Our Keynote Speaker

Tough. It was definitely tough. During middle school I had my first two falls and then surgeries and casts and prosthesis. When I was younger, I developed osteo and psoriatic arthritis. Me being a girl, it wasn’t easy. Having people at home waiting hand and foot on you – it sounds amazing, but it wasn’t. At one point I had a full body cast and I couldn’t go to the restroom without assistance.   

 I fell behind quite a bit at school and eventually when I was able to go back I realized how mean kids were. They let me have it – calling me cripple and other names. One day another kid threw one of my crutches up on the school roof and I had to wait for the custodian to come and bring it down; something was always happening to me. I pulled through and was able to graduate from middle school, but even that was hard. I was super nervous walking down the aisle during graduation because I was already self-conscious about my way of walking and then knowing that all eyes were going to be on me was even more nerve-wracking, but I did it.   

 My mom is the one who made me start coming to Bible Club during that time. At first, I’d say to my Mom, “Mom, you know you don’t have time.”  And she would respond “Oh, don’t worry, I don’t have to worry about taking you because they’ll come pick you up.” Really?! There’s no way around it? I had no way out. 

 The Bible Club leaders would pick me up and we would work on homework, play games, learn about God and pray. We would read parables and Bible stories and I remember thinking, “This isn’t as boring as church – why doesn’t my mom just bring me here instead?” I started liking it and I’d say, “Mom, it’s Thursday, am I going over there [to BCM] again?  Because Maria [my friend] is going to go, so I should go; I need to go.” Bible Club was a safe place. It was welcoming, nobody was judging me or being mean to me because of my physical appearance. At Bible Club I wasn’t defined by my crutches and surgeries.   

 Bible Club was also very different from my experience with God growing up. Church seemed scary to me. It was somber, and I was hearing things like “If you don’t listen to what they’re saying, [insert scary scenario here] is going to happen...” At Bible Club I learned about Jesus and about love and not just repentance. I also got to see another style of worship and other ways to experience God. One of my Bible Club leaders, SueAnn, used to pick me up in her little yellow buggy. I was always used to sitting in the back of church, not getting noticed. But no, [at BCM] they made us sit in the front. Next thing I know, I’m jammin’ and dancin’ and having fun. 

 BCM kept me off the streets and away from negative influences. Instead, I learned how to cook different foods like homemade marinara sauce and to explore new flavors like Vietnamese rice paper rolls. I also got to go places like Santa Cruz, Muir Woods, Raging Waters and camp. Bible Club was a special place to me because of the new experiences, the positive adults, the sense of safety and belonging and the chance to learn about God in a new way. 

 My daughter Janelle has trouble with reading and retaining information and has a learning disability. Before BCM, she was constantly having trouble even focusing. I would tell her, “Janelle, whatever homework you get should all be a recap of what you did during the day at school. It should be familiar territory.” But she would just get frustrated. She was in another after school program and they still weren’t helping her. I would drop her off at school at 8 and pick her up at 6, 6:30pm. That’s a very long day for a child and then to go home and still have to grill her about homework. I pulled her out, because there was no use in her staying at school that late and still not getting her work done. I messaged one of my cousins and asked if she knew of any programs for Janelle that I could afford with my one income. I didn’t want to pay a lot of money and I needed something flexible. Then she said, “How about Bayshore Christian Ministries?” Why does that sound familiar? Holy cow!  BCM!  I used to go there!!!  Almost 20 years ago I was part of the original crew. 

 So, I came and checked BCM out; I was very nervous about Janelle but she liked it. Academically she started doing better. The staff were always encouraging and positive. I realized that Janelle didn’t have the same behavior issues at BCM that she was having at school.   

 At the end of the school year, I would ask her, “Do you want to go back to BCM” and she would say yes. And then she started going to Bible Club on Wednesday and now she also goes to robotics. My daughter enjoys being at BCM. During the summer she went to Vacation Bible School (VBS) and loved it. She would come home talking about God and what she learned that day. I want Janelle to have the same opportunities through BCM that they gave me so many years ago.     

 God and faith are intimidating subjects to me and Janelle would ask me questions that I didn’t know how to answer. I like having Janelle involved in Bible Club because her leaders can answer questions that I don’t know how to answer. I’ve noticed that Janelle even talks to her little brother about God. My son Josh is very intrigued and wants to know when he can come to BCM, too.   

 Last year started out like an ordinary year, but then I went through a really intense time of loss. In less than two months during the spring of 2017, I lost 4 close family members. My life as I knew it changed completely. I never imagined becoming the head of my household the way that I did. That was tough, and it still is. I’m still working through the grief and anger. I know that God exists, but I have questioned my faith because of the hard times that I’ve faced. With Janelle being part of BCM, that helped me feel more at ease and reminded me that God exists and there is still good. That without loss, we wouldn’t be the humans we are intended to be.   

I am grateful for BCM because it gave me a life outside of school and my house. I was able to have friends who shared my background in a place where I wasn’t judged. I was able to have experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I learned other ways to praise God. As a parent, I appreciate that BCM feels familiar, like a home. I like showing up to BCM and feeling known. People say, “Hi Evie, what’s up.”  instead of just “Janelle, your mom’s here.” 

I am thankful to God for bringing BCM into my life and that this has been a home for both me and my daughter, a place where we are known by name and loved. 

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Keynote Speaker

Here, Evie gives her keynote address at our annual banquet.

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Back Then

Pictured here is Evie and a few other BCM students back when Evie was a BCM student.

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Pose!

Here, Janelle (Evie’s daughter) poses for a photos with two of her friends during VBS this past summer.

Farewell

Holly and Cassie, two of our amazing staff members and BCM champions, will be transitioning in the upcoming month. Although we are grateful for the time they shared with us, and excited to see where God’s path leads them, they will be deeply missed. Here is their farewell.


It is with sadness that I announce that my last day as a full-time staff member at BCM will be November 2nd. I'll continue in a part-time role through December. My next challenge will be working at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the Center for Continuing Medical Education as an Administrative Associate.

