Holiday Spirit

Paulina Nava, an undergraduate student at Stanford University, tutors first-grader Zabdiel Hernandez and helps him with his math homework at the Buena Vista Homework Club on Nov. 26, 2018. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Posted November 30, 2018

Volunteers work to level the playing field
Buena Vista Homework Club creates a welcoming learning environment for kids

by Christine Lee

Twice week after school, a rather mundane trailer in the midst of colorfully decorated mobile homes at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park becomes a lively clubhouse for neighborhood children.

The Buena Vista Homework Club, which started in a carport in September 2017, has blossomed into a place where Stanford University students and local educators engage academically and socially with students of all ages.

"What's equally important to the homework part of it is the community," said Deborah Farrington, the program's founder.

The club serves Buena Vista children attending Barron Park Elementary School, Fletcher Middle School and Gunn High School. The south Palo Alto neighborhood is home to more than 400 residents, including about 100 children. Between 10 to 16 students attend the after-school program on any given day.

On a recent visit, there was hardly room to walk around in the clubhouse, whose walls are decorated with bright neon artwork. Conversations filled the air, with about 10 students at desks receiving one-on-one help with their homework while others shared drawings with volunteers. Some students played games outside.

The program, supported by the Caritas Foundation, strives to reduce the academic achievement gap among young students while also occasionally hosting educational games, reading competitions and events, such as a Dr. Seuss-themed party.

This year, the program received a $10,000 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund to help create a better learning environment for the children, who often lack the resources of their peers at school.

So far, funds have been used to install Wi-Fi, create a utility sink for food or art projects, buy healthy snacks and furniture, and enlarge the space. Future plans include building a small play area, creating a garden, establishing shade and decorating the building's walls inside and out.

Allison Pope, a Stanford sophomore, was one of the program's earliest volunteers and now works as its managing director.

"Getting to know the people that live in this community and share their stories and hear what they have to say — and so many of them, they're so knowledgeable — it brings me a lot of joy," she said.

Since Farrington now works as a principal at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Redwood City, Pope has been overseeing the semiweekly sessions. She not only helps students with homework, reading and math, but she also answers some girls' questions about puberty and listens to the daily school drama that students share.

Before Farrington approached the Buena Vista Residents Association with her idea to form a homework club, she and her husband, Amado Padilla, a professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Education, had been supporting residents in their five-year fight to preserve Buena Vista from being redeveloped.

After the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County purchased the property in 2017, thus preserving the park as affordable housing, Farrington approached the residents association with her idea.

Maria Martinez, a member of the residents association and current manager of the homework club, said that at first she was skeptical but became relieved when volunteers from Stanford, Los Altos High School and Gunn High School arrived. Soon after the club opened, Caritas, the park's management company, offered the group the community trailer for its clubhouse.

Today there are anywhere from five to 12 retired educators and students who visit twice a week. Many of the volunteers and children have formed close bonds over time, the volunteers say.

Stanford senior Paulina Nava sees enormous potential and a unique skill set in the students with whom she works. For instance, many are bilingual and some trilingual.

Over the summer, she became especially close with fifth-grade best friends Sophia and Liliana.

"I went to their school play this past week. ... They had their lead roles," she said. "I appreciate seeing young women, especially young women of color, taking up so much space."

Sophia, who was shy and quiet when she first came to the club, earned first place in a competition by reading 38 books in one summer. She's now opened up and is always talking with the volunteers.

Nava added that both Sophia and Liliana are driven academically and are already asking her about college.

"I'm just like 'Chill out!'" she said with a laugh. "But it's just really cool to see that aspiration."

One former student became the first in his family to attend college. Pope recalls helping him with his essays, talking about her own college experience and mentoring him through the process. When he went to San Francisco State University, the entire community was proud of him.

"Getting to help him with his schoolwork now, and seeing him be a mentor for children in the park and them seeing that that level of education is possible and attainable and something they should strive for is really meaningful," Pope said.

Most importantly for the program, Farrington said, the volunteers have earned trust of the parents, who have seen the volunteers' consistency and commitment and are now making sure their kids attend.

"It's very hard for the immigrant parents to help their kids because some of them don't speak English. They didn't even go to school, like my mom; she probably only went until third grade," Martinez said, adding that she herself was able to thrive academically and attend college because of programs similar to the Buena Vista Homework Club.

In many cases, the students don't have any other place to do their homework.

"In the house, there's often one small bed where two of them sleep on the same bed, and there's no space to actually do homework," Martinez said.

