2009 Potential Gift Recipient's

Peninsula BridgeLouise Paustenbach

I have been involved with Peninsula Bridge for about 7 years; three as a volunteer and four as a Board member.  The program was begun about 18 years ago by a volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club who was struck by the great disparities between the resources and opportunities of young people in towns like Atherton, Palo Alto and Hillsborough and their counterparts in neighboring towns such as East Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and parts of San Mateo.   His idea was to continue the students’ educational experience over the summer, while at the same time introducing them to academic settings that they would most likely not otherwise know about or dream of experiencing.  I love it that the program was started by local people and continues to be supported by locals who are committed to improving the lives of those in neighboring communities.  Funding comes from some grant money, but mostly from local individuals.  So small gifts really do make a difference to this organization, particularly this year when there is a short-fall.

Partnering elementary and middle schools identify students who they believe exhibit a love of learning, strong potential, and a desire to get ahead.  Those children then begin in the program as early as the summer before they enter the 5th grade.  More than 90% of those students stay with the program through the summer before entering the 8th grade.

I am passionate about Peninsula Bridge because the program introduces middle school students to the love of learning, and to an inviting, beautiful private school setting where academics, learning, possibilities, and self-knowledge are fostered.  For the first time, many of these kids see a place where there is space, where people have the time to care about their school experience, and where there is potential for opportunities.    For three summers, I have been working on one of the school campuses when the Bridge program has been in session.  Every day I saw these bright, energetic, funny, awesome kids actively and enthusiastically participating in class (in the summer!!!) and exploring new experiences like learning to swim for the first time, working one-on-one with a teacher, developing a relationship with a high school mentor, learning about nutrition and gardening.  And the added benefit is that students from the partnering high schools are enlisted as TA’s, giving them the opportunity to be a teacher and mentor to a younger kid who looks up to them.  It’s a beautiful thing!


Ella Baker Center: Jonah Sachs

The name Kindling represents to me the small, humble beginnings of what can become an enormous transformation. So I have tried to focus on an organization who can use our modest gift to deeply impact a large number of young people in need of help.

Nowhere is this need more urgent than in the lives of the 2000 young people who have been railroaded and all but forgotten in California’s juvenile “justice” system. 

Though simple morality and common sense would dictate that troubled young people need counseling and support, California railroads them into facilities that are indistinguishable from adult prisons. Twenty-three hours in a solitary cell, sexual assault, prison guards, beatings, warehousing hundreds of miles from loved ones, this is the system that is meant to protect and rehabilitate California’s at-risk youth.

Does it work? Of course not. 70% wind up offending again. 0% get the resources they need to reach high school proficiency while incarcerated. Our state spends $500 million on this travesty every year.

Reading this information, I imagined myself as a parent of one of these children, frantic with worry, desperate to get him help. I imagined Mira in this nightmare and I was inspired to do something to see it end.

There is a real chance that our small donation can actually make a dent in this problem. The Ella Baker Center’s Books Not Bars campaign has already forced the closing of two of the six youth facilities and is now building a powerful coalition to close the other four. They are armed with scientific data about systems that are cheaper, more humane and actually work. Missouri, for instance, moved from a youth prison system to a community-based rehabilitation model and their recidivism rate is 90% lower as is the total cost.

Books Not Bars is now trying to mobilize and educate the families of imprisoned youth to advocate for their release. They are very excited about the possibility of using a Kindling grant to create educational materials and build a program to organize the families. They have an amazing track record of success and I believe that our money and volunteer time can spark a movement that will bring a higher level of justice to this state we call our home. 

Youth UprisingChristy Silness

I am excited to tell you about Youth Uprising, a not-for-profit located in East Oakland, seeded and supported by Alameda County and the City of Oakland. Jonah and I were fortunate to be given a thorough site tour and we were both impressed and inspired by what they have created. 

Youth Uprising is an organization that emerged from the needs articulated by Oakland youth in 1997 after mounting tension erupted in violence at Castlemont Highschool. In response, a group of students surveyed 1200 students and identified lack of employment opportunities, poor educational resources, and lack of community and personal safety as the root causes of problems facing youth. They envisioned a safe space combined with community support and resources where basic needs are met, skills are taught, dreams are encouraged, and potential is actualized. They took their request to the Board of Supervisors.

In response, Alameda County provided a building and staffing to make the students vision a reality. Opening their doors in May of 2005, Youth Uprising is housed in a beautiful and well managed building. It is a community center comprised of a youth led cafe (Corner’s Cafe), Moroccan Soul living room area, indoor/outdoor amphitheater for youth performances/talent shows, classrooms, media rooms, dance hall, and holistic community clinic offering both integrative and traditional medicine. Membership to the Youth Uprising center is offered to Alameda County residents between the ages of 13-24. 

Youth Uprising carries out their mission to develop youth leadership by providing a state of the art environment to offer classes that focus on Consciousness Raising, Personal Transformation, and Hard Skill/Leadership Development. Support is given to youth ranging from training for the GED to actualizing a dream of a career in the music business. The list of programs (each with it’s own curriculum) include Youth Leadership and Community Building, Media Arts, Physical Arts, Performance Arts, Material Art, Health and Wellness, Career and Education, and Social Enterprise. 

I believe that Youth Uprising is worth our consideration for our 2009 Kindling Grant. It is a solid organization offering a beautiful and nurturing environment to protect, educate and inspire the youth of Alameda County and the City of Oakland. The young women who gave Jonah and I the site tour were obviously inspired, motivated, and completely dedicated to their work at Youth Uprising. If we wish, there would be opportunity for us to get involved on a volunteer level, and they expressed to me that they are interested in an ongoing relationship with their donors. I imagine that Youth Uprising will become a leader (if not already) in the development of community and youth leadership around the United States.

It’s a pleasure to make this organization known to you and if you are interested, you can find out more at: http://www.youthuprising.org/


Eve Fox said...

Did any of the orgs explain how they would use a grant from kindling?

Jonah Sachs said...

Yes Eve. In the case of Ella Baker, they would use our grant to create guides for families to understand their rights and motivate them to become activists. They believe this core, small but active group can make a major policy shift in the near future.

neilsachs said...

All three of these organizations superbly fulfill my criteria for this year's gift theme of education.

I am intrigued by the work of Peninsula Bridge. Having recently read Malcolm Gladwell's "Otliers", he discusses how disparities develop in school children specifically during the summer when some kids keep reading and learning, while others simply don't. Peninsula Bridge appears to address this head on. For me, there's something direct and tangible about this type of work.