Leaving BCM after five years was a very difficult decision that I prayed over and considered for months, because I am still invested in and dedicated to its worthy mission to serve the youth of East Palo Alto. I intend to stay connected as a donor, occasional volunteer, and local supporter. I am committed to making my departure as smooth and graceful as possible because of my deep love for this organization.

I believe strongly in BCM's good work in East Palo Alto and find myself preparing to leave with reluctance and sadness, but also with many truly special memories of time well spent with our wonderful students, volunteers, staff, and Board. I treasure my five years of work at BCM and thank the staff for their faithful service. I learned a great deal during my time working here and grew as a person and follower of Christ. I pray with confidence that God will bless BCM with everything it needs to continue the good work here in our community.

--Holly


There are moments that come throughout life that seem minimal at the time but twenty years down the road they’ll serve as a monumental reminder that God is faithful.  One such moment happened on a Thursday evening in our home.  In late August both my husband and I felt like we heard God tell us to prepare for transition.  We didn’t know what that would look like or when it would happen, but that we were to posture ourselves for transition.  Thirty-six hours later I was having breakfast with a friend that I used to work with.  She felt God had been telling her to ask me to consider a position at a church that I had worked at for 10 years.  One week later, another church asked if I would consider a position with them.  At that point it became clear that the transition would be mine; I would be the one who would be making a change. 

At the end of the month I will resign as Director of Ministries to become Community Life Pastor at Valley Christian Center in Dublin.  It is truly a bittersweet feeling to leave BCM.  Though I know I have to be obedient to the direction that God is leading, I will miss the beautiful ministry that happens here at BCM.  The past three years have been filled with relationships that I cherish, memories that I’ll carry for years, and a few hard days with students sprinkled in between.  Each of those hard days helped our staff become closer and was useful to deepen relationships with the students we served.  I leave BCM with a full heart, trusting that just as God is leading me to a new place of ministry, He has been preparing another individual to step in to BCM.  I am grateful for the years of friendship with students, families, staff, volunteers, partner organizations, and faithful donors. 

                                                                                                                                               --Cassie


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Taste Test!

In this photo taken in 2016, Cassie, Rolando, and Alyssa, one of our former staff, try yogurt parfaits made by our CREATE students during their Science of Cooking class.

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Pose!

In this photo taken in 2015 Holly poses for a picture with four of our students.

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Ice Cream!

In this photo Cassie and CREATE Academy students are in the process of making hand made ice cream.

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Year End Fun

Here Holly strikes a pose during our 2014 year end celebration.

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Group Picture!

Here Cassie along with program staff and Hope University students take a group photo.

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Compassion Weekend

Here Holly heads up registration during Compassion Weekend.

 

Bible Club Changes

“We have 12 students who attend our on-site Bible Club, four of which were introduced to us over the summer through VBS” said our Bible Club manager. With the new strategic priorities in place and our Bible club structure being revamped, we excitedly jumped into the swing of things. “In our previous curriculum we simply told the bible stories and didn’t have the students look it up in the bible,” recounted our Bible Club manager. Now, our 3rd through 5th grade Bible Club students have all received a bible and a journal.

When the students first found out that they would be receiving Bibles they excitedly reminded our Bible Club manager at every opportunity until they got them. “The students are excited about their bibles and journal; they bring them every week!” our Bible Club manager said enthusiastically. The journals contain Bible passages for the students to look up in their bibles, read and take notes on. Naturally, each student looks forward to the bible coins they can earn by 1) bringing their journal to Bible Club 2) completing the weekly lessons and 3) memorizing the weekly verse.

“God is coming back to our house; he is coming back to earth,” one of our Bible Club students wrote in her journal. “It is fun to read what they write and see how they understand the Bible,” said our Bible Club manager as she explained her students enthusiasm and engagement, in fact, one of her students, who usually needs encouragement to pay attention during Bible Club, seem to be more attentive to the lessons than ever. “Can I get extra bible coins if I read extra passages?” asked the student, and when he was told yes, he actually followed through and read the extra passages. “Even if he is doing it for the extra coins it’s great; because wonder if he never reads these passages otherwise?” said our Bible Club manager, “I would rather him read it.”

We are grateful to see our students embrace the positive changes to our Bible Club, and look forward to continue facilitating their walk with the Lord.

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Notes

Students take notes during the lesson.

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Handouts

Students eagerly wait to be given their handout.

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Snack Time!

At the end of the lesson students line up to get a snack in exchange for explaining what they learned.

Our Track Star (Student Spotlight)

“My favorite part about track is running the 400’s and running relays with my team,” said Polonia, one of our KidSmart students, as she discussed her experience being a track athlete. Polonia first joined her track team in the 2nd grade and is now in 4th grade. “First we run 4 laps, after that we stretch and warm up our legs, then we jump over blocks,” said Polonia as she recounted what a regular day of practice looks like. When asked about if she had run at any meets, Polonia said, “We’ve been to the Junior Olympics and several other meets. When we went to the Junior Olympics, we had three different events each; it was fun. When it is my time to race I am nervous, but afterward I feel happy; all of our coaches come up to us after our events and say good job!” When we discussed if she had ever placed at any of the meets she competed in Polonia said “I’ve placed 1st in the 400, 100, 4 X 100 and 4 X 400. For Long Jump I’ve placed 5th and for High Jump I’ve placed 3rd.”

“Right now, track is off season so I’m playing tennis,” said Polonia, “I’ve been playing for five years.” Polonia was first introduced to tennis by her aunt, who is an avid tennis player and is the head of the team Polonia is on. As she discussed what she enjoyed about tennis, Polonia said “My favorite swing is non-dominant, forehand and backhand.” Polonia went on to discuss also playing soccer and basketball. Although she is on the basketball team, she is not allowed to play competitively until 6th grade, and Polonia stated that she is looking forward to that day. When we discussed what position in soccer she enjoyed playing the most, Polonia said “I like being the goalie; when someone tries to shoot, I block it,” she added with a confident smile on her face. At the closing of our conversation, Polonia discussed the love of sports throughout her family and how her older brothers and sisters have played multiple sports. When asked how she felt about being so physically active Polonia said “I like playing four sports; my favorite is tennis, then basketball, track and soccer.”

