Holiday Spirit

Kesha Weekes, far right, lead instructor for East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring's middle school group, checks in with the students about their week and discusses ways they can improve their study skills on Dec. 6, 2016. With a grant from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, students were able to tour southern California colleges this year; they applied for admission at six of them.

Posted Dec. 9, 2016

Tennis coaches, tutors give kids a leg up
Local students visit college campuses through Holiday Fund grant

Story by Rick Eymer; Photos by Veronica Weber

The East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring (EPATT) program has long sought to show disadvantaged students new possibilities in life, whether a new sport, better academic skills or a local college. It's also aimed to empower kids to have a voice in their own futures.

So when several students asked about the possibility of touring colleges in southern California, Tennis and Tutoring took action.

"There was a push for it," said Amy Kohrman, program development and communications manager. "They wanted to see what else was out there. Alumni who attended southern California schools would always stop by, and the students kept asking if there was a possibility for them."

This past year, with help from the Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund, seven juniors along with the program's High School Group Coordinator Maribel Zarate and Operations Director Adrian Amaral made the trip, visiting campuses such as the University of Southern California, California Institute of Technology, Loyola Marymount, University of California, San Diego and Occidental, among others. Of the seven colleges visited, students applied for admission at six of them.

"We wanted to help them see more that is out there," Zarate said. "They may never have the chance unless you plant the seed. It inspires them to keep plugging away at school."

Lupe Talakai, far left, coaches ninth-grader Bryon Escarsega on his form at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center on Dec. 6, 2016. Escarsega is receiving tutoring and tennis lessons at East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring, which this year received a grant from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund.
The students had to each research a campus and serve as "guide" for that school. Caltech got on the list because one student was matched with it through QuestBridge, a locally based nonprofit that provides scholarship opportunities to students. He applied after the visit.

Zarate, a graduate of University of California, Santa Cruz, is something of a role model for her students. Zarate came to the United States from Central America in the third grade without speaking a word of English. She taught herself the language, becoming fluent by the sixth grade.

Given that the program's student population is 76 percent Latino, Zarate has become a valuable resource as well as a passionate educator.

Tennis and Tutoring began its existence as a tennis program and morphed into an academic program. The program is housed at the Taube Family Tennis Center on the Stanford University campus, and Stanford's Director of Tennis Dick Gould also has an office in the building and serves on the program's Board of Directors.

"He's our biggest champion," Kohrman said.

It was one of Gould's former players, All-American Jeff Arons, who set it all in motion. Arons started a summer tennis program for kids in East Palo Alto to get them off the streets and onto the courts.

While maintaining its tennis component, Tennis and Tutoring rapidly developed into a year-round program to help underserved kids in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park.

"I helped Jeff get hired by the East Palo Alto Recreation Department at the time to serve as a summer tennis instructor for youth just after he left the Pro tour," Gould said. "He taught after school during the school year and was a pied piper. We put in more courts, and he still filled the courts. It was his idea to add tutoring so that if the kids came to tutoring on Monday and Wednesday, they could play tennis on Tuesday and Thursday, or vice versa."

Nathaly Guzman, 8, center, gets help with her math homework from tutor Naite Faletau after school at East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring on Dec. 6, 2016. With a grant from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, students were able to tour southern California colleges this year; they applied for admission at six of them. Some students will be the first in their families to attend college.
The program was held at Ravenswood High School and then Cesar Chavez Elementary School for 10 years, until a fire consumed the buildings, and Stanford allowed the facility to be constructed at its current location.

The program's partnership with Stanford resulted in one-on-one tutors. East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring's Tutor of the Year and Stanford graduate student Alina Liao, for example, saw a need to help at-risk and underserved youth. Liao shifted her focus in graduate school to a double major in education and business administration. She's a leader with the Graduate School of Business' nonprofit Challenge for Charity program, helping to develop students' commitments to community involvement and raising funds.

Tennis and Tutoring sponsors its own tournament tennis teams that participate in United States Tennis Association junior tournaments.

"We're not grooming masters, but it's nice to have," Kohrman said. "It gets kids active and teaches them a skill. They learn other things."

Tennis and Tutoring is a kindergarten through high school academic program, and even with five full-time and two part-time employees, along with the hundreds of volunteers, there's a lengthy waiting list. To help expand its impact, the program has developed "Project Rally," which is designed to help shrink the achievement gap in kindergarten and first grade.

Students from six different school districts participate in the program. Most are bussed from East Palo Alto. Kohrman said most students are up early and won't get home much before 8 p.m. every day. Participation is a commitment from both parents and students, some of whom attend Menlo-Atherton, Menlo School, Palo Alto, Gunn and Pinewood.

"Most don't read at their grade level when they enter EPATT and over 70 percent of them are on track to becoming the first generation in their family to attend college," Kohrman said.

The program isn't just about getting kids into college, though. There's a young man with a vision of attending culinary school and becoming a chef. He's getting the support needed to follow his dream.

Kohrman said the high school senior has cooked for Tennis and Tutoring and she gave him a great review.

The program is also as much about educating parents, Kohrman said, many of whom don't understand the importance of a college degree. The parents do, however, fully support the idea of giving their children a better chance.

The program is also dedicated to helping parents understand the resources available, so they can become advocates for their kids. And just as the program gives individual attention to the kids, there's one-on-one parent coaching as well.

Apply for a Holiday Fund Grant

Nonprofits serving children and families may apply for funds by downloading our Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Application Form. Application deadline: 11:59 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2023.

Make a donation
2022 Recipient Agency

49ers Academy$10,000

AbilityPath$10,000

Able Works$10,000

Ada's Cafe$25,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7,500

Art in Action$10,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
of the Bay Area
$10,000

Blossom Birth & Family$5,000

Canopy$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Children's Health Council$10,000

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto$5,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto$10,000

Counseling and Support Services for Youth - CASSY$15,000

DreamCatchers$15,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation$10,000

East Palo Alto Charter School$5,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring$15,000

East Palo Alto YMCA$10,000

Eastside College
Preparatory School
$7,500

EPACENTER$10,000

Family Connections$7,500

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Friends for Youth$5,000

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo$10,000

Heart and Home Collaborative$10,000

Hope Horizon East Palo Alto$7,500

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Kara$15,000

Learning Home Volunteers$10,000

Live In Peace$10,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$10,000

Mannakin Theater & Dance$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Midpen Media Center$7,500

Music in the Schools Foundation$8,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

New Voices for Youth$5,000

Pacific Art League of Palo Alto$12,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation$10,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care $30,000

Palo Alto Players$10,000

Peer Point$20,000

Peninsula Bridge$10,000

Peninsula College Fund$10,000

Peninsula Healthcare Connection$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$15,000

Peninsula Youth Theatre$5,000

Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship Foundation$20,000

Ravenswood Classroom Partners$20,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation$10,000

Reading Partners
Silicon Valley
$10,000

ReadySetExcel$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$7,500

Resource Area for
Teaching (RAFT)
$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Sager Family Farm$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$7,500

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)$10,000

WeHOPE$15,000

WomenSV$7,500

Youth Community Service$25,000

Child Care Grants

All Five$10,000

Covenant Children's Center$10,000

Creative Montessori
Learning Center
$10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000


As of December 7th, 165 donors have contributed $145,397 to the Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

24 Anonymous7,075
Eileen & Rick Brooks1,000
Maureen O'Connor150
Martha Shirk1,200
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Dorogusker1,000
Diane and Brandy Sikic*
Alicia Newman100
Dorsey & Katherine Bass300
Edie Kirkwood1,000
Micri & Bob Cardelli*
George & Betsy Young*
Diana Diamond1,000
Brigid Barton 2,000
Korol Family250
Lawrence R. Yang & Jennifer W. Kuan10,000
Anthony & Susan Wood25,000
Lynn and Andrew Newman*
Katherine Bryant100
Barbara Riper*
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Carolyn Caddes*
Kroymann Family250
Marian Adams100
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Elaine Hah1,500
Retired*
Julie & Dan Lythcott-Haims250
Tess & Eric Byler150
Denise and Jeff Simons*
Keith and Linda Clarke*
Harriet Benson10,000
Arthur Keller250
Cynthia Costell100
George & Betsy Bechtel200
Ellen M. Lillington200
Tom & Nancy Fiene200
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
Amado & Deborah Padilla250
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Merele McClure250
Joanne Koltnow400
Christina Kenrick1,000
Richard Johnsson5,000
Xiaofan Lin100
Bonnie and Bryan Street*
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Jody Maxmin*
Diane and Joe Rolfe*
Diane Finkelstein250
Linda & Steve Boxer*
David & Betsy Fryberger400
Jan Aarts*
Judith Appleby300
Donald Barr150
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Edward Kanazawa300
Karen A. Latchford*
Kingsley Jack250
Richard Zuanich150
Patti Yanklowitz and Mark Krasnow100
Denise Savoie and Darrell Duffie*
Elizabeth Salzer & Richard Baumbartner*
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Scott and Jan Kilner500
Dorothy Saxe100
Kieschnick family1,000
Barbara Klein*
Dorothy Deringer200
Art and Peggy Stauffer500
Ed & Linda DeMeo500
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Scottie Zimmerman100
Fran Codispoti250
Ted & Ginny Chu*
The Dong Family200
Bill Reller*
Harry E & Susan B Hartzell100
Ann Burrell & Charles Smith*
Janis Ulevich*
Theradep Technologies500
Jack and Susan Thomas*
Julie and Jon Jerome*
Andrea B. Smith100
Leif and Sharon Erickson500
The Havern Family5,000
Gwen Luce and Family*
Bruce Campbell*
Freddy & Jan Gabus250
Richard & Pat Douglas50
Susan & Doug Woodman150
Donald Price*
Judy Ousterhout*
Judy Kramer*
Kingston Duffie & Elizabeth Schwerer500
Roger & Joan Warnke300
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
John Keller100
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal*
Margaret Forsyth and Glenn Rennels*
Charlotte Johansen200
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Donna Silverberg100
Paul & Jane Millman250
In Memory Of

Walter Dean*
Er-Ying and Y.C. Yen250
Jack Sutorius750
Michele Wilson*
Bob Donald350
Leonard Ware*
Robert Spinrad100
August King*
Bob Simoni500
David W. Mitchell*
Paul Seaver*
Gerald Berner300
Ian Halliday250
Ray Bacchetti300
Marie and Don Snow200
Andre Jones *
Jim and Dottie Mellberg*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
David Sager100
Ted Linden200
Lily & Philip Gottheiner150
Chet Brown*
Phil Zschokke200
Nellie Perna Bartello100
Bob Donald*
Steven T. Ross100
In Honor Of

Marilyn Sutorius750
Darla Tupper3,922
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach and Thomas & Louise Phinney1,000
Polly Caddes*
Joe Simitian*
Gabby Perez & Logan Marsh250
Dr Ron Radzilowski*
Businesses & Organizations

Angelo Family Foundation 5,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
Hearts & Minds Activity Center75
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,500
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000