But for many students, the club is clearly more than a space to be in. It's a place for their potential to be nurtured, Pope said.

"These kids are so insanely brilliant, and unfortunately going to school in this district, a lot of the times, they fall through the cracks because they don't have the same support as the other privileged kids in this area, so just giving them the means —"

At that moment, Pope was interrupted as a girl called out to her, "Ally, where are the fruit snacks?"

"Check in the corner, OK?" Pope said.

"—just giving them the chance, and the materials and the means to learn and use their knowledge to the fullest is critical to this area, and to these students, and it brings me so much joy and pride to be a part of that."

Make a donation
2021 Recipient Agency

All Students Matter$25,000

Ada's Café$25,000

Youth Community Service$25,000

DreamCatchers$25,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring$20,000

Pursuit of Excellence$20,000

Ravenswood Education
Foundation
$20,000

WeHOPE$20,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$12500

Buena Vista
Homework Club
$10,000

CASSY$10,000

Community Legal Services
in East Palo Alto
$10,000

Nuestra Casa$10,000

San Francisco 49ers Academy $10,000

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

YMCA - East Palo Alto Branch$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Hidden Villa$10,000

Reading Partners$10,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$10,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7500

East Palo Alto
Academy Foundation
$7500

Kara$7500

Learning Home Volunteers$7500

Live in Peace$7500

Midpeninsula Community
Media Center
$7500

Peninsula
HealthCare Connection
$7500

WomenSV$7500

Acknowledge Alliance$5,000

Art in Action$5,000

Art of Yoga$5,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Alta Housing $5,000

Bayshore Christian Ministries$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Canopy$5,000

Environmental Volunteers$5,000

Family Connections$5,000

Girls To Women$5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation$5,000

Musikiwest$5,000

Morrissey-Compton
Educational Center
$5,000

Palo Alto Art Center
Foundation
$5,000

Palo Alto Chamber
Orchestra
$5,000

Palo Alto Players$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Silicon Valley Bicycle Exchange$5,000

East Palo Alto Library $5,000

Street Life Ministries$5,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

Vista Center for
Blind & Visually Impaired
$5,000

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Friends of Junior Musuem & Zoo$5,000

Herban Health$5,000

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Karat School Project $5,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Palo Alto Music Connection$5,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

Pacific Art League$5,000

East Palo Alto Library$5,000

Peninsula Bridge Program$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$5,000

St. Francis of Assisi
Youth Club
$5,000

Christmas Bureau$3500

Friends for Youth$3,000

Blossom Birth$2500

Pets in Need$2500

Child Care Grants

AbilityPath$10,000

All Five$10,000

Children's Center of
the Stanford Community
$5,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000

The Learning Center$10,000

Scholarship

HS scholarships$16,000


As of January 26, 2021
436 donors have contributed $614,046 to
the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld

40 Anonymous270,245
Janis Ulevich125
Tess & Eric Byler75
Robyn H. Crumly*
Stephanie Klein & Larry Baer*
Sue Kemp250
Judy Kramer150
Barbara Klein*
Tobye Kaye*
Michael Kieschnick500
Bruce Campbell250
Cathy Kroymann250
Werner Graf*
Dorothy Deringer250
Amy Crowe500
Gary & Karen Fry250
Bill Reller*
Jody Maxmin*
Martha Shirk1,000
Jim & Karen Lewis*
Judith Appleby250
Vic Befera100
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Brigid Barton5,000
Brigid & Rob Robinson200
Kaaren & John Antoun2,000
Harry Hartzell250
Susan & Doug Woodman*
Peggy & Boyce Nute*
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
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Jan & Freddy Gabus250
Hal & Iris Korol*
Sally Hewlett3,000
Arthur Keller500
Bruce & Jane Gee250
Denise Savoie and Darrell Duffie*
Loreto Ponce de Leon100
Thomas Ehrlich500
Ron Wolf250
Andrea Smith100
Bonnie Packer100
Michael & Gwen Havern5,000
Jan and Scott Kilner500
Daniel Cox200
Patrick Burt500
Jocelyn Dong100
Carolyn Brennan*
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
Debby Roth200
Diana Diamond300
Dorothy Saxe100
Jeanne & Leonard Ware500
Richard A. Baumgartner & Elizabeth M. Salzer*
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Nancy & Joe Huber*
Steven Feinberg5,000
Jean Wu1,000
Marc Igler & Jennifer Cray200
Ann & Don Rothblatt500
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Diane Moore*
Amado & Deborah Padilla250
Pat & Penny Barrett100
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
John Galen*
Julie & Jon Jerome*
Leif & Sharon Erickson500
Edward Kanazawa200
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Stephen & Nancy Levy500
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Judy Palmer 25
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  & Tony Hughes1,000
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Xiaofan Lin50
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Richard Zuanich150
Neha Choksi40
Braff Family500
Jennie Savage1,000
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell1,000
Dawes Family250
Mary Lemmon20,000
Shirley Ely1,000
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Doroguske1,000
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Lawrence Yang & Jennifer Kuan10,000
Richard Johnsson5,000
Chris & Anna Saccheri*
Judith & Hans Steiner100
Carolyn Caddes200
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Anne Williams200
Jim & Valerie Stinger100
Art & Peggy Stauffer500
Stuart & Carol Hansen*
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Betty W. Gerard50
Tom & Nancy Fiene150
Diane Finkelstein200
Beth & Peter Rosenthal500
Susan Benton*
Carol & Hal Louchheim*
Christina Kenrick2,500
Fruchterman Family250
Harriet Roeder1,000
Carol Hubenthal300
Dr. Fatima Malik, MBA*
Roger Warnke300
Dena Hill500
Keith Clarke*
Jeanette Kennedy1,000
Susie Richardson & Hal Luft*
Peter Danner200
Chantal Akerib500
Alice Fischgrund100
Carli Scott100
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Jeff Dean345
Sallie & Jay Whaley*
Hoda Epstein250
Gerald & Joyce Barker200
Cherie & Robert Donald250
Linda & Jerry Elkind250
Gwen Luce & Family*
Liz Lillard-Bernal50
Kay & Don Remsen*
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Diane Doolittle*
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Philip Hanawalt & Graciela Spivak2,000
Virginia Laibl200
Glenn & Lorna Affleck*
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Cindy Dillon*
Helene Pier*
Fran Codispoti250
Deborah Williams &
  Jean Luc Laminette1,000
Nina & Norman Kulgein250
Chris Logan50
Roy Levin & Jan Thomson250
Donald Barr100
Ellen Lillington400
Peter S. Stern*
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Liz Kok*
Roger V. Smith300
Scott Pearson500
Ellmann Family100
Dr. Labaree and Ms. Churchill100
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Alan Bennett200
Tom McCalmont1,000
Diane Posnak200
Mary Ann Sing100
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Carol O'Neill50
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Charlene Kon250
Peter Rudd50
Amy Crowe200
Diane Sikic400
Graceann Johnson100
Roy Levin & Jan Thomson250
Patti Yanklowitz & Mark Krasnow100
Deborah Mytels100
Katherine Bryant*
Sallie Tasto144
Steve & Gayle Brugler1,000
Nancy Tuck1,000
John & Mary Schaefer100
James & Kathryn Lodato500
Daniel & Janis Tuerk*
Rosalie Shepherd100
David & Betsy Fryberger100
Tom Hanks200
Margo Sensenbrenner*
J. Gonzales100
Don & Bonnie Miller100
Constance Crawford*
Vic & Norma Hesterman250
Joanne Koltnow300
Susan Osofsky200
Neilson Buchanan1,250
Judy Koch1,000
Mary G Dimit250
Eileen Brennan200
Diane Ciesinski250
Thomas Shannon100
Jim Sharp100
Susan Elgee500
Susan Ashworth100
Robert Bell100
Chisoon Lee200
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Nancy Stern & David Ross100
Bjorn Liencres1,000
Preston Gardner50
James Lobdell250
Don Amsbaugh200
Eric Kastner1,000
Verner Hansen100
Jane Millman100
Roxy & Michelle Rapp & Family2,000
Deborah Newhouse50
Phyllis Munsey300
Terry Hunter*
Nina Blackwell500
John E Vorce250
Steve Beitler125
Kim Harvey2,000
Harry & Susan Hartzell200
Susan Yee*
Rita Vrhel350
Veronica Tincher*
Kenneth Bencala & Sally O'Neil100
Jeremy Platt & Sondra Murphy*
Kingsley Jack250
Leannah Hunt250
Ed & Linda DeMeo150
Ellen McGinty King500
Roderick C. McCalley50
John Tang*
Duane Bay & Barbara Noparstak100
Elizabeth Shepard*
Bruce & April Robinson*
Thomas & Elinor Osborne100
Merele McClure300
Don Price*
Gavin & Tricia Christensen*
Elaine & Eric Hahn1,000
Robert & Nancy Smith200
Shirley & Marc Feldman250
David & Diane Feldman500
Douglas & Leslie Murphy-Chutorian2,500
Nancy Wong & Robert Lipshutz200
Barry L. Goldblatt200
Chittra Chaivorapol500
Carolyn Williams*
Elinor Osborne150
Virginia Pollard150
Carl Hagenmaier700
Linda Groffie-Balint100
Carol Kersten200
Ellen Semaya & Ron Krasnow500
Eugene Lewit31
Becky & Ted Baer200
Alan Cope Johnston500
Weil Family1,000
Joan Norton*
Kay Sabin*
Priscilla & Tony Marzoni*
Shari & Don Ornstein250
Gordon Hughes2,500
Richard & Penelope Ellson100
Michael & Pamela Fong200
Kaye Crawford100
Jean Doble100
Peter Giles300
Laurie Hunter1,000
Vitaliy Tsaran20
Andrew Protter100
Bhave Family100
Patrick Burt250
Georgie Gleim500
Charles Katz250
Joan Willingham100
Elgin Lee500
Stephen Fisk100
Linda Selden500
Monica Williams250
Sandy Jain100
Reed Content250
Albert J Rooney250
David Thom400
Bill Reller*
Michael & Sarah Bolin1,000
Bruce & Mary Beth Train500
Patricia A. Hoehl100
Ralph Wheeler250
John & Meg Monroe1,000
Roberta & Evan Shiue250
Patrick & Nancy McGaraghan500
Jennie Savage1,000
In Memory Of