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Young Polonia

Here is a photo of Polonia from a few year ago in KidSmart class.

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Recess

In a recent photo Polonia releases some energy as she sprints around the lot during recess.

Following God's Direction

It is a privilege to serve our Lord by loving and equipping the youth and families of East Palo Alto. Our community is facing yet another inflection point as it responds to the wave of growth and the effects of gentrification impacting many neighborhoods in the Silicon Valley. During this time of transition, we remain committed to offering a holistic program centered in helping our youth experience God’s love, mercy and grace; a program that provides our students with academic support and enrichment to strengthen their educational foundation; a program where they discover their many gifts and can apply them to grow their leadership skills. In an effort to address emerging community needs, we are excited to release our updated strategic plan. After much time in prayer and processing the many conversations we had with our community stakeholders, we have narrowed our strategic priorities to four areas that will continue to enhance the way we serve our youth.

The priorities for the next three years will be as follows:

Expand holistic programming to include a mental health focus

As we listened to our parents, school administrators, staff and students, it was quite apparent that the stress level many of our students are experiencing is as high as when the community was plagued by violence. The effects of unstable housing and crippling economic challenges are taking a toll on the well-being of many of our students. We realized we are not properly equipped to address the tough issues that students are sharing with us.

As we launch this year’s programs, we are beginning to identify local resources to which we can refer our families and are training our staff and volunteers in mental health first aid. Over this coming season, one of our goals is to identify ways that programs can continue to provide safe spaces for appropriate conversations around mental health.

Expand outreach through Bible Clubs

Over the last four years we have worked at widening our middle school programs, which have more than doubled in that time, and have redesigned our high school fellowship, now launching its third cohort. Given our successful summer outreach through the offering of Vacation Bible Schools throughout our community, we would love to grow the network of Bible Clubs that are hosted throughout the city. Our desire is to support and equip a new generation of local leaders and hosts who can share the Gospel and disciple a small group of elementary age students. I envision a time when a child may have accepted Christ during a VBS in the summer and then have a Bible Club within walking distance they could attend throughout the year. Over the next three years, our goal is to launch 1-2 new clubs each year as well as additional VBS sites.

Actively offer our facility and resources to gather community

One of the themes that often emerged in our planning process was BCM’s rootedness in East Palo Alto. Having the privilege to serve our community for over 34 years brings the responsibility to lead difficult conversations and the opportunity for further engagement, particularly with new neighbors. This priority will take shape in many different ways that provide varied opportunities of engagement. In collaboration with other organizations, we

are expanding our STEAM programming to launch a competing high school robotics team as well as a late-night study hall for local college students. Over the course of the next few years, we are also looking to increase the number of volunteers that call this community their home as well as host worship and prayer events that celebrate the diversity of our community.

Increase awareness of and engagement with our cause

Another emerging theme throughout our planning process was BCM’s role as a bridge builder with neighboring communities. As we expand our partner engagement strategy, we hope to deepen the relationships with our church partners. We are looking to increase our efforts in presenting and leading conversations around social justice issues that most affect our families. Our goal is to increase the number of volunteers and donors invested in our community as we share the many opportunities for service found at BCM and other EPA ministries.

We are thankful for God’s direction in the coming season and invite you to join us in this effort to share His Love and to help our youth grow. If you would like to review the summary presentation, please download here. If you would like to discuss any of these priorities further or to chat about ways you would like to get involved, you are welcome to attend our Strategic Plan unveiling on October 3rd at 6:30pm or feel free to contact me directly.

 

 Blessings,

 

Rolando Zeledon

Executive Director

rolando_at_bayshore.org

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Building Bridges

In this drawing from one of our strategic plan committee members, BCM is imagined as a bridge between community members.

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Facilitating Conversations

In this drawing from one of our strategic plan committee members, BCM is imagined as facilitator of community organizing.

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Loving Our Community

In this drawing from one of our strategic plan committee members, BCM is imagined wrapping its arms around the EPA; doing all we possibly can to love and support our community.

A Neighbor's Dedication

Have you ever had a friend or a faithful neighbor who will never hesitate to jump in and assist whenever needed? Art Prindle is that person for BCM. He is the gifted contractor who helped pour our foundation and build our current building way back in 1999. Art also helped order, install, and add lights to our BCM sign along the street. Whenever we need advice on how to make repairs or a recommendation on who to call for specialized work, he is one of the first people we contact.

Art and his fantastic church community group, many of whom have volunteered here over the years, provide a summer lunch every year for our students. They carefully pack up sandwiches, fruit, chips, and cookies for our kids to enjoy. This faithful group has volunteered their time and donated meals for over 10 years!                                                                                             

“BCM have been able to diversify what they offer,” said Art, as he discussed how he has seen BCM grow over the years. When asked why he has been a steadfast supporter of BCM for so long Art said, “They are a neighbor of mine and I like the model of helping kids in the neighborhood where they need it.”                                                                                                   

BCM is thankful for our dedicated neighbor. Art and his family care about the East Palo Alto community and we are blessed by his friendship.

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Pose!

Art and Bernardo pose for a picture during a break from laying gravel.

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Hard At Work!

Art helps lay gravel behind the BCM building.

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BCM Sign

This is one of BCM's first signs.

A LiT Summer

“I just love the kids,” said Kassandra, who volunteered at VBS and CREATE Academy, our elementary and middle school summer programs. Kassandra had prior experience working with younger students through the Boys and Girls Club and was excited to work with students at BCM. “You create a bond with them” said Kassandra as she spoke about her experience leading a group at VBS and participating in skits to teach the students about God’s love. “They always teach me something new about being patient and assertive. This job is not easy, but if you have patience you will have fun.” In her final thoughts Kassandra said, “kids go through things and sometimes they don’t have anyone to talk to; I wanted to be that for them, to be what I needed when I was younger.”                                                                                               

“I helped take care of the kids,” said Abraham as he spoke about his volunteer role setting up and serving the students lunch and helping lead some of the group sessions during VBS and CREATE Academy. Abraham had prior experience working with student peers through his high school as a TA, so working with young students was a refreshing change. “Some of them did give me a hard time,” said Abraham as he discussed the challenges of working with younger students, but instead of immediately chastising students who misbehaved, Abraham said “I would walk and talk to them.” He spoke about how he gently took students aside to get to the bottom of why they were being disruptive. “I learned that I have a lot of patience,” he said. In his final thoughts Abraham shared, “Overall it was a great experience being with the children and worshiping God.”                                                                                                                       

“I enjoyed working with them,” said Karen about her experience volunteering with our VBS and CREATE Academy students. She had never worked with young children before but when our LiT program manager mentioned that summer volunteers were needed Karen became interested in trying something new. Karen went on to say that BCM students were nice to work with for those who have never volunteered with young students before. As she pondered what her takeaways from this experience were Karen said, “God really plays an important role for the kids, he shows them that there is someone there for them.”                                                         

“Watching them, I realized that I acted like some of them at that age” said Lupita as the discussed how she saw her younger self in some of the students. Lupita’s experience with children began and ended with babysitting her nephew, so leading a group of children was fun for her. She also helped serve lunch, participated in Bible based skits, and helped students stay on task during activities. “It was fun seeing them play outside,” said Lupita, “it was really relieving seeing kids outside instead of inside on their phone.” Speaking about her overall experience volunteering Lupita said, “It was fun, it goes by quickly and it doesn’t feel like work.”                                                                                                                                                 

“God is always there for the kids,” said V as she discussed a key lesson the students learned over the summer. V volunteered last summer and this summer she came on as a paid intern. As she discussed the multiple roles she played, whether that be helping in the math and science classes, leading VBS groups, serving lunch or registering students, V said that “having patience, getting to know the kids and gaining their trust,” were all of high priority to her. “Always ask the kids how their day is because we all have things going on,” said V as she explained the importance of getting to know the things students are struggling with. “I really enjoyed working with them; the questions they would ask at such a young age really got to me,” said V. “They would ask ‘is God always with me, even when I am sad?’ and I said yes, always.”                                                                                                                                         

We are very proud of our LiT students and their willingness to jump in and help in any way they could with our summer programs. Please keep them in prayer as they begin a new school year.

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Skits

LiT students put on a skit for VBS students.

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Set Up

A Lit student helps unload and set up a canopy in preparation for VBS.

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Food Service

Lit students help serve lunch to CREATE Academy students.

Scholarship Recipients

BCM is excited to present 8 college students with a scholarship for this upcoming fall! Here is what a few of them had to say:

“BCM has not only taught me a hard work ethic, but has taught me to do work with and for God. I consider BCM a safe place, a place that connects those within the East Palo Alto community,” said Lesley. Lesley worked in KidSmart from 2015 through 2016 and also supported summer programs. “Along with homework help, I would interact with all the students during break to get to know them personally,” she recounted. Now, Lesley studies Psychology with a minor in Communications at Stanislaus State. “I know that being a part of BCM will help me succeed in ways that I would not have been able to without this community and social support system.”

“In the 9th grade, I joined the East Palo Alto Chica Squad for the Technovation Challenge. This opportunity made me realize that many girls around me are not involved in any kind of STEM program, so I felt that I had a voice to advocate for other girls in programming,” said Rosie. Rosie’s mother attended BCM as a child and decided that she wanted both of her own children to experience what she had. “I began to participate in SAIL and as I grew older, I participated in Streetworkz every Thursday and by high school I was attending LEAD every Friday as well as joining the East Palo Alto Chica Squad for the Technovation Challenge,” said Rosie. Now, Rosie attends UC Merced and is currently studying Computer Science and Engineering. In discussing BCM’s impact on her, Rosie stated “Over the years at BCM, my eyes have been opened to a greater future for myself. Not only has BCM introduced me to my major, but BCM helped shape who I am today.”

“Seeing the impact I had on the children I worked with with helped me realize that no matter where I end up, I want to always mentor someone whether it is through an organization or individually,” said Carmen. Carmen’s involvement with BCM started in 2015 when she worked as a KidSmart intern and later returned as a KidSmart and CREATE Studios volunteer. Now, Carmen attends San Francisco State and studies Business Administration and Accounting. “Being involved with BCM has taught me to care. I have learned that helping others is not just about donating money; in fact, one of the best ways to help others is by giving them some of your time”

“BCM has created an environment that fosters spirituality without fear of judgment; attending BCM programs allowed me to discover my own relationship with God,” said Jorge. Jorge joined BCM in 2013 through the Teens n’ Tech program and then became a VBS intern and a volunteer with our Lego Robotics program. He is currently studying Business and Marketing at San Francisco State. As he evaluated how BCM helped him grow, Jorge said “I was surrounded by people who encouraged growth and presented Christianity not as a religion, but as a lifestyle. Those are the things that I would not have learned anywhere else and I know it was God who placed BCM in my path.”

BCM is honored and blessed to be able to support those seeking higher education in their academic journey. Please keep our scholars in your prayers as they return to classes this fall.

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MATH

OUR MATH INSTRUCTOR AND SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT WALKS A STUDENT STEP BY STEP THROUGH A MATH PROBLEM.

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BUSINESS

OUR BUSINESS INTERN AND SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT HELPS INSTRUCT STUDENTS IN THE CREATION OF A BUSINESS PROPOSAL. 

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RECEPTIONIST

OUR RECEPTIONIST AND SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT PREPARS A SNACK FOR THE STUDENTS.

God Knew

“We have to make sure the kids don’t feel the effects of her leaving,” said Waniya, our Program Manager, when asked about the sudden withdrawal of CREATE Academy’s math instructor. She had been one of the first summer hires; a credentialed math instructor with a PhD to boot, and BCM was excited to have her. When after only two days, our instructor suddenly fell ill and was unable to return, the math component of CREATE Academy was in danger. There was no time to find and hire a new credentialed teacher, and Waniya was beyond stressed trying to salvage the class. But, “God knew,” she said.

