“Today is a special day because this is the first step you are taking with your children as they begin a new school year,” enthusiastically stated Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Raquel Donoso, as she welcomed a crowd of over 200 who packed the Salvation Army Mission Community Center on an abnormally hot August morning this past Saturday.
The Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is a collaborative of over 20 partners, including the school district and mayor’s office, that have come together to make sure every family in the Mission has the resources to support their children’s learning. MPN is building a pipeline that begins at birth to make sure every child has medical care, attends an early learning program, is doing well in school, and graduates ready to attend college and begin their career.
Echoing Donoso’s comments was the next up to speak, Karling Aguilera-Fort of the San Francisco Unified School District. (Aguilera-Fort is also a board member at MEDA.) He spoke of getting your children off on the right foot for the 2015-16 school year, and that there were resources to help families succeed so that students achieve.
The City’s support was also showcased by Chief Deputy Director, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services Derick Brown.
Following Aguilera-Fort was District 9 Supervisor David Campos. Originally from Guatemala, Campos explained his empathy for immigrant parents wanting their children to succeed. The Harvard and Stanford graduate spoke of the need to create a college-going culture at home, knowing that such support from his family fostered his achievements.
It was then time for families to break off into two information sessions: one for elementary school; and the other for middle/high school. The aim was to offer parents and students a roadmap for what to expect over the course of the school year, with a discussion on everything from mandated tests to the importance of attendance to planned meetings. Mission Graduates‘ promotoras (community outreach workers) facilitated the middle/high school workshop.
MPN Leadership Academy Manager Laura Olivas explained the impact of these classes as follows: “One mother of an adolescent advised me that she didn’t realize that a certain grade-point average was needed to be maintained by students. She now knew that fact and, more importantly, knew she needed to watch that GPA over the course of the school year.”
There were then sessions on issues of importance to MPN families, based on neighborhood surveys to determine stressors in the low-income Mission community. Causa Justa :: Just Cause advised on tenants’ rights. La Raza Centro Legal spearheaded immigration classes. Parents for Public Schools counseled on how to build a college-going culture at home.
Families who had a child under age five also received a tote bag with child development information, in English and Spanish, along with ideas for how parents can help promote their child’s development. The bag included an age-appropriate toy and books. Staff from Tandem, MPN’s literacy partner, attended the event and provided young children with books.
Liz Cortez and Ada Alvarado, of MPN’s early learning team, conducted an early care and education survey. Explains Cortez, “The goal of the survey was to get a sense of the community need for child care and parenting resources. What has been their experience? What would they like to be different? The information we received is vital to our advocacy efforts in improving access to slots and resources.”
After attending classes, each pre-registered family was given a backpack donated by the Salvation Army, Mission Lodge and the Golden State Warriors. The Mission Lodge and Walgreens came through and provided the backpacks’ offerings of a pouch with pencils/pens, books, calculators and more.
There was then lunch and time to pick up materials from partners who were tabling at the Education Forum, such as Good Samaritan Family Resource Center and Mission Neighborhood Health Center. Partner staff answered questions, with families now better informed than they had been just a few hours prior.
Summed up MPN Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez, “The Education Forum was a definite success. We know that families were offered the information they need so that MPN students can achieve. It’s going to be a great school year!”