Holiday Spirit

Ron Whiteside, right, an eight-year volunteer tutor and advisory council member for the Youth Club at St. Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto, helps students Kayle Manriquez, left, and Zuri Bermudez, right, with their homework after school on Dec. 11, 2018. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Posted December 21, 2018

A brighter future
Catholic Charities Youth Club gives students tools to succeed in and out of the classroom

by Linda Taaffe

The two portable classrooms behind St. Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto bustled with activity in the days leading up to this week's community Posada festival. Students in the Catholic Charities Youth Club were practicing songs and readings for the big holiday event commemorating Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem.

"I want to be the ant! I want to be the ant!" one third-grader excitedly yelled out as he prepared to read from the pages of "Hey Little Ant," which he and his classmates performed at the event.

In the adjacent classroom located across a large wood deck, more than a dozen fourth-graders gathered at the front of the room waving their hands high above their heads while singing "Jingle Bell Rock."

As soon as the clock hit 5:20 p.m., however, it became clear that the after-school club was about much more than just fun and games. The room quickly quieted down as the students found a desk, table or comfortable space on the floor to put themselves, opened their books and teamed up with a group leader or volunteer to practice their reading, writing and math skills.

For most of the students, the year-round academic enrichment program is the only place where they have access to a strong support system designed to help them overcome language, economic and other social barriers that otherwise might hold them back in life.

"We give kids as much support as possible to succeed," said Sarah Burton, division director of Youth and Child Development Services at Catholic Charities, which has operated the East Palo Alto program since 2015. "This is really a place where we can move (students) forward and help them see a better future for themselves."

The results have been significant.

Over the past school year, 85 percent of students in the program have improved their reading scores by two or more levels on standardized literacy tests, and 74 percent have improved their grades in math, according to academic information collected by Catholic Charities throughout the year.

At the start of the year, about 39 percent of students were reading below grade level, compared to only 9 percent by the end of the year, Burton said. She said some students advanced as many as six reading levels during the year.

Focused on closing the achievement gap, the nonprofit program this year was supported in part by a $10,000 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund. The students receive structured academic-enrichment activities with one-on-one tutoring, homework support, instruction from guest chefs, artists, environmental experts and other community partners, as well as meals and family counseling, if needed, during four hours after school every day and during the summer. The 80 to 100 students enrolled in the program receive about 336 hours of academic support each year. These services are all provided by five employees (including three who work part-time) and about 20 volunteers.

Initially launched in 2004, the program wasn't always focused on academics.

Lawrence Goode, a pastor at St. Francis, started the after-school program at the church to provide boys in the neighborhood a safe space to hang out after the community experienced a significant spike in gun violence in late 2003. Over the past 14 years, the program evolved from a safe haven for boys to a co-ed recreational center for students of all ages and then into today's accredited after-school program focused on literacy and math exclusively for third- to fifth-graders from six feeder schools in the Ravenswood City School District, which encompass East Palo Alto and a portion of Menlo Park.

"We really looked at the needs of the community and decided to focus our time and energy on younger students and closing the achievement gap," Burton said.

Studies show that students who can't read at grade level by third grade are more likely to drop out of high school and experience higher levels of poverty and crime, she said.

Based on those studies, "We see that many youth in East Palo Alto have a higher chance of becoming incarcerated than attending college," she added.

Most of the students in the program come from families whose annual incomes fall significantly below the poverty level, and about half of them are considered chronically homeless.

In addition to these challenges, many come from homes where English is not spoken, said program director Amy Hafter, who works onsite in the classrooms.

"While their parents are extremely supportive, they don't necessarily have the language skills to support them with their school work," Hafter said.

The program provides students that "little extra support to give them the confidence to be confident learners in the classroom," Burton said. "But it's not just about academics, it's about supporting this young person as a person and not just as a student. We take a holistic approach."

Hafter said the Youth Club also has helped foster strong family and community ties. Students from the six feeder schools, who might not otherwise know one another, are now spending time together while developing their social skills, she said.

Parents also play a large role in the program, she said. Those who can't afford the monthly $40 enrollment fee contribute in other ways, such as volunteering during special events or helping out in the classroom.

Hafter, who was hired this fall, said she hopes in upcoming months to partner with engineers and coders from Facebook and other local companies to bring their skills into the after-school club.

"Most importantly, this program gives children a vision," Hafter said. "When I grew up, it was a question of 'Where will you go to college? What career will you have?'"

That vision isn't always communicated to these students, she said.