“Alex is great! She is flexible and willing to work,” said Waniya about our math assistant/intern who stepped up to lead the class. Alex had initially applied for the instructor position and her experience tutoring in math, science and engineering, along with the fact that she attends UC Berkeley studying Chemical Engineering was impressive, but because she was not credentialed, BCM offered her the intern position instead. Every classroom has an intern who is trained to fill in if the instructor takes a sick day or has an emergency but never has an intern had to take over the entire class indefinitely. Alex happily accepting this new and unexpected responsibility was a blessing.

“All of the kids are really open. For the most part they are attentive and know that I want them to have a fun experience,” says Alex about her transition from intern to instructor. The students really connected with Alex’s teaching style while she was serving as an assistant so when it was announced that she would be leading the class they were even more excited. “That is why I am so math oriented,” said Alex, crediting her middle school math teacher for her love and interest for math and discussing how he made learning fun through real world applications. Alex went on to express her concern for the way math is most often taught, “It is too memorization based; it doesn’t teach them [the students] to understand” she said. When discussing her own teaching methods, Alex emphasized not only ensuring students can solve a problem, but that they can see the logic behind the solution by using relatable, fun and relevant applications. In her closing statements Alex said, “I want to get them interested in math, science and engineering.”

There are times like this when the unexpected happens and our plans must be reimagined in response to unforeseen events but the one thing that is constant is God’s promise to provide when everything seems to be falling apart. We are humbled day in and day out as the Lord continues to show us his love and grace.

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Field Trip

CREATE Academy students take a field trip to Natural Bridges State Beach.

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CREATE Interns

CREATE Academy Interns help serve lunch, supervise students, and assist teachers during class time.

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Lunch

CREATE Academy students enjoy the outdoors during lunch.

Our Final Fellows

     “I was most struck by the education system, and how it was failing,” said Jordan as she recounted learning about EPA’s school system and BCM’s mission to fill the educational and spiritual voids our students experience. Jordan came to know BCM through her college’s (Hope College) Spring Break missions trip and later applied for and was offered a Fellow position.

     Jose, a banking professional who had relocated from Costa Rica to the US to study English, was led by his passion for ministry to our doorstep. An online search put BCM on Jose’s radar but it was not until he found out that his wife’s (then girlfriend) parents were BCM co-founders that he knew it was meant to be. After almost a year of volunteer work as a Streetworkz mentor (middle school spiritual program) and a guitar instructor with CREATE Studios (STEAM program), Jose was also offered a Fellow position.

    When asked what makes them passionate about BCM, Jordan, without hesitation, answered, “the kids.” As she discussed the 20+ students she would work hard to stay in touch with if for some reason she had to leave BCM, Jordan said “Myself and others at BCM are people they can come to…. I love them and I want to be in their lives.” “In the end you feel like you cannot leave them, you have to keep walking beside them,” Jose said, as he discussed his desire to support his students through their spiritual journey. Jose then ended his thought with a question to himself “How can I be the factor of change in their lives?”

    As Jordan discussed what she learned through the EPA Fellows Program she talked about some of the issues our students face, like immigration, the housing crisis, mass incarceration and how BCM was intentional about diving deep into these issues with the Fellows. “A huge challenge to my personal faith” said Jordan “Is learning to trust God with the kids, knowing how much they need, and what I can’t give them.” Jose discussed how the Fellows Program led to a new perspective of how “race, culture and economics effect the community.” He went on to say that a big lesson for him was “how important relationships are to cultivate a healthy ministry.”

     When asked about the legacy they want to leave as the final Fellows (BCM will no longer be offering a Fellows Program), Jordan discussed the original intent of the program, to acquire younger staff members, and her legacy will be just that! She considered her first 2 years as a Fellow as “training” for her transition into becoming a full time BCM staff member. Jose hopes to leave a community of students who provide friendship and support to each other. He takes pride in proving that “Young staff can do ministry, make an impact on the community, and share the gospel.”

     “It doesn’t feel like a drastic change, but a continuation of what I’ve been doing,” said Jordan as she discussed her future plans, which include managing BCM’s middle school spiritual program. “We need more people in active ministry,” said Jose as he discussed his plans to continue working in the community while pursuing a Masters in Divinity. The love and dedication both Jordan and Jose have shown our students is immeasurable, and BCM is honored to have such loyal champions of our cause.

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Goofing Around

Jose and Jordan take a silly picture during an Fellows meeting.

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Fellows Retreat

The fellow and their supervisors go on a team building retreat.

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Pose!

Jordan and Jose strike a final pose, as the final fellows.

His Walk With God

“It is amazing to see his ability to grasp the stories and internalize them in his own way,” said our Bible Club Manager about how Keith (name changed) takes each Bible lesson and absorbs it in a way that makes sense to him. Keith joined Bible Club during the school year and is currently attending Vacation Bible School (VBS), our elementary spiritual program that runs during the summer. This summer’s VBS theme is Shipwrecked: Rescued by Jesus and for Keith, the theme seemed to be relevant to his own life.

Keith is the model student. He is always on time, shows honest enthusiasm about learning Gods word, and is a joy to be around. But there was pain lurking beneath the surface of his gentle demeanor. “He has some serious family issues,” our EPA Fellow said as he recounted an intense conversation he had with Keith about what was going on in Keith’s family life.

One day, the VBS lesson was about how Jesus wants us to leave all of our worries with him and Keith seemed to be listening more intensely than ever. As the lesson went on he asked questions and was very engaged with what he was learning. He seemed to truly connect with what was being shared and by the end of the lesson he earnestly revealed that he had worries too heavy to bear alone. He truly wanted to give them to the Lord and we know that Jesus is helping Keith bear his burdens. “We are here to share the gospel with kids like Keith,” said our EPA Fellow in his final thoughts about the impact knowing Jesus has had on Keith and other students like him.

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VBS Games

VBS students line up to participate in a game.

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Snack Time

Students grab a snack in between lessons.

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Praise Dance

Students do a praise dance at the beginning of each VBS lesson.

A Students Transformation

“I’m sorry for yelling at you, I was just really mad…” wrote Andrew (name changed). He had exploded in anger at our Director of Ministries, and after the dust had settled, took it upon himself to grab a flyer from the front desk and write her an apology note on the back of it. Andrew joined CREATE Academy in summer 2016. He had been referred by one of his teachers to improve his math skills. But math was the least of his worries.

Andrew was very angry. Day in and day out he would pick fights, cuss at teachers and lash out at BCM students. It got to the point that not only was his mom (who is a single parent), being contacted regularly by BCM staff, but his psychologist also. There were days when program staff would ask Andrews’ mom to pick him up early because he couldn’t seem to get along with anyone. We always told him he was welcome to come back the next day.

As time went on, Andrew began to open up. One day after Andrew had a heated confrontation with another BCM student, our Middle School Manager took him aside to get to the bottom of why he was so upset. At first, he refused to give an explanation, but eventually he revealed that he was being bullied at school for his appearance and that a comment by one of our students about his appearance had enraged him. Being bullied does not justify becoming a bully, and this was made clear to Andrew, but his honesty allowed us to empathize with his situation and be there for him during the rough times.

After summer programs ended, Andrew joined one of our robotics teams in Fall 2016 and although he continued to have outbursts our, Robotics co-manager said they were fewer and farther between. Andrew participated in Lego Robotics again this past Fall and is currently attending StreetWorkz. “When I see him now, he is so relaxed and calm,” said one of Andrew’s teachers. “You can tell from his face that he is not angry all the time anymore, he is by far the kid I have seen the biggest change in since I’ve been here,” our Director of Ministries said with smile. When discussing Andrew’s reaction to being told that BCM staff had planned to attend his 8th grade graduation, our Middle School Manager said “He knows people here love and care about him and have seen his growth.”

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CREATE Students

Pictured are a few of our CREATE Academy students.

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Dance

Students stretch during CREATE Academy's dance class last summer.

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Field Trip

Students go on field trips every Friday during CREATE Academy. This Friday, students went hiking.

Seeking God's Direction

It is no surprise that East Palo Alto is changing. As one exits the 101 N, the first impression of our city is a new 250,000 sq. ft. building filled with 1,300 Amazon engineers. It is a symbol of the commercial development that will soon flood the city and a reminder that many of the new jobs being created may not entirely be filled by our working-class community.

Every three to four years, we take a step back from our day-to-day operations and go through a strategic planning process in efforts to better understand our evolving community. We particularly seek to uncover: how our community is changing, what are the most pressing needs of our youth, what is God calling us to do to meet these needs, how do we use our strengths and adjust our programs to meet these needs, and who should we continue or seek to partner with in the next season of ministry. From February to April this year, we met with multiple stakeholders who shared their anxieties and excitement for our community. Our strategic planning committee has demonstrated their dedication to faithful stewardship through fasting, praying and reviewing all input as we seek direction from our Lord.

A close examination of our community has led to the emergence of some alarming (but unfortunately not surprising) trends. The effects of gentrification are prominent. Housing cost and housing insecurity has topped the list of concerns many of our families and partners are experiencing; traffic and employment/economic issues also enter the top five list. A local principal shared that throughout this school year, she has seen an increase of over 15% in demand of counseling services for her high school students; much of which has been driven by the stress due to housing insecurity. The Ravenswood City School District reported that well over 40% of its students are defined as homeless or housing insecure. Another trend that remains is the achievement gap between students from our community and those attending neighboring school districts. The Ravenswood Education Foundation’s annual report stated that only 19% of third graders are scoring proficient in reading standardized tests. Though high school graduation rates have slighted ticked upward (now close to 70%), the majority of our graduates do not meet four-year college requirements. Lastly, a silver lining has emerged; public safety no longer tops the list of concerns, as it did for many decades. East Palo Alto has experienced a dramatic decrease in violent crime and homicides over the course of the last four years.

Despite the changes we are experiencing, the need to share God’s love and help our children (and their families) develop a relationship with Christ is as urgent as ever. We are thankful for the privilege to work alongside so many of you, our community members and supporters, as we love and serve our community together. Please pray for BCM as we seek God’s direction, discernment and clarity in mapping out our strategic priorities for the next three years.

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Student Roudtable 

BCM high school students are ask to share their opinions and suggestions with the Strategic Planning Committee as we plan for the future.

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Strategic Committee

The Strategic Planning Committee take a visual approach to the process by sketching their hopes for the future.

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Themes

These are some of themes that have been uncovered through the strategic planning process.

The Lost Student

Anna (name changed) is one of our 6th grade students in CREATE Studios, our after-school academic program for middle school students. She has been with BCM since the 2nd grade, first joining KidSmart and Bible Club. She easily transitioned into CREATE Studios, StreetWorkz (middle school spiritual program) and spent the last two summers in CREATE Academy. Anna was fully engaged in almost all that BCM has to offer.

     It took us by surprise that after Christmas break, Anna began missing programs. Waniya, CREATE’s program manager, called her family. No answer came, so Waniya asked one of Anna’s classmates if he had seen her at school. Yes, she had been at school and seemed fine. After numerous phone calls to her home, Waniya received a note from Anna that said she would not be returning to BCM and she was sorry.

     Luke 15 discusses a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son, each story just a bit different yet important to illustrate that God cares for those who are lost, no matter the reason. At BCM we hope to offer that same grace and love to others. When a student appears “lost,” we want them to know they are welcome back at BCM.

     Anna appeared lost to us. We knew we needed to make sure she was okay. Waniya asked Roberto, a fellow staff member, to wait with her after school and sure enough, Anna eventually came out with her mom. With Roberto as an interpreter, Waniya learned that Anna was fine, but her mom had asked her to do her homework at home as some unexpected financial obligations took precedence over our program fees. Though we charge a small amount for our programs, this was still a burden to Anna’s family. We value our students and desire to offer grace, including financially, and don’t deny families because of their inability to pay. Waniya explained that money should not be a hurdle to her participation and let her mom know that we wanted Anna back in program as soon as possible.

     At 3:30pm that same afternoon, Anna walked back into our doors with a smile on her face, backpack on her back, and returned to her normal spot, ready to complete her homework! Losing Anna was not an option for us. She is a part of the BCM family and being a lost family member just isn’t going to happen on our watch.

