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
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 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