Our Middle School (Streetworkz) Retreat

Volunteer: Olivia 

Why did you feel called to attend the retreat? The Streetworkz students look forward to the retreat all year, so I was excited to get to experience the full weekend with them. It is such a special time for them, so I wanted to help make it as fun and meaningful as possible. 

What did you enjoy about spending time with BCM students in this type of setting? It was great getting to spend a full weekend with the students. Normally during program, we need to keep things moving so that we can accomplish everything on the agenda; so, it was nice to get to spend more unstructured, free time with them. 

Was there anything surprising/interesting you learned about one or more of our students? I learned that Julissa really does not like rollercoasters...but I don't know if that's relevant. ;) 

Did you witness any moments of growth in our students? On one of the nights we had a sharing time and a few of the students professed about challenges they are facing in their lives. Often, it can be difficult to get middle schoolers to let their guard down and share what's really on their hearts, so it was awesome that they felt safe and comfortable enough to do so. 

Did this experience give you a new perspective about the students or yourself? It was cool to take a step back and watch the students interact with and learn from the Hope volunteers. Through the Hope volunteers’ hard work and preparation, the Streetworkz students were able to learn and form strong relationships. 

What are your overall thoughts about the retreat? The retreat is such a fun and memorable way to bond with the students. I'm glad BCM does such a great job of providing them opportunities to learn and grow by adventuring outside of EPA. 

 

Hope Student: Jacob 

Why did you feel called to come all the way from Michigan to serve East Palo Alto Students? “Last summer I spent 3 months in Poland; it was a leap of faith, a God thing that made that possible. He showed me the changes I need to make and called me to be a leader. I believe it is something God put on my life; he really convicted me on that trip.” 

Jacob returned to the US thinking, 'What can I do to make God the center?'. He felt called to continue participating in activities that centered his love for sharing God’s word which led him to apply for the immersions trip BCM offers to HOPE students. 

Was there anything you learned about one or more of our students? “I love how funny they are, these kids have a fantastic sense of humor and it was so great to experience; they have big personalities.” 

Did you witness any moments of growth in our students? “One boy in particular was a class clown and he didn’t seem to take the spiritual stuff seriously” said Jacob.  

Jacob went on to share how during the camp fire, students were invited to share their own struggles and that same student became vulnerable with Jacob and revealed his own issues. “I was surprised how deep thinking they are.” said Jacob, as he recalled that conversation he had with our student.  

Jacob noticed another student who was in deep thought but did not want to share: ”I told him that I will be here for him to talk, and if now is not the time there will be other people in his life that God will provide for him to talk with.” 

Did this experience result in your own personal growth? In what ways? “It was really great having that experience working with babies; given the opportunity to teach and simplify the bible for kids those age.” said Jacob referring to working with our Bible Club students after the retreat. He went on to say that this was less of a growth experience and more of a confirmation that sharing God’s word is his calling.  

What are your overall thoughts about the retreat, and would you recommend this experience to other Hope students? “I would definitely recommend it especially to education majors. I am seeing so much growth in my friends on this trip who are education majors and confidence in knowing that this is the right place for them. For me, it was great to see that God is working everywhere and how he is touching [BCM students] lives just as he touches the lives of people back home. God is big and he is reaching everyone; it’s so nice to know that my God is everywhere.” 

 

BCM Student: Jeremiah  

Why did you decide to go to the retreat? “Because it is my last time” said Jeremiah referring to this being his last year before he ages out of Streetworkz. 

What was your favorite part of the retreat? “My favorite part was when we started doing the games, like throwing the cheese balls and capture the flag and the noodle ninja. It’s a time when we can get competitive and work as a team.” 

Did you learn anything new about yourself? “That I have an existence here and God is always going to be there through the hard times; just whenever I need him, he will be there for me.” 

Did you learn anything new about God? “That he is faithful, just, powerful. He brought justice to all of us and he is faithful and gives faith to others.” 

What are you overall thoughts about the retreat and would you recommend it to other? “Yes of course! It is very fun and gets everyone together; you’re going to learn what God is.”  