 

 

 

This story was recently shared by Cassie, BCM’s Director of Ministries, in our fund request letter.

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Create Studios

Students work on an art project at Create Studios.

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Outside the Classroom

BCM takes Create students on a hiking fieldtrip.

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KIPP

The student featured (and many other Create students) attend KIPP Middle School

Parents' Perspectives

“I know they are safe,” said Antonia, when asked why she has kept her daughters enrolled in BCM’s programs throughout the years. Antonia found out about BCM six years ago when one of her children’s Brentwood Academy teachers mentioned that BCM offered summer programs. Fast forward to now, her children are in BCM’s LiT high school student program. “All of the summer programs were awesome!” said Antonia while reminiscing about her first experiences with BCM. As she discussed the lessons her children have learned through BCM, Antonia said that BCM “teaches them how to be respectful and care for each other.”

When Alejandra and her family first moved to East Palo Alto (EPA) around three years ago, she decided to start looking into after school programs for her son and daughter. “To be honest I was very hesitant at first” said Alejandra as she recalled how EPA’s reputation made her nervous about just sending her children out into the community, but she ended up choosing BCM because of the affordability and the fact that we are a Christian organization. “Everyone is super kind and nice and know you by name,” said Alejandra when the topic of program and non-program BCM staff came up. “You guys reinforce values that I already believe in and academics, so they don’t forget in the summer,” said Alejandra as she explained how BCM’s Create Academy and other middle school programs benefit her children.

Eight years ago, Laumanu became a BCM parent when she decided to enroll her two older children in BCM’s middle school program; now her two youngest children are in KidSmart. Laumanu highlighted the importance of homework help when she expressed her gratitude for how BCM “Helps them [her children] with homework because I cannot do it at home” which is a sentiment that is expressed by many BCM parents who at times find it difficult to keep up with their children’s homework.

“She is more sociable now, she is not as shy,” said Aisha as she spoke about how her daughter has grown since she started attending BCM’s StreetWorkz. Aisha found out about BCM from a faculty member of another Bay Area student geared program called SWAG that outreaches to and supports students in the Sequoia Union High School District. Two years ago, Aisha decided to become a part of the BCM family and her daughter seems to be thrilled with this decision. “My daughter likes the program, she is happy there.”

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Middle School Graduation

A parent attending BCM's middle school graduation party poses with her children for a photo.

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Girls Night

BCM invited mothers and daughters to engage in a bonding activity by making bracelets together.

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Create Academy Celebration

Students perform a dance routine as their parents snap photos at the Create Academy Celebration.

Retreat Reflections

The Volunteer Perspective

“Seeing how welcoming and friendly the students are gives me a little reminder to do the same” says Meryn, who traveled all the way from Michigan with the Hope College team to volunteer at BCM’s Teen Retreat. Meryn is junior majoring in Social Work at Hope and became familiar with BCM through Jordan Dennen, a current BCM staff member and Hope College alumna. Meryn also volunteered with BCM last year and was so happy with her experience that she not only decided to return as a leader but also bring some friends along. As Meryn reflected on her experience as a volunteer, she spoke about how many of the students were so willing to open up and be honest about the struggles they face.

 

The Middle School Student Perspective

“God sacrificed himself for us and now we have someone to talk to through prayer” said Cristina as she discussed what she learned through a ‘relationship with God’ themed session at the Teen Retreat. There was another session that explained the purpose of animal sacrifices in biblical times by giving each student toy animals and for every type of sin committed one toy animal was taken away or sacrificed. “I realized how many sins we have yet God came down to save us because he loves us” said Nathan as he explained what he learned through this exercise.

 

The High School Student Perspective

A student named Kassandra mentioned in small group conversation at the retreat “how God is there for you but shows himself in different forms.” She went on to discuss how the students were given the opportunity to write personal letters, paint and draw and how those are all types of worship which she said made her feel “more connected” to God. “In order to talk to God, he doesn’t have to physically respond, he can speak through people and art,” said V, as she recalled that significant realization she obtained from the retreat.

 

The Retreat Festivities

The Teen Retreat is full of fun and Bible-based activities. Each day of the weekend long retreat is packed with different team building activities, small groups and Biblical sessions. Students form teams with team names such as Pink Pomegranate Panthers and The Flash and compete head-to-head earning points in each activity in an effort to be the reigning champions. Students are also taken to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for a fun day of rides, carnival treats and a bonfire. It is very encouraging to hear such positive feedback from not only our students but also volunteers and staff because it validates BCM’s mission to share fun activities, community and God’s love with our students.

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Team Names!

Students break up into several teams and work on their team name and sign.

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Group Sessions

Students learn about the purpose of animal sacrifices in Biblical times.

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Santa Cruz

Students, volunteers and staff pose for a picture at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

BCM and King's Academy

 “Each spring we vacate our entire high school and send teams of students around the world to do service projects”, says Justin, who teaches Math and is a TKA water Polo and swimming coach at King’s Academy in Sunnyvale. ”The projects range anywhere from building homes in Tecate, Mexico, to post-hurricane clean up in Louisiana, to medical missions in Malawi, Africa, to supporting missionary training to indigenous people groups in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador,” he continued. This year there will be a new focus for service trips. “The ministry that has always been on my heart has been local suburban/urban missions, to the people right here at home” Justin recounts, and when the new principal at King’s asked the Spiritual Life Department to consider missions trips closer to home, Justin jumped at the chance.

Around 12 years ago Justin found out about BCM and a few other East Palo Alto non-profits through his church. When he volunteered with each, Justin saw first had the work that was being done in his own backyard. Fast forward to now, Justin is thrilled to be spearheading King’s first East Palo Alto Service Week. Discussing King’s plans to serve the community, Justin says “We are partnering with BCM, New Creation Home, Ravenswood Middle School and EPA Shop to introduce our students to a community of focus right up the road, where real people live real lives impacted by real policies and systems that we are largely immune from experiencing.  It's an opportunity for our students to realize that we can serve where we live.”

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Where It Started

This photo of Justin teaching students how to work on a bike was taken almost 12 years ago when he first volunteered at BCM

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Serving BCM

These BCM teen students are among those that will be served by King's Academy during EPA Service Week

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Team Photo

The entire King's Academy team pose for a photo

Create Art

This spring, BCM students are exploring ways in which to express their own identity through visual art. BCM’s art program entitled Create Art will be following EPACENTER’s Drawing 101: Six Elements of Art curriculum, which starts off with the basics such as drawing lines and shapes and ends with instruction in 3D and cartoon drawing. This class does not have a rigid structure and students are encouraged to be free and “outside the box” with the art they create. The curriculum allows BCM students to create art as a form of self-expression which frees them of any tight restrictions. Create Art students are currently working on collages and how to tie the many small elements of a collage together to make one unique work of art that communicates a part of their own identity.

For the past 2 years, EPACENTER and BCM have maintained a partnership to bring BCM students Create Art, which begins in spring and lasts until summer. The mission of EPACENTER is to help facilitate youth in the discovery of their own talents and capabilities through art. Create Art is run by Troy Davis, EPACENTER’s Music and Visual Arts Instructor. Troy studied painting, digital software, figure drawing and color theory at the Academy of Art University, where he graduated with a BA in Illustration. As a long-time resident of East Palo Alto, Troy not only finds it easier to relate to BCM students but has a deeper understanding of the ever changing culture of East Palo Alto. We at BCM look forward to a long a fruitful relationship with Troy and EPACENTER.

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Say Cheese!

Students take a moment to smile for a picture as they work on their projects.

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Art Time!

Using bright colors and varying shapes work on sketches to add to their collages.

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Digital Art

A student uses an ipad to assist in creating sketches.

Hope and Jordan

It was the spring break of her senior year at Hope College and instead of planning a trip with her friends, Jordan decided to apply to Hope’s spring immersion trips, where students volunteer across the country in different communities. On the application, Jordan did not list BCM as her first choice. To be quite frank, Jordan was not completely sold on going on a mission trip in the first place, so when she got her acceptance email she was somewhat surprised and started to question if she wanted to follow through with the trip. After some thought, Jordan decided not to let this opportunity pass her by, and boy was she happy she didn’t. Through Hope’s partnership with BCM, Jordan was able to tutor students in KidSmart and participate in a family event with Bible Club. She also visited East Palo Alto high schools and learned about the history and demographics of East Palo Alto, which she said helped her better understand BCM students. Impressed by her natural connection with the students, Jordan was approached by multiple BCM staff members who encouraged her to apply for BCM’s year-long college graduate fellowship which would start after graduation.  Jordan was flattered that multiple people felt she had the qualifications and temperament to be successful in student mentorship, but at the time, she did not give it too much thought.

On her first day back at Hope College, Jordan ran into one of the Chaplains, whom she was very close to, and when he asked her about her experience at BCM, she recalled the amazing time she had mentoring and learning alongside the students. Jordan also mentioned being encouraged to apply for BCM’s Fellowship as she casually asked her Chaplain for a reference, to which he agreed. The next day she received an email from her Chaplain stating that he had already sent the reference to BCM. Because Hope and BCM have been partners for just about 15 years, Jordan’s Chaplain was not shy about getting in contact with BCM staff; Jordan on the other hand was rather caught off guard. She did not expect him to be so prompt in churning out her recommendation letter, especially because she had not made her mind up about whether she would even apply. Now she had no choice! After applying and going through the interview process, Jordan was excited to be offered the Fellowship position, but soon enough apprehension set in. Jordan lived in Chicago and went to college in Michigan; BCM is in California. Jordan received her degree in Dance and Business; mentoring students at BCM did not seem like it would put her specific education to use. After a week of mental gymnastics, Jordan decided to commit to BCM and become a Fellow, and she has never regretted that decision for a moment. Now, Jordan is completing her second year as a Fellow with BCM and looking back on her journey she said “It is clear that God led me to BCM.” As her time as a Fellow comes to a close and Jordan considers transitioning to a BCM staff member, she plans on allowing the Lord to lead her footsteps.

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The Boardwalk!

Jordan and her students snap a picture at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

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Game Time!

Jordan playing an intense game of Jenga with one of her students. 

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Celebration!

Jordan and her students take goofy pictures during the middle school graduation celebration.

BCM Volunteers

     On the hunt for a volunteer position that interested her, Lorena decided to seek help from Job Train and was delighted when they directed her to BCM. BCM offers several volunteer opportunities but Lorena found that devoting her time to KidSmart students was the perfect fit for her. As a volunteer, Lorena serves as a classroom aide who works one-on-one with her students. She assists students with their homework, reading comprehension, and math skills. During recess, she goes outside with her students and plays right alongside them. In my interview with Lorena, she spoke about how she not only sees herself as a tutor but also a mentor. “It will be more difficult for them to learn if they don’t know who you are” said Lorena as she discussed the importance of building relationships with her students and getting to know their individual learning habits. Lorena’s dedication to her community shines not only through her volunteer work but also in her career goals. She is currently attending college full time in the hopes of earning her degree in social work and becoming a probation officer.

     The main goal of the KidSmart program is to ensure that students’ academic skills are in line with their grade level while also preparing the students for the next school year. Recently, KidSmart Manager Diana Liggs noticed that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find KidSmart interns, so when Lorena came on board Diana was thrilled. After seeing Lorena’s love and dedication to her students, Diana decided to offer Lorena a paid position as a KidSmart intern, which Lorena happily accepted and will be starting once her hours through Job Train are complete. BCM is blessed to have so many wonderful, patient and dedicated volunteers like Lorena who go above and beyond to ensure our students receive not only quality academic help but also emotional, mental and spiritual support.

 

*If you would like to learn more about volunteering with BCM contact Kim Shimazaki (Volunteer Coordinator) at kim@bayshore.org

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Cheese!

Lorena poses with her students for a picture.

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Homework Help

Lorena assists a student with her homework.

Recess

Lorena and her students play jump rope during recess.