, with 10 delighted families having their numbers picked.

Additionally, there were raffles for a pair of $20 gift cards from Mateo’s Taqueria, located on Mission Street.

To fostering reading in the community, 280 Spanish- and English-language K-12 books were doled out by the San Francisco Public Library. Volunteers from the library also handed out Talk, Read, Sing bags for infants and toddlers.

For a touch of art, MONS also divvied up complimentary museum passes to a number of San Francisco venues.

To strengthen families, there were 12 resource tables offering materials and free services. Topics ranged from affordable housing and low-cost internet to after-school programs for children and literacy information. Parents walked away with information, pamphlets … and the tools they needed to succeed.

By the time the five-hour Education Forum 2017 came to a close, families were definitely ready for the 2018-2019 school year. Let’s make it a great one!


The Mission Promise Neighborhood acknowledges the partners, volunteers and community members that made the Education Forum 2017 a success. Thank you to Mission Graduates, MEDA, Mission Neighborhood Centers, SFUSD-Early Education Department, Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, Project Commotion, Instituto Familiar de la Raza, Mission-YMCA, La Raza Centro Legal, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, AT&T, ScholarMatch and Innovate Public Schools.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.


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PrintAt crowd-filled Cease & Desist last night, the community came together to Start & Donate at the first of a trio of planned 2017 fundraisers for the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund. This initial event was called “Tips for Tuition.”

The result? A terrific start, with $3,000 raised. (Donate on Razoo.)

The need
The Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund started a year ago, helping send four deserving John O’Connell High School seniors to college. All matriculated in fall 2016, their college dreams and career aspirations now within reach.

This scholarship fund is now entering its second year, as we look to send more Mission youth on to postsecondary education.

There is a definite need for such a fund. The education initiative has worked hard to create a college-going culture at home, plus provide mentoring via partners such as Mission Graduates; however, 77 percent of Mission Promise Neighborhood families earn less than $35,000 a year household income (survey, page 11). That translates to paying for daily necessities being a struggle in an expensive city like San Francisco, leaving little to nothing to set aside in a college fund.

The fundraiser
With the throng filling the back-bar area, tip jars quickly showcased 10’s and 20’s as guest bartenders, donning Mission Promise Neighborhood T-shirts, poured for attendees. A special shout out to those guest bartenders, including: Jill Marinelli of Mission Graduates; Amy Abero from John O’Connell High School; Lucia Obregon and Ernesto Martinez of MEDA; Juaquín Sims, a MEDA Junior Board Member; and DoubleDutch’s Claire Sands, who is also a MEDA Junior Board Member.

Plenty of money was raised via raffles, with generous donations from Tartine BakeryMateo’s TaqueriaGiordano Bros.Mitchell’s Ice Cream and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. A bevy of volunteers circled the room to meet the demand of those looking to engage in a game of chance, all for a great cause. Our lucky winners — Darius, Ryan, David, April, Cat and Abraham — are going to be eating well real soon.

Stay tuned for news of upcoming fundraisers for the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund, and thanks to all in the community for the ongoing support of this worthy cause.


Can you make college dreams come true for another deserving Mission Promise Neighborhood student?

Please donate today on Razoo.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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2301 Mission Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94110

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