Community Raises $11,000 Bucks for Books and Tuition, Sends Six Mission Residents Off to College

Great news: Thanks to partner strategies, mentorships and increased parent engagement, the graduation rate of the Mission’s John O’Connell High School is now approaching that of SFUSD overall. According to a recently published Mission Promise Neighborhood data brief, “Making College an Achievable Dream: Foundations and Results,” O’Connell’s graduation rate increased from 68 percent to 85 percent between 2012 and 2016. (MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.)

While O’Connell students desire to attain a college degree, how to pay for postsecondary education remains daunting, as the majority of students come from underresourced families. The same data brief reported that 51 percent of students at O’Connell indicated that financing is their main barrier to attending college.

That was the impetus for the creation of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund last year, with the community’s efforts translating to four deserving O’Connell seniors matriculating at colleges in fall 2016.

Looking to further increase  the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship Fund’s impact was the goal for 2017, with MEDA Development Manager Alberto Galindo setting the goals and spearheading the strategies to make this happen. MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood education initiative.

“Our aim was to generate community involvement via fun events that would showcase impact,” explains Galindo, who was assisted in his efforts by Education Manager Laura Andersen.

That impact definitely occurred, with $11,000 raised.

Fundraisers were held this spring at three generously donated venues: the Mission’s Cease & Desist, which allowed their back bar to feature Mission Promise Neighborhood and John O’Connell High School guest bartenders; Senegalese restaurant Bissap Baobab, a MEDA Business Development client; and North Beach’s Cigar Bar & Grill for a Mother’s Day event. Numerous local businesses donated raffle prizes.

Complementing these fundraising efforts was an online Razoo donation page, where over $3,500 was raised. (This page remains active for anyone looking to give us a head start for 2018’s awards.)

For 2017, six O’Connell students are receiving awards after having their applications, including compelling personal histories, reviewed by committee. Recipients are all Mission students who have overcome obstacles and now want to better their futures — and that of their families — by attending college.

Four of the recipients for 2017 (photo left to right, flanked by Andersen and Galindo) are Diamond Woodruff, Gisselle Ortega, Alicia Rodriguez and Maria Zaragoza. Miguel Guzman and Diana Rodriguez are not pictured. All are grateful for the benevolence of their neighbors and are now better prepared for this next step in their journey.

Ortega’s story showcases the resiliency of these students. The youngster woke up at 4 a.m. each day to help her mother earn money by cleaning a pizzeria, a task that took over three hours before Ortega headed to school. She was in the first grade.

Ortega explains what drives her as follows: “I am motivated to go to college since neither my mom nor my brothers finished high school. By achieving my goal of going to college, I will bring great joy for my family, and a better life for us.”

“Thanks to the community for their generosity, as we send these young adults out into the world with local support from the Mission,” concludes Galindo.


Special thanks to our community partners that contributed prizes to our fundraisers and provided venues to host our events: Alamo Drafthouse CinemaBissap BaobabCigar Bar & GrillDandelion ChocolateGiordano Bros., Latin City Productions, Mateo’s Taqueria, Mission CliffsMitchell’s Ice CreamRoxie TheaterTartine Bakery & Cafe and Tonic Nightlife Group.

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