Holiday Spirit

Students engage in distance learning at a community learning hub run by the nonprofit 49ers Academy at Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School in East Palo Alto on Nov. 5. Photo courtesy 49ers Academy.

Posted November 20, 2020

Catching students who are falling through the cracks
At 49ers Academy's learning hub, East Palo Alto kids get individual help so they succeed at distance learning

by Jocelyn Dong

When the new academic year started at Ravenswood City School District with full distance learning, staff at the nonprofit San Francisco 49ers Academy knew there would be students who would fall through the cracks: Homeless children. Special education students. Youth who take care of younger siblings because their parents are working all day. Students without reliable internet access. Immigrant children who are just starting to learn English.

These, the neediest of those in need, are the ones the 49ers Academy wanted to provide with consistent, individualized attention as well as coordinated help to keep them both in school and thriving.

So in partnership with the Ravenswood City School District, the 49ers Academy opened a community learning hub in September at Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School. The hub provides a safe, quiet, tech-connected, structured learning environment where students participate in distance learning.

The program started with three groups of eight students each who meet in separate classrooms, socially distant and masked and with hand sanitizer at the ready. Now, two months in, the middle-school hub has expanded to six groups, or about 43 students, according to Tahisha Victor, the deputy director for the 49ers Academy.

Each group is led by a 49ers Academy staff member who is equipped in classroom management, but the leader is not a teacher and the hub doesn't provide in-person instruction. Instead, the staff member is a much-needed troubleshooter, a guide who helps the students to stay on track.

From 9 a.m. until noon, students participate in synchronous, real-time learning online with their Ravenswood classes. After lunch, they engage in independent study.

The program has made a huge difference for the youth, both academically and socio-emotionally.

"The first week, they were in awe that they could see other kids," Victor recalled. Even though the newness of that has worn off, and the restrictions of public health requirements keep students from getting too close, Victor said the continuing value lies in knowing there are other kids going through the same thing.

Beyond providing a safe and quiet space, the hubs are also venues for 49ers Academy staff to give targeted assistance to the students. For students who start coming to the hub after having missed several weeks of school, the hub leaders help them to catch up on their assignments. For kids who would benefit from talking with teachers during their virtual office hours but aren't aware that option is available, their hub leader helps them to make the connection.

"We're noticing that information that's being given is lost in translation," Victor said. "Navigating has been the key."

Other times, the middle schoolers simply want someone to help them understand an assignment, Victor said. "Some students have an individualized education plan (IEP), and they just need extra support to get through certain classes."

So much of what the 49ers Academy hub leaders do is personalized to the students' situations, she said. When they realized that some children were being dropped off at campus far ahead of the start of the school day because their parents needed to get to work, Victor said, 49ers staff accommodated them.

"We get here really early," she noted.

When staff realized that older siblings were tasked with being the caretakers for younger ones, the nonprofit invited the sisters and brothers to the middle-school hub. That both reduces the coronavirus risk of having siblings in hubs at separate schools and also relieves the responsibility of the older child.

"Taking off that pressure for the sibling is important," Victor said.

The 49ers Academy's longstanding mission of meeting students' needs holistically has carried over to the community learning hubs. In partnership with the school district, students receive breakfast and lunch every weekday, and if they need dinner as well, they're provided with a packaged dinner to take home. Boxes of fresh food are distributed every Monday to families who need them and include vegetables, eggs and bread among other items.

The 49ers Academy has also connected students with extra programs like physical education and virtual tutoring.

When students were recently asked how the program has helped them, comments ranged from gratitude for the quiet learning environment on campus and joy at being able to see other kids every day to an acknowledgement that the program enabled the student to catch up on schoolwork.

"You guys always find me help," one sixth-grader said. "And you help my mom when she asks, like getting a tutor and stuff."

Funding for the 49ers Academy comes from numerous sources, including the 49ers Foundation. It also this year received a $20,000 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund to provide academic and social support services for Ravenswood middle school students and also those attending Menlo Atherton High.

The Holiday Fund and community support are critical so that kids can reach their full potential, even in the pandemic, Victor said.

"So many kids for the most part are being left behind. I think about this a lot. If we didn't open our doors, English-language learners who've missed many assignments would be considered bad learners — but they're not bad learners; they just didn't have the support," she said.

"This is not babysitting; this is not day care. This is ... an opportunity to come into a safe environment to get school work done, and if there's a barrier, we address them with the resources we have."

Having expanded from three cohorts to now six, the nonprofit hopes to add more groups in order to serve more students who are struggling with distance learning and the chaos that the pandemic has created for their families.

"This is a small Band-Aid. We're trying to pick out the families with the most need," Victor said.

"Having the resources to address these dire needs is important."

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 December 1, 2020
144 donors have contributed $102,265 to
the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld

11 Anonymous3,835
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*
Gerald & Donna Silverberg100
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
Scott Carlson & Katharine Miller10,000
Stephen & Nancy Levy500
Mike & Jean Couch250
Karen & Steve Ross*
Katherine & Dorsey Bass500
Lani Freeman & Stephen Monismith*
Harriet & Gerry Berner350
Judy Palmer 25
Teresa Roberts500
Carol Uyeno50
Mark Cairns & Amanda Martin100
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Christine Min Wotipka & Anthony Lising Antonio100
Kathleen Foley-Hughes
  & Tony Hughes1,000
Thayer Gershon50
Xiaofan Lin50
John Pavkovich400
Cynthia Costell100
Richard Zuanich150
Neha Choksi40
Braff Family500
Jennie Savage1,000
Bill Johnson & Terry Lobdell1,000
Dawes Family250
Mary Lemmon20,000
Leonard & Shirley Ely1,000
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Doroguske1,000
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*
In Honor Of

Fairmeadow Principal Iris Wong*
Joe Simitian220
Businesses & Organizations

Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Delores Eberhart, DDS*
Hayes Group Architects5,000
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
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