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.

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2019 Grant Recipients

49ers Academy
Academic and social support services for East Palo Alto students attending Menlo-Atherton High School$5,000

Able Works
Financial literacy education for high school students at East Palo Alto Academy, Oxford Day Academy and Menlo-Atherton High School$5,000

Ada's Café
Training and support of developmentally disabled employees and high school student interns$5,000

Adolescent Counseling Services
Outlet Program providing support services and counseling for LGBTQ+ youth$7,500

Aim High for High School
Summer academic program for East Palo Alto middle school students aimed at preparing them for a successful high school experience$5,000

All Students Matter
Expansion of literacy intervention program focused on 3rd-5th grade students in Ravenswood school district$15,000

Art in Action
Art education program serving more than 650 students in grades K-8 at three schools in the Ravenswood school district$5,000

Art of Yoga
Yoga, creative art and other mindfulness activities for more than 500 juvenile girls in the criminal justice system$5,000

Bayshore Christian Ministries
Academic "Create" summer camp providing STEAM-focused classes and activities for Ravenswood district middle school students$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
Support for Match Support Specialists who oversee and coach the adult volunteers matched with children$5,000

Buena Vista Homework Club
Homework center for elementary and middle school aged youth living at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park$10,000

CASSY
School-based free mental health services to students and families in five Ravenswood elementary and middle schools$10,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
Legal assistance to East Palo Alto residents facing eviction and other rental housing problems and conflicts$10,000

Downtown Streets Team
Funding for a Case Management Flex Fund to help team members pay for fees and other expenses that are necessary to pursue housing, employment and other opportunities$7,500

DreamCatchers
General support for after-school tutoring program serving low-income Palo Alto middle school students$20,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation
Peer leadership program to develop mentors and motivate high school students to participate in STEM-focused "Dream Lab"$7,500

East Palo Alto Charter School (EPACS)
Science program at K-5 elementary charter school$7,500

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation
Educator Micro Grants Program, providing $600 grants to Ravenswood school district teachers for classroom supplies and field trips$10,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring
Development of math tutoring curriculum for underperforming 1st to 8th graders$10,000

Environmental Volunteers
Monthly public environmental education programs for youth and adults$5,000

Family Connections
Early childhood education program supporting parents of preschoolers through 3rd grade in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park.$5,000

Fit Kids Foundation
Physical activity program for children 4-13 in East Palo Alto$5,000

Foundation for a College Education
College Knowledge middle and high school program designed to prepare students and their families to pursue a college education$7,500

Friends of Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo
Science Outreach Program providing hands on science instruction in Ravenswood school district$5,000

Get Involved Palo Alto
Service-learning internship placement program for high school students wanting to work with low-income youth$5,000

Hidden Villa
Summer camp scholarships$5,000

Jasper Ridge Farm
Farm animal visits to Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Kara
Spanish language grief support program$7,500

KIPP Valiant Community Prep
Mental health counseling services at public charter school in East Palo Alto$3,000

La Comida
Support for newly opened downtown senior lunch program$7,500

Live in Peace
"Gap Year Project" to guide and support at-risk high school graduates unprepared or uncertain about careers or college$7,500

Marine Science Institute
Underwriting of environmental and marine science education program for K-12 low-income students$5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation
Music education in Ravenswood school district$5,000

New Creation Home Ministries
Parenting and life skills classes for teen mothers in East Palo Alto$5,000

New Voices for Youth
Video production equipment and training for middle school students at the Boys and Girls Club in East Palo Alto$3,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation
Cultural Kaleidoscope, an arts-education program pairing Palo Alto and East Palo Alto students and using professional artists$5,000

Palo Alto Housing
Workshops for high school students and parents residing in subsidized housing on college and career options and financial planning$5,000

Palo Alto Music Connection
Volunteer student-run group providing free music lessons to Ravenswood middle school students$5,000

Peninsula HealthCare Connection
Mobile "Backpack Medicine" program to reach area homeless who need but do not seek out medical care$7,500

Peninsula Volunteers
Meals on Wheels program serving 13,000 meals to low-income clients in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park$5,000

Project WeHOPE
Classes and counseling to support the homeless in East Palo Alto$15,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation
Purchase of school uniforms and other clothing for homeless and low-income students in Ravenswood school district$7,500

Rebuilding Together Peninsula
Safe at Home home repair program serving low-income home owners in East Palo Alto$5,000

Silicon Valley Urban Debate League
After school debate program at East Palo Alto Academy, Oxford Day Academy and College Track and Summer Debate Institute$5,000

St. Elizabeth Seton School
New and updated science text books for K-5 classrooms$10,000

St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club
After school literacy and enrichment program for 3rd through 5th graders in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park$5,000

TheatreWorks
TheatreWorks for Schools arts education program for grades K-12$5,000

YMCA East Palo Alto
Summer "Full STEAM Ahead" program for high school students, combining academic curriculum with recreational outings$10,000

YMCA Ross Road
Five-week summer enrichment camp for low-income elementary school students who are required to attend PAUSD summer school$5,000

Youth Community Service
Support of Summer of Service day camp scholarships, service clubs at local middle and high schools, service days and life skills programs for at-risk teens$20,000

Youth Speaks Out
Expressive arts program enabling marginalized teens whose voices may not be otherwise heard to collaborate on artistic projects with each other and supportive adults.$12,000

Child Care Facility Improvement Grants

Friends of Preschool Family
Playground improvements, including outdoor musical instruments and raised planting bed$5,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool
Raised planter boxes and new irrigation system in play yard$5,000

The Learning Center
Continued construction of outdoor classroom, including water table, raised beds and outdoor musical instruments$5,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care
Outdoor garden learning classroom at Thacher Children's Center$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School
Outdoor teacher work station$5,000

Parents Nursery School
Maintenance of outdoor play structures, including replacement of old tires with building blocks$5,000

As of Jan 8, 2019,
370 donors have contributed $401,365.
* indicates amount withheld

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Weil Family1,000
Epstein Family500
Kenyon Family500
Ellmann Family100
Helene Pier*
David & Virginia Pollard150
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Elizabeth Shepard*
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Rita Vrhel300
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Carol O'Neill25
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Susan Elgee & Steve Eglash500
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Norm & Nancy Rossen*
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John & Lynn Wiese150
Lawrence Yang & Jennifer Kuan1,000
Delle Maxwelll2,500
Steve & Gayle Brugler1,000
Andy & Eva Dobrov150
Kate & Marvin Feinstein200
Scott Pearson500
Marilyn, Dale, Rick & Mei Simbeck*
Bruce & Mary Beth Train250
Sherry Brown250
Charlie Williams125
Jonathan Macquitty & Laurie Hunter1,000
Gavin & Patricia Christensen*
Ralph Britton200
Barbara Allen100
Veronica Tincher*
Kay Sabin*
Leannah Hunt250
Marilee & Sam Anderson100
Chen & Lee Family300
Teresa Roberts1,000
Mr. & Mrs. John J. McLaughlin100
Ellen King200
Patricia Levin100
Joan Norton*
Susan Bartalo & David Fischer150
In Memory Of

Er-Ying & Yen-Chen Yen250
Janet Hermsen200
Ray Bacchetti250
Nancy & Bob Lobdell*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Tracy & Alan Herrick100
Bob Fenster*
David, Zoe & Ken100
Mrs. Nancy Yih*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Corrine Aulgur*
Duncan Matteson250
Pam Grady300
Elliot Eisner*
Nate Rosenberg200
Francine Mendlin250
Bob Donald*
Bill Land*
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Ted Linden200
Marie & Don Snow150
Ben Barres100
Kathleen Morris*
Our Loving Parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
August L. King*
Julia Schwartz*
Lee Domenik*
Marts Beekley, M.D.*
Margaret McAvity - "Granny"*
Carol Berkowitz*
Don Kenyon100
Judge Bart Phelps*
Ernest J. Moore200
Jacques, Nancy, Wanda & Jimmy George*
Sally Landy & Betty Meltzer50
Mary Floyd & Susan Thomas50
Jack Sutorius300
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Robert Spinrad*
Boyd Paulson Jr.*
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In Honor Of

Melissa Baten Caswell*
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As a Gift For

Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez1,000
Businesses/Organizations

Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run & Walk69,110
Sponsors of Moonlight Run
    Stanford Hospital & Clinics10,000
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    Stanford Federal Credit Union5,000
    Palantir5,000
    DeLeon Realty5,000
    Wealth Architects5,000
    Facebook5,000
    Kaiser Permanente5,000
    Lakin Spears2,000
    Bank of the West1,000
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Bleibler Properties1,000
Communications & Power Industries500
deLemos Properties200
Palo Alto Business Park*
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000