"It's of pivotal importance that we give them the vision to move beyond their circumstances, to let them know that 'You, too, have opportunities,'" Hafter said.

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 January 11, 2021.

Make a donation
2020 Recipient Agency

49ers Academy
Academic and social support services for East Palo Alto students attending Ravenswood Middle School and Menlo-Atherton High School $20,000

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

Acknowledge Alliance (Cleo Eulau)
Mental health intervention and prevention aimed at helping children rebound from adversity through school connectedness and learning $5,000

Ada's Café
Employment and empowerment for adults with developmental disabilities and an education on the potential of all people for high school interns $5,000

Adolescent Counseling Services
Social emotional support for local youth through projects like the Outlet Program, which provides support services and counseling for LGBTQ+ youth $7,500

All Students Matter
Literacy, math and social emotional support for TK-5 students in non-charter elementary schools in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park $15,000

Art in Action
Equitable art education featuring diverse visual arts curricula for 1,100 students in the Palo Alto area, 85% of whom attend Title I schools $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, enrichment and faith-based programs involving high-quality learning experienes for youth in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park $5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
Meaningful, monitored mentor matches between adult volunteers and children ages 6 to 18 aimed at defending a child's inherent potential $5,000

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

CASA of San Mateo County
Support for youth in the foster or juvenile justice system in the form of a compassionate adult advocate paired with each child $5,000

CASSY
Free school-based mental health services for students and families in four Ravenswood elementary and middle schools $10,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
Legal assistance for low-income families facing housing, immigration and economic barriers to inclusion and equity $10,000

DreamCatchers
Free after-school 1:1 academic support and mentorship for low-income, first-generation PAUSD middle school students $20,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation
Support for students and recent graduates of East Palo Alto Academy through projects like the expansion of EPAA's STEM-focused Dream Lab $7,500

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation
Support for academic success and opportunity through micro grants to credentialed teachers in East Palo alto and east Menlo Park $10,000

East Palo Alto Library (formerly Quest)
Programs and services that promote equitable library access, and additional enrichment for youth, families and the community at large $5,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring
Free tutoring, parent coaching, tennis instruction and enrichment for under-resourced 1-12 graders in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven and North Fair Oaks $10,000

Ecumenical Hunger Progam
Emergency food, clothing, household essentials and sometimes financial assistance for families in need $10,000

Environmental Volunteers
Hands-on science and nature education promoting environmentalism through classroom, field trip and docent-led programs $5,000

Family Connections
High-quality, parent-participation childhood education utilizing academic, social-emotional and family supports $5,000

Fit Kids Foundation
Structured physical activity programs for understerved children aimed at building the foundation for a healthy, active lifestyle $5,000

Foundation for a College Education
Academic programs that develop curiosity and resilience in East Palo Alto students, and college assistance to ensure matriculation, persistence, and graduation $7,500

Friends of Junior Musuem & Zoo
Science and natural world exhibits, classes, field trips and summer camps that engage children's curiosity through interaction with animals $5,000

Health Connected
Sexual health education support including classroom instruction, teacher training and workshops for parents $5,000

Heart and Home Collaborative
A seasonal women's shelter providing meals, storage space and staffed beds from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for unhoused women from Santa Clara County $15,000

Hidden Villa
A 1,600-acre farm and wilderness area fostering educational experiences to inspire a deeper appreciation for nature and food $5,000

Jasper Ridge Farm
Therapeutic, animal-assisted programs for children and adults facing life-threatening illnesses, homelessness, domestic violence and other challenges $5,000

Kara
Grief support, crisis intervention and education for children and adults, with free peer support services in English and Spanish $7,500

Live in Peace
Programs for youth most at risk of dropping out of school that connect them to their own talents, educational pathways, jobs and more $5,000

Marine Science Institute
Hands-on marine science curriculum utilizing a functional research ship to inspire students to become conscientious environmental stewards $5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation
Professional general music and string (violin, viola, cello) instruction for students in the Ravenswood City School District $5,000

Musikiwest
Week-long residencies for chamber musicians, who present difficult issues affecting children to local schools through open rehearsals $5,000

New Voices for Youth (Social Good Fund)
An after-school program in which students learn how to use video cameras in order to document their communities and report on issues of importance to them $3,000

Nuestra Casa
Community education workshops and grassroots leadership development aimed at increasing community participtaion of EPA's Latino population $7,500

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation
Art exhibitions, education, summer camps and other community programming serving more than 150,000 people annually $5,000

Palo Alto Housing
A series of financial workshops, action plans and invidual coaching sessions aimed at improving the financial wellness of 15 low-income families in Palo Alto $5,000

Palo Alto Music Connection
Free music lessons for elementary and middle school students in East Palo Alto, provided by passion volunteer musicians from Gunn High School $5,000

Peninsula Bridge Program
A 12-year program providing educational access and support for 690 students and fostering the confidence needed to pursue career dreams $5,000

Peninsula College Fund
College success services for first-generation college students including scholarship support, mentors, training and internship support $5,000

Peninsula Volunteers
Critical support seniors on the Peninsula, including Meals on Wheels, Alzheimers and dementia services, and activities preventing social isolation $5,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation
Community support for those in the Ravenswood City School District in the form of summer school, mental health counselors, academic enrichment and more $7,500

Rich May Foundation
A full-size, all-weather lighted turf soccer and rugby field; affordable for most, free for Ravenswood School District and St. Francis of Assisi Church $5,000

Rise Together Education
Multi-year mentoring and scholarships for low-income Palo Alto High School students and recent graduates attending college $10,000

Robotics for All
Free after-school robotics classes run by Gunn High School students serving schools where more than 50% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged $3,600

Silicon Valley Bicycle Exchange
A workspace that refurbishes used bicycles and donates them to those most in need of transportation, independence and recreation $5,000

Silicon Valley Urban Debate League
Speech and debate programs, as well as professional access and mentoring, for underserved youth in East Palo Alto $5,000

St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club
A community-based literacy and enrichment program serving 100 second through fifth graders and their families in East Palo Alto and Belle Haven $5,000

TheatreWorks
The largest performing arts organization in Silicon Valley, offering arts education programs in schools and engaging families at local hospitals $5,000

Vista Center for Blind & Visually Impaired
Evaluation, counseling, education and training to help individuals who are blind or visually impaired accomplish their unique life goals $5,000

WeHOPE
A homeless shelter offering food, mobile showers and laundry, case management and safe overnight parking $15,000

YMCA - EPA
Early learning readiness, homework assistance, summer day camp, active older adult programming, family activities and aquatics $10,000

YMCA - PA Family
Summer academic enrichment and physical activities for first- through fifth-grade students on the federal reduced-price meal program $5,000

Youth Community Service
Life skills classes, extracurricular programs, community service days and summer camps that engage young people in service learning $20,000

Youth Speaks Out
A joint effort between students, teachers, artists and therapists to share perspectives, strengths and vulnerabilities in order to amplify student voices $10,000

Child Care Facility Improvement Grants

Gatepath (Abilities United)
Educational, therapeutic, vocational and family support services for individuals with developmental disabilities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties $5,000

All Five
Early childhood education offering equity and a nurturing environment that utilizes a play-based curriculum $10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool
Nurturing, play-based education for preschoolers in a warm and supportive learning environment $5,000

The Learning Center
An intimate, welcoming, nurturing, peaceful, yet active environment for children, families and teachers fostering emotional, social, cognitive and physical growth $5,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care
Quality care and education individually tailored to each child's development and accessible regardless of income $10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School
A play-based preschool that enables children to explore the world around them, stimulating their creativity and confidence $6,000

Parents Nursery School
An environment where families work together in the true cooperative spirit to create a positive learning environment for children and their parents $5,000

Scholarship

High School Scholarships
$8,000

As of Jan 14, 2020,
382 donors have contributed $458,525.
* indicates amount withheld

25 Anonymous125,670
Roger V. Smith300
Art & Peggy Stauffer500
Steven Feinberg5,000
William Reller1,000
Jan & Freddy Gabus250
Marc & Margaret Cohen100
Micki & Bob Cardelli*
Pat Burt & Sally Bemus250
Judy & Tony Kramer*
Larry Baer & Stephanie Klein*
Jerry & Donna Silverberg100
Betty Gerard*
Boyce & Peggy Nute*
J. Platt & S. Murphy600
Ellen & Mike Turbow200
Kroyman Family250
Don Barr & Debra Satz100
Debby Roth200
John & Florine Galen*
Barbara Allen100
Sue Kemp250
Ellen & Tom Ehrlich500
Leif & Sharon Erickson250
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
George & Betsy Young*
Peter S. Stern250
Nancy & Joe Huber100
Susan & Doug Woodman*
Wendy Sinton*
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Elaine & Eric Hahn1,000
Judith Appleby200
Judy Ousterhout*
Philip Hanawalt & Graciela Spivak1,000
Dorothy Saxe100
Gwen Luce & Family100
Bruce Campbell*
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell1,000
Janice Ulevich100
M. D. Savoie250
Julie Jerome*
Michael Kieschnick1,000
Joan Jack100
Ron Wolf200
Gordon Chamberlain300
Daniel Cox200
Michael & Gwen Havern5,000
Susie Richardson & Hal Luft*
Felicia Levy100
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
Diana Diamond100
Carolyn Brennan*
Charles A. Smith*
Richard A. Baumgartner & Elizabeth M. Salzer450
Rita Vrhel200
Hans & Judith Steiner100
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Braff Family500
Xiaofan Lin50
Teresa Roberts1,000
Richard Alexander1,000
Peter Beller250
Yang Chu250
Dennis Clark75
David Thom200
Shirley Reiter300
Scott & Jan Kliner500
Leo & Marlys Keoshian100
Peter Kidder & Lynn Johnson200
Chris Logan100
Joanne Koltnow200
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
John Tang & Jean Hsia*
Eugene & Mabel Dong200
John & Mary Schaefer100
Sheryl & Tony Klein*
Karen & Steve Ross*
Kaaren & John Antoun1,500
Dr. & Mrs. Frederic J. Kahn250
Andy & Eva Dobrov50
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
Brigid Barton & Rob Robinson200
Ralph R. Wheeler300
Stephen Levy500
Bonnie Berg*
Marion Lewenstein500
Carol Jorgenson300
Christina Kenrick1,000
Mary Lemmon15,000
Weil Family1,000
Hal & Carol Louchheim*
Charles S. & Anne Williams150
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Ann & Don Rothblatt500
Martha Shirk1,000
Jody Maxmin*
Adele & Donald Langendorf200
Gwen Barry*
Diane Moore*
Richard Johnsson5,000
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Albert Russell250
Catherine Crystal Foster500
Andrea Smith100
John Pavkovich400
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Ellmann Family100
Jan Thomson & Roy Levin250
Mike & Cathie Foster1,000
Chuck & Jean Thompson100
Amado Padilla250
Donald & Diethild Price100
Luca & Mary Cafiero*
Don & Bonnie Miller100
Patti Yanklowitz & Mark Krasnow*
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
Barbara & Charles Stevens*
Nancy & David Kalkbrenner*
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Stewart & Carol-Anne Hansen100
Merrill & Lee Newman250
Rich & Pat Douglas100
Aryela Zulman100
Nancy Wong & Robert Lipshutz200
Kate Godfrey & Rob Colley*
Guy & Janet DiJulio*
Ellen Lillington400
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal250
Nina & Norman Kulgein250
Harry & Susan Hartzell50
Marc Igler & Jennifer Cray100
James W. & Nancy E. Baer200
Ron & Melanie Wilensky300
Tom & Darlene McCalmont500
Cynthia Costell100
Elizabeth Bechtel100
Bonnie Packer & Robert Raymakers100
Michael Patrick200
Sandy Liu100
Dena Goldberg500
Romola Georgia*
Roger Warnke300
Rick & Eileen Brooks500
James Taylor & Meri Gruber100
Wendy Max50
David & Virginia Pollard150
Beth & Peter Rosenthal300
Constance Crawford125
Linda & Jerry Elkind250
Diane Finklestein200
Eric Keller & Janice Bohman500
Tom & Nancy Fiene100
Kay & Don Remsen*
Werner Graf*
Sallie & Jay Whaley*
Scott Pearson500
Marilyn, Dale, Rick & Mei Simbeck*
Mandy Lowell*
Robyn H Crumly*
John & Kristine Erving*
Barbara Klein*
Elizabeth Lillard-Bernal*
Virginia Laibl100
Hoda Epstein*
Victor Befera100
Elizabeth Kok*
Rosalie Shepherd100
John Keller200
Anne & Don Vermeil*
Steve & Diane Ciesinski500
Bruce & Jane Gee250
Kenyon Family500
Jocelyn Dong*
Deborah Mytels100
Eilenn Brennan*
Marian Scheuer100
Ruchita Parat100
Susan Light100
Ellen Krasnow*
Dennis & Cindy Dillon300
Graceann Johnson100
Diane & Branimir Sikic*
James Lobdell250
Eric Filseth350
Deborah Wexler500
Erika Buck100
Ted & Becky Baer200
Arthur Keller100
Omar & Michelle Baldonado*
Lodato Family500
Dennis & Cindy Dillon*
Helene Pier*
Good Bear Charitable Fund5,000
Bjorn & Michele Liencres1,000
Kathryn & A.C. Johnston100
Florence Barr250
John Wilkes600
Chris Saccheri*
Daniel Chapiro400
Laurie Hunter & Jonathan MacQuitty2,500
Jean & Dexter Dawes250
Susan Osofsky200
Fruchterman Family250
Bob Aulgur1,000
Joyce & Gerry Barker200
Jacqueline Rush100
Jack & Martha McLaughlin200
Monica Engel Williams200
Fran Codispoti250
Delle Maxwell2,500
Margaret & Curt Weil100
Paul Duffie & Elizabeth Schwerer100
John & Lynn Wiese200
Diane & Bob Simoni200
Gavin & Tricia Christensen*
Marvin & Kate Feinstein200
Irvin & Marilyn Yalom100
Steve & Gayle Brugler1,000
John Tang200
Joan Norton*
David & Betsy Fryberger100
Lawrence Yang & Jennifer Kuan1,000
Barry Goldblatt200
Larry Klein1,000
Mike & Jean Couch250
Veronica Tincher*
David Fischer & Susan Bartalo200
Kenneth Bencala & Sally O'Neil200
Shapiro Family*
David & Karen Backer500
David Labaree200
Leannah Hunt250
Pat & Penny Barrett150
Jean Doble*
Annette Isaacson100
Linda Selden480
Sandy Napel103
Deborah Williams & Jean Luc Laminette1,000
Merele McClure200
Carolyn Williams200
Barbara Kinsey500
Alice Evarts500
Neilson Buchanan250
Sherry Brown*
Jane Holland*
Nancy Peterson100
Craig Viau500
Reed Content250
Brian & Jill Bicknell250
Kerei Yuen500
Victor & Norma Hesterman100
Susan Thomas500
Ellson Family100
Shirley & Marc Feldman200
Kay Sabin*
Tobye Kaye*
Peter & Leanne Giles200
Anna Welke50
Elizabeth Shepard*
Lisa Forssell500
Subutai Ahmad100
Jennie Savage1,000
Shirley Ely1,000
Duane Bay & Barbara Noparstak100
Catherine Dolton100
Mazze-Cohen Family150
Glenn & Lorna Affleck30
In Memory Of

Kathy Morris*
Ray Bacchetti250
Phillip Zschokke50
Robert Spinrad*
Alissa Riper Picker250
Duncan Matteson500
Nate Rosenberg200
Don & Marie Snow100
Bob Kirkwood*
Leonard Ely500
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Nancy & Bob Lobdell*
Pam Grady350
Barbara E. Schwartz*
Ryan Kamita*
Boyd Paulson*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Bob Donald*
Fr. John Fitzpatrick C.S.Sp.*
David W. Mitchell400
Ted Linden200
Lee Domenik*
Alan & Tracy*
Er-Ying & Yen-Chen Yen250
Betty Meltzer25
Mary Alyce Pearson*
Kathy Riskin Graham*
Jack Sutorius500
Dr. Elliot W. Eisner200
August L. King*
Brett Remmel & Mark Remmel100
Emmett Lorey*
Phebe Bush*
Bertha Kalson*
Aaron O'Neill*
Ludwig Tannenwald*
Bill Land*
Jim & Dottie Mellberg200
William Preston1,000
Maria Januario40
Al & Mae Kenrick200
Maureen & Jim Missett*
Kathie Underdal*
Loving parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
Our beloved son Samuel Benjamin Kurland*
Harvey Schloss100
Mary Floyd*
Tinney Family250
Carol Berkowitz*
Bob Markevitch*
Kaye Kelley & Richard Van Dusen250
Dr. David Zlotnick200
William Bill Iaculla100
Mark Georgia*
Jeffrey Tuerk*
In Honor Of

Principal Iris Wong*
Normal L. Frazee, 100 years young400
Lucas Milam100
Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez250
Marilyn Sutorius500
Joe Simitian*
Franklin & Edith Cooper100
Lucy Berman's Clients2,500
Betty Gerard100
Businesses/Organizations

Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run89,181
Sponsors of Moonlight Run
    Stanford Health Care10,000
    Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
    Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
    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
    A Runner's Mind1,000
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation 10,000
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Killiney Kopitiam250
Palo Alto Business Park*
Communications & Power Industries1,000
Bleibler Properties1,000
Silicon Valley Wealth Advisors300
deLemos Properties500
Hewlett Foundation25,000
Packard Foundation25,000
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 January 11, 2021.

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