Friday, February 15, 2013

Volunteer Profile: Sara Linderman

Sara and Melissa 
Sara has been a volunteer mentor with SMART since the fall of 2011.  She was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would enable her to work with kids, and more importantly, would allow her to develop a deep, sustainable, one-on-one relationship. She came across SMART, and the more she learned about the program's mission, approach, and results, the more excited she became. Sara is mentoring Melissa, an 8th grader at The San Francisco School.  “Melissa is inspiring in her intelligence (particularly her math and science skills) - but then again, all the SMART scholars are.  Her immense creativity is her most defining characteristic.  She taught herself how to knit by watching YouTube videos. She makes friendship bracelets that she gives away to her friends. She has an insatiable appetite for reading - particularly Manga (Japanese comic books) - and she transports me into the books she reads through her stories.  And aside from the stories - she generally talks my ear off - she is even more loquacious than I was at her age, and I got in trouble constantly for talking in school.”

Sara and Melissa do their best to hang out twice per month.  “I love cooking - and this is a passion I've shared with Melissa, who has come to love it, too (she actually noted she might want to be a chef in a high school application essay) - so we do that together.  She's especially into baking (her favorite was making "stained glass cookies" last holiday season - she's still talking about it).  That said, we try to mix it up - once in a while, a movie; we've gone horseback riding; we've gone to House of Air, to the zoo - whatever sounds fun. I try to introduce Melissa to things she wouldn't otherwise get to do.”

One accomplishment that Sara is particularly proud of is her work with Melissa to complete her high school applications. “Melissa is Chinese - her parents were born there and speak (only) Cantonese at home - so while she's obviously fluent in English, she struggles with grammar, both written and spoken. She recognizes this weakness and is actively and continuously working to improve - when we're together, I gently point out errors and we talk grammar rules so she can keep improving. Melissa just finished up and submitted her high school applications, which required writing an extensive set of essays.  We collaborated on them over dinner a couple times, and then I worked with her through the editing process.  It was awesome to see her work so hard and do such a wonderful job on something that I know is a challenge for her - and to know that I played a (very small) part in her accomplishment.”

In addition to the amazing work Sara does as a mentor, Sara has also been instrumental in supporting SMART in other ways. She sits on the Volunteer Advisory Board CAP Committee, and in preparation for CAP’s upcoming career panel, Sara recruited 11 panelists in various professions to talk to our high school Scholars about career opportunities. Sara also participated in SMART’s recent Fundraising Challenge through Crowdrise raising $1,000 to support SMART programming. Thank you so much, Sara, for all you do for SMART and the students we serve!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

MAP: Exploring diversity and culture through the lens of San Francisco non-profits

Youth-based San Francisco non-profits share their work with MAP Scholars
MAP students started the New Year at SMART by learning about the diversity, culture, and history of the various neighborhoods of San Francisco: the Mission District, Bayview and Hunter’s Point, the Sunset, Chinatown, the Richmond District, and the Excelsior. We celebrated the diversity we see at SMART, and also cherished what we have in common as people; our sense of family, home, friends, and culture are ways in which we connect and relate to one another.

MAP scholars then delved deeper to discuss the concept of inequity, and analyzed the socioeconomic inequities that we see in San Francisco. We are continuing to look at these inequities through the lens of non-profit organizations, and examine how non-profit organizations address these socioeconomic inequities.

Last week, SMART had the privilege of hosting guest speakers from other youth-based non-profit organizations such as YearUP, SFCASA, Jamestown Community Center, and Mayor's Youth Employment and Education Program (MYEEP) on a panel. SMART scholars practiced their interpersonal and public speaking skills by asking the panelists carefully thought out questions, and participated in an engaging conversation.

At the close of this unit, MAP students will create their own youth-based non-profit organization, and present a ‘business pitch’ to SMART staff, tutors, and peers. They will craft their mission statement, their vision statement, and determine the staffing, fundraising, and resources they will need to start their own NPO. We are excited to expand and re-energize our civic engagement and sense of community!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Celebrating CAP Success!

