Holiday Spirit

Adriana Barajas, second from right, joins fellow participants from Live in Peace's Gap Year program, from left, Carmen Thomas, Tiani Kefu, Sierra Kelliehan, Jerni Timateo and Veshia McGee following their first day in Facebook's Year Up program, which provides job-skills training and internship opportunities, on Sept. 18. The women removed their shoes after the long first day. Photo courtesy Heather Starnes/Live in Peace.

Posted December 7, 2018

From almost dropouts to career seekers
Live in Peace programs help at-risk students enter college, find training for high-paying jobs

by Sue Dremann

Ten years ago, Adriana Barajas was not on anyone's list of "most likely to succeed." Then 14 years old, she was hanging around with gang members and bouncing from school to school.

"I come from a home of gangs and violence and drugs," said Barajas, a soft-spoken, petite woman with glasses, a keen intelligence and a solidity beyond her years.

"I got kicked out of every school I was in. I was in a probation-center school. I was not going to graduate."

But a hug changed her life.

Heather Starnes-Logwood, executive director of Live in Peace, an East Palo Alto nonprofit working to keep students in school, delivered the reassuring gesture when she first met Barajas at school.

"I see something in you," Starnes-Logwood said.

Barajas did graduate — barely, she said — from high school in 2012, with the help of Live in Peace. The organization has aided more than 123 East Palo Alto and Belle Haven neighborhood students at risk of dropping out to graduate high school through a collaboration with the Sequoia Union High School District, Starnes-Logwood said.

Live in Peace was selected by San Mateo County in 2015 to design a three-year program to engage 80 district students who were at the greatest risk of dropping out. The Students Who Achieve Greatness (SWAG) program identifies the most challenged students and uses "out of the box" methods, including independent study and life coaching, to help them graduate. The students work daily with tutors, case managers and others.

But even with the help they receive to graduate high school, many students feel lost after graduation. Some, like Barajas, have responsibilities heaped on them. At 17, she was pregnant. Her baby's father left her, and she was caring for her mother. Those first years of her baby's life were "very, very difficult," she recalled.

She became a manager at a Dollar Store, working long hours. The money was OK, but she wanted a career. She wanted to give her son a sense of what is possible — to set a good example for him, she recalled.

"So I decided to take this risk and hope for the best," she said.

Enter the Gap Year program, Live in Peace's "next step" for students after high school. The 12-month program, which begins in August of each year and currently has 20 students ages 18 to 24, received a $5,000 Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund grant last year. Students receive life coaching and skill-building lessons to help them enter and graduate from college or a trade school. They learn about financial literacy, investing and career exploration, gain computer and life skills, and discuss the topics ranging from the effects of trauma to birth control to how to date and marry well. The students go on retreats to help shape their vision for their future.

In addition, they have access to weekly counseling, reading coaches, academic tutors, attorneys and mentors in their field of interest, Starnes-Logwood said. Students are required to find at least part-time employment and must enroll in a training program or accredited coursework. Each student who successfully completes the program receives a $5,000 scholarship toward trade school or junior college along with continued coaching and support.

Gap Year helped Barajas, now 24, to gain the skills and confidence to enroll in the national Year Up mentoring program at Facebook. While participating in the Gap Year program, she's receiving through Year Up five months of instruction in business, career development and information technology on the Facebook campus, which will be followed by a six-month internship.

"I'm getting all A's in my classes," she said.

She will work at the IT help desk for her internship, starting in February. When she finishes at the end of June, Facebook might offer her a job. If it doesn't, Year Up will help place her at another company, she said.

Once listed in Starnes-Logwood's cell phone address book as "Adriana Mad," her moniker has now changed to "Adriana Glad" in the space of a few months.

"I never thought tech would be one of my passions," Barajas said. And she is learning and enjoying "the challenge of all of the hard things" she added.

"I'm a completely different person. A lot of it has to do with the support from Live in Peace and the Gap Year program. They are like the family I've always wanted," she said. "You become the person by the people and things you surround yourself with. I'm surrounding myself with a vision and goals to achieve. Before, when I was just around the negative, I felt stuck. All I needed was a new environment and I'm happy with that."

At a house on Beech Street in East Palo Alto recently, Gap Year students got a lesson in time management from Tom Tryggstad, area director of Young Life EPA/EMP, a nonprofit ministry that attends to youths' spiritual needs and helps students in multicultural communities to succeed.

Armed with worksheets, the students watched part of a TED talk by author Manoush Zomorodi on the television. Zomorodi discussed how overuse of social media and cell phones has caused people to lose the ability to "space out" and have the kind of creative dreaming that can lead to big ideas.

Tryggstad instructed the students to access a setting on their phones to track their daily use. Much to their surprise, many found it was up to nine hours a day.

The students came up with ways to reduce their phone use: charging the phone only 50 percent so that every percentage would be valued for important communication; leaving the phone at home during work hours; using the "do not disturb" mode.

Starnes-Logwood said such lessons help reshape thinking and build skills that are critical to success in college and in life. According to a study by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, only 11 percent of all low-income students enrolled in college reach graduation. But a 2014 Pell study found that college graduates earn a median income that's 1.6 times that of a high school graduate, which is critical if students want to continue living in the Bay Area.

Angela Langi, a poised young woman who studied at the Menlo-Atherton High School Computer Academy, is a classmate of Barajas. She said the Gap Year program has provided her a great support system.

"It helped me show my most professional side. I'm training for project management," she said. "I want to be a project coordinator in recruiting to hire people of color at Facebook or from East Palo Alto and to give back to my community."

Gap Year classmate Julian Escalante, who is beginning a project-management internship at Facebook, said he didn't do well in high school.

"Before, I didn't think I had much of a future," he said.

Now, he's a straight-A student.

Starnes-Logwood said the Gap Year program has a waiting list of about 50 students, and it needs more funding to expand.

Barajas reflected on the impact of Live in Peace and its programs: "I can't ever stress enough what they mean to me," she said.

Make a donation
2018 Grant Recipients

10 Books A Home
Expansion of in-home tutoring and literacy program helping parents prepare their preschoolers for kindergarten through age-appropriate books and reading exercises$15,000

49ers Academy
Consolidation and relocation to a single middle school of the reading intervention and academic support program at to help prepare Ravenswood middle school students for high school $5,000

Able Works
Financial literacy education for students at Menlo-Atherton High School and East Palo Alto charter high schools and for young families$5,000

Acterra
Energy audits and solar installations aimed at reducing utility costs for low income residents of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven$5,000

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

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

All Students Matter
Launch of new literacy intervention program focused on 3rd-5th grade students in Ravenswood school district$10,000

Art in Action
Art education program serving more than 900 students in the Ravenswood school district$5,000

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

Bayshore Christian Ministries
Academic "Create" summer camp providing multiple tracks for Ravenswood district middle school students$5,000

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

CASSY
School-based mental health services to students and families in six 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
Stipends for homeless volunteers who perform community services in downtown Palo Alto as they transition to regular employment$7,500

DreamCatchers
New system to document student progress and improve communication among tutors of Palo Alto middle school students$10,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation
Educator Micro Grants Program, providing up to $600 grants to teachers in schools in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park$10,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring
Literacy evaluations for first through eighth graders in Ravenswood schools to determine needed interventions$7,500

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

Family Connections
Early childhood education program for parents of preschoolers in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park.$7,500

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 at Willow Oaks Elementary School$5,000

Get Involved Palo Alto
Service-learning internship placement program for high school students wanting to work with low-income youth$10,000

Health Connected
Sexual health education instruction in Ravenswood middle schools$5,000

Hidden Villa
Summer camp scholarships $5,000

JLS Middle School
Homework Habitat after-school homework and tutoring program three days a week$4,000

Jordan Middle School
Jordan Academic Wellness Support (JAWS) providing after-school study center for students three days a week$4,000

Kara
Spanish language peer grief support 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$5,000

Marine Science Institute
Environmental and marine science education program for 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

Nuestra Casa
ESL classes for East Palo Alto adults$7,500

One East Palo Alto
Summer job and mentoring program for at-risk East Palo Alto youth$5,000

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

Palo Alto Housing
Family Reading Club for parents and youth living in subsidized rental apartments managed by Palo Alto Housing $4,000

Peninsula Bridge
After school and summer academic support programs for low income middle and high school students with a goal of attending college$5,000

Peninsula HealthCare Connection
Health care supplies and services provided at the Opportunity Center clinic$5,000

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

Quest Learning Center
Parent education workshops for parents of 2nd to 5th graders in East Palo Alto $5,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation
Purchase of washing machines at three district schools$10,000

Rosalie Rendu Center
ESL and life skills classes for East Palo Alto adults$3,500

Silicon Valley FACES
Scholarships for East Palo Alto teens to attend Camp Everytown youth diversity training weekend$5,000

Silicon Valley Urban Debate League
Summer debate camp for at-risk students in East Palo Alto$5,000

St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club
Meals for low-income third to fifth graders attending East Palo Alto after-school program$5,000

Stanford Jazz Workshop
Pilot of new after-school jazz music program for Ravenswood school district 6th graders$2,500

Terman Middle School
Homework Habitat after-school homework and tutoring program three days a week$4,000

YMCA East Palo Alto
Summer "Full STEAM Ahead" program for high school students, combining academic curriculum with recreational outings$7,500

YMCA Ross Road
Six-week summer enrichment camp for low-income students attending Barron Park Elementary 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$15,000

Youth Speaks Out
Expressive arts program enabling teens whose voices may not be otherwise heard to collaborate on artistic projects with each other and supportive adults.$15,000

Child Care Facility Improvement Grants

Children's Center of the Stanford Community
New classroom tables and chairs and additional trikes$5,000

Children's Pre-School Center
Replacement of climbing structure$5,000

Friends of Preschool Family
Replacement of climbing structure$5,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool
New cabinets and counters$5,000

The Learning Center
Installation of new Nature Explore "Outdoor Classroom"$5,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care
Upgrade of outdoor play space at Barron Park Children's Center$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School
Replacement of single-pane windows$5,000

Parents Nursery School
Repavement of parking area$5,000

Peninsula Family Service
Repairs and improvements of outdoor play area at Haven Child Development Center$5,000

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

28 Anonymous121,525
David Labaree300
Bruce Campbell200
Janis Ulevich100
Mike Gordon250
Bill Reller*
Ellen & Mike Turbow200
Xiaofan Lin50
M D Savioe*
Ron Wolf200
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Tom Goodrich100
Leif & Sharon Erickson250
Stephen Levy 500
John & Meg Monroe500
Daniel Cox200
Richard Zuanich200
Kieschnick Family*
Deborah Williams500
Joan & Roger Warnke*
Havern Family5,000
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell1,000
Mike & Jean Couch250
Tony & Judy Kramer*
Peter Stern*
Dorothy Saxe100
David & Nancy Kalkbrenner100
David & Lynn Mitchell450
Barbara Riper*
Nancy & Joe Huber100
Sue Kemp250
Richard Baumgartner & Elizabeth Salzer*
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Stev & Mary Chapel50
Ruth Hammett100
Drew McCalley & Marilyn Green100
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Judith Appleby200
Carolyn Brennan*
Susana & Doug Woodman*
Jody Maxmin*
Pat Burt250
Larry Baer500
Arthur Keller*
Lawrence Naiman100
Pamela Mayerfeld100
Eileen Brooks500
Scott & Jan Kilner500
Andrea Smith100
Braff Family500
Eugene & Mabel Dong200
Debby Roth200
Phil Hanawalt & Garciela Spivak1,000
Lani Freeman & Stephen Monismith100
Tom & Ellen Ehrlich350
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
Gwen Luce*
Robert Aulger*
Pat & John Davis50
Art & Peggy Stauffer500
Kroymann Family250
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal*
Karen & Steve Ross*
Wileta Burch*
Mandy Lowell*
George & Betsy Young*
Tom & Pat Sanders*
Gerald & Joyce Barker200
Brigid Barton & Rob Robinson400
Jim & Alma Phillips500
Peggy & Boyce Nute*
Michael & Cathie Foster500
Diane Moore*
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Chuck & Jean Thompson100
Julie Jerome500
Bonnie Berg*
Gallo Family500
Ann & Don Rothblatt500
Caryn Huberman Yacowitz*
Shirley R. Ely1,000
Luca & Mary Cafiero*
Steve & Diane Ciesinski500
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Dorogusker500
James W. & Nancy E. Baer200
The Ely Family250
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
JoAnne N. Zschokke100
Ralph R. Wheeler300
Bert Fingerhut & Caroline Hicks250
Kaaren & John Antoun1,500
Richard Johnsson7,000
Bruce Gee & Jane Gee250
Eric Hahn & Elaine Hahn1,000
Bob & Dee Crawford*
Diane & Bob Simoni200
Jan Thomson & Roy Levin*
Donald & Adele Langendorf200
Irvin & Marilyn Yalom100
Brigid Barton500
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
John & Florine Galen*
H. Anton & Carolyn Tucher250
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Bob & Micki Cardelli*
John Pavkovich500
Eileen Stolee100
Sallie Whaley*
Ann Burrell & Allen Smith*
Patti Yanklowitz150
Linda Selden*
Dena Hill500
Michael Patrick200
Bonnie Packer100
Romola Georgia*
Martha Shirk500
Christina Kenrick1,000
Dawes Family250
Ken Bencala & Sally O'Neil200
Nina & Norman Kulgein*
Tom & Nancy Fiene*
Lee Zulman*
Merrill & Lee Newman250
Judy & Lee Shulman200
Donna & Jerry Silverberg100
Victor Befera100
Kay & Don Remsen*
Beth & Peter Rosenthal300
Robyn H. Crumly*
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Amado Padilla & Deborah Farrington500
Jerry & Linda Elkind500
Donald & Virginia Fitton25
Don & Bonnie Miller100
Roger V. Smith300
Edie Kirkwood*
Cynthia Costell100
Anna & Chris Saccheri1,000
Eric Keller & Janice Bohman250
Diana Diamond150
A Carlisle Scott*
Peter Beller & Nadine Dabby*
Carol Kersten300
Linda Groffie-Balint150
Michal Sadoff100
Ellen Krasnow*
Meri Gruber & James Taylor250
Tony & Kathleen Hughes1,500
Erika Buck100
Carolyn Williams200
Jocelyn Dong*
Spreng Family200
Susan D. Osofsky200
Leo & Marlys Keoshian100
John & Lee Pierce250
Susie Richardson & Hal Luft*
Don & Dee Price*
Anne & Don Vermeil*
John & Mary Schaefer100
Judy Ousterhout*
Ellen Lillington300
B & D Fryberger100
Stewart & Carol Hansen100
Gwen Barry*
Richard & Tish Fagin100
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Al & Joanne Russell300
Harry & Susan Hartzell100
Frances Codispoti500
Hal & Carol Louchheim400
Herbert Fischgrund200
Diane & Brandy Sikic*
Karen Backer500
Rosalie Shepherd100
David Thom200
Sylvia McGovern100
Lawrence Dong50
Annette Isaacson100
Pamela Wong25
Barbara Kinsey500
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Elgin & Elizabeth Lee500
Weil Family1,000
Epstein Family500
Kenyon Family500
Ellmann Family100
Helene Pier*
David & Virginia Pollard150
Diane Finkelstein200
Elizabeth Shepard*
Nancy Moss*
Rita Vrhel300
Virginia Laibl500
Barbara Klein & Stan Schrier*
Paul Kingston Duffie50
Carol Hubenthal50
Steve & Virginia Morgan50
Barbara Noparstak & Duane Bay100
Judith & Hans Steiner150
Marc & Margaret Cohen250
Dennis & Cindy Dillon*
Carol Gilbert*
Jane Holland*
Mike & Lennie Roberts200
Hoda Epstein*
Larry Breed200
Colleen Anderson250
Elizabeth Bechtel100
Peter Giles125
Georgie Gleim500
Jeremy Platt & Sondra Murphy*
Jean Doble*
George Chippendale50
Robert Stevens200
Richard Mazze100
Sandy Liu100
Charles Katz400
Richard N Ellson100
Kathryn & A.C. Johnston100
Claire Lauing250
Alice Evarts500
Carol O'Neill25
Reed Content200
Nancy Peterson100
Joanne Koltnow100
Susan Elgee & Steve Eglash500
Liz Kok*
Werner Graf*
Vincent Steckler500
Norm & Nancy Rossen*
Debra Satz & Don Barr*
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*
Emmett Lorey*
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
Jim & Dottie Mellberg200
Robert Spinrad*
Boyd Paulson Jr.*
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
Samuel Benjamin Kurland300
David Mitchell200
Gary A Fry250
Lindsey Draper100
Abe & Helen Klein50
Dave Mitchell100
Bob Markevitch*
Tinney Family250
Marshall Carrick*
In Honor Of

Melissa Baten Caswell*
Lucy Berman's clients2,500
Jill200
Scott200
Polly200
Hayley200
Jake200
Garrett200
Gil200
Joe Simitian*
Marilyn Sutorius300
Physicians, Kaiser RWC*
Shapiro Family500
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
    Wilson Rosati Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
    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
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Bleibler Properties1,000
Communications & Power Industries500
deLemos Properties200
Palo Alto Business Park*
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000

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 4, 2019.