Ray Bacchetti200
Norman L. Frazee*
Sandy Sloan100
Lee Domenik*
Millie Fuchs*
David W. Mitchell*
Rudy Schubert50
Marie & Don Snow200
The Zschokke Family100
Alissa Riper Picker250
Bertha Kalson*
Er-Ying and Yen-Chen Yen250
Mrs. Elsie Yang200
Ernest J. Moore*
Tracy & Alan*
Pam Grady500
Lily & Philip Gottheiner*
Bob Kirkwood2,500
Our Loving Parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
Boyd Paulson Jr3,000
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
Leslie Smith*
August L. King*
Duncan L. Matteson1,000
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Emmett Lorey*
Chet Brown*
Beverly Aarts250
Zoe & Ken Allen100
Nate Rosenberg250
E Yanosh Alt20
Robert Spinrad*
Jennie Winsor Payne*
Leonard Ely500
Ian Halliday*
Kathleen Morris*
Samuel Benjamin Kurland300
Manuel & Maria Januario50
Kaye Kelley & Richard Van Dusen250
Florence Kan Ho*
Jim & Dottie Mellberg*
Jerry Smallwood1,000
Mark Georgia*
Don Kenyon50
Carol Berkowitz*
Mason & Ryan*
Robert O. Jack150
Bob Markevitch*
Dr. David Zlotnick*
Wen Liu500
Dr. Elliot W. Eisner200
Ruth Consul200
Jack Sutorius500
Our dad, Robert O. Jack500
Paul Seaver*
Tinney Family250
Priscilla Bates*
Harry Lewenstein1,000
Kathie Underdal250
Ted Linden200
In Honor Of

Fairmeadow Principal Iris Wong*
Joe Simitian220
Deborah Sutorius Hilleary100
Marie Wolbach25
Connor & Grace Missett*
Dr. David Lipson and Ray*
Charlie Hughes & the Ada's Team*
Rich Hlava's 87th Birthday*
Myles, Amara, Leo & Vivi*
Lewis J Silvers, Jr*
Julie & Iris Harper *
Denise Schectman, from ORM Staff190
Anne Steinberg*
Sara Cody1,000
Marilyn Sutorius500
Jill & Brian Bicknell100
As a Gift For

Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez500
Businesses & Organizations

Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Delores Eberhart, DDS*
Hayes Group Architects5,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
deLemos Properties200
Ann Sonnenberg Interior Design200
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation 10,000
Hewlett Foundation25,000
Packard Foundation25,000
Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run39,800
Sponsors of Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run:
    Stanford Health Care10,000
    Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
    Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
    Palantir5,000
    Facebook5,000
    Wealth Architects5,000
    Chan Zuckerberg Initiative5,000
    Bank of the West1,500
    A Runner's Mind1,000


Changes or corrections to listings may be made by contacting Kali Shiloh at [email protected]

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

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