Ana Maria (CAP Program Manager), and CAP seniors celebrate completing college applications!

We are more than half way through the academic year, and our first year of comprehensive CAP programming has been a success! All eligible seniors submitted their college applications by the deadlines. Students were required to apply to at least four California State University campuses, four University of California campuses and four private colleges – two of which needed to be out of state. On average SMART seniors applied to 15 campuses each, and 73% of our students have already been admitted to at least one campus, if not more. Acceptances will continue to roll in through April, with students making final decisions by May 1st. In the first week of January we hosted a FAFSA completion day, and 100% of seniors submitted their FAFSAs, and are now working on scholarships, with a goal of applying to at least 10 each.

We are also proud to announce that SMART is offering our first ever Northern California College Tour this month. Sophomores, juniors and seniors have been invited to visit a wide variety of campuses to determine their interests, and specifically for seniors, to help them decide which campus is the best for them. Students will be visiting 2-6 campuses each over the course of the week. We will tour: Santa Clara University, San Jose State University, Stanford, UC Davis, St. Mary’s College, UC Santa Cruz, CSU Monterrey Bay, Dominican University and Sonoma State. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

College Essay - Alitzel, Class of 2013

Alitzel, class of 2013, is a senior at Urban School
During our official first year of our fully developed College Access Program, we celebrate the accomplishments of our high school students who boldly share their incredible journeys in their college application essays. In the coming months, we look forward to highlighting college acceptance notices, as well as student stories.

We begin by highlighting a poignant and beautifully presented essay by Alitzel.

"I had never seen so many girls in the same identical uniform before. The little chapel on Broadway street swam in navy and white plaid suits, and I felt like I was
drowning in them. Knee-length skirts with pleats and almost black blazers that I had
only seen businessmen in movies wear, cloaked the minuscule girls. The royal blue
chiffon ties were all tied methodically under the harsh square collars of their oxford
shirts, while I looked down at my own tie-less neck and felt my stomach drop. It
was my first day of school and I was clad in an inadequate uniform. Not only was my
uniform inadequate, but I, myself, felt inadequate. My caramel skin did not match
the milky skin of the girls around me and I found my eyes searching the crowd of
girls hungrily for a familiar face.

Walking into the grandiose marble mansion that morning, I knew instantly
that I was far from home. I realized that although I was still in San Francisco, I felt
like a tourist. The decaying bungalows I was used to learning math and social
studies in could never compare to the Corinthian columns which supported the
foundation of the palace I would now call my school.

The elementary school I had left, Buena Vista, did not match the high economic
standards that Convent of the Sacred Heart held, but it was not void of all richness.
In Kindergarten, I befriended a girl named Jackie, as we colored in the garden. She
was Jewish, went to temple, had a nanny, and her parents were lawyers who spoke
Spanish as a second language. I, on the other hand, lived in a small apartment, rarely
went to church, and came from immigrant parents who were learning English as a
second language. From this early stage stained with finger paints, I was engrossed in
cultures different from mine and grew to add others’ experiences and beliefs into
my own radiant painting of the world around me.

During my first weeks at Convent, I got to know the girls who would become
my best friends. When I introduced myself with my name, Alitzel, they all crowded
around me and exclaimed, “That’s so cool! Can you say it again?” Soon after, I
decided to introduce myself as “Ali” for the girls who could not pronounce my name,
but also to save me from cringing every time someone mispronounced it.
I taught the girls how to take public transportation, introduced them to the
best taquerias in the Mission and shared my own life story. I will never forget the
look of shock on my friend’s faces when I told them my parents chose not to become
naturalized citizens of the United States, or the shock I felt when they could not
point to Mexico on a map.

Though I left both schools years ago, the experiences I had at Buena Vista and
Convent are engrained in me forever. Through the conversations I hold, the
opinions I argue and in the way I maneuver around the world, it is evident that the
richness from all the diverse experiences in my life are worth more than each
individual experience alone."