Jeremiah went on to share how he enjoyed meeting and getting to know the HOPE students stating, “I always find that one perfect HOPE student!” 

 

Streetworkz students pose for a picture in front of Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk.

Streetworkz students pose for a picture in front of Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk.

Students play outdoor games during the retreat.

Students play outdoor games during the retreat.

Here is one of the four teams of students formed to compete during the retreat outdoor games.

Here is one of the four teams of students formed to compete during the retreat outdoor games.

A Streetworkz Volunteer

“I love working with kids,” Olivia, one of our Streetworkz volunteers, said enthusiastically. She went on to tell us about why she decided to volunteer at Streetworkz and her overall experience with BCM.  

 

BCM: Tell us about how you got connected to BCM. 

OLIVIA: I moved into the East Palo Alto area in early 2018 and decided to Google search Christian organizations to volunteer at. I was intentionally seeking opportunities to volunteer with children, and it seemed that BCM was a perfect fit. 

BCM: How are you able to incorporate volunteer work as a young professional? 

OLIVIA: BCM is only a hop, skip and a jump away from where I work; it’s something I want to do so it is not hard to make it happen. 

 

BCM: What is difficult about working with BCM students? 

OLIVIA: It’s a challenge, outside of my comfort zone. I’d never worked with this specific age group before volunteering at BCM. The difference is how long it takes kids to open-up; there’s a lot fewer walls built up when they are younger. 

 

BCM: What have you learned about yourself through working with our students? 

OLIVIA: Recognizing my privilege. I didn’t know about the issues they had to deal with, how different my realities were when I was young. When I compare the education and environment I had access to growing up to that of BCM students it’s obvious that the outside pressures BCM students face affect them. 

 

BCM: What are you looking forward to as you build relationships with our students? 

OLIVIA: A lot of the students have big personalities; I’m looking forward to having more meaningful conversations. 

 

BCM: Any other thoughts about your experience as one of BCM’s spiritual mentors? 

OLIVIA: It’s nice to have a community of adults working together to support our students. 

 

We are grateful for Olivia and many others who serve as spiritual mentors for our students. Please keep them in prayer as they guide our youth and share God’s love at BCM each week. 

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Pose!

Olivia poses with our students for a picture.

                                                                                                   

Justice Series

Bayshore Christian Ministries is pleased to offer a four-week Justice Series presented by Amy Joh about key social justice topics affecting our community.  Our desire is to support partner churches and organizations as they seek to understand justice issues and discern how to respond as Christians. The series begins with Immigration which explores the basic understanding of how the US immigration system works, reviews misconceptions and studies Scripture about immigrants. Next, we dive into Educational Injustice and the disparity in our education system between wealthy and low-income schools, the effect of race on education and what responsibility Christians have for our education system.  We then discuss Mass Incarceration and examine the dramatic increase in incarceration in America, especially the disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos imprisoned, and how the Church should respond to those who have been criminalized. We end with Love Your Neighbor As Yourself (Debrief, Processing and Next Steps) a space to process with other Christ followers and explore possible responses to these justice issues. The three main goals for our series are to promote:

  • TRUTH: Establish a knowledge base of facts and scripture about current issues that can be used as a foundation to respond to injustice and as a tool for conversation with others.

  • JUSTICE: Encourage the Church to confront systems of inequality through intentional relationships, service, integration of work and faith, finances, advocacy and prayer.

  • COMPASSION: Cultivate compassion for those in our country who are affected by unjust systems and humanize the experience of the marginalized.

Our most recent social justice workshops were held at Chinese Church in Christ Milpitas, Cru Winter Conference, Highway Community Church, Home of Christ Menlo Park, King's Academy, Menlo Church (Menlo Park and San Jose campuses), Peninsula Covenant Church and Valley Church.

Here’s what some of the participants had to say:

How did you see God at work in you or in your church through the series?

  • It brought together a community of concerned members who know they can work together when they feel inspired to take action.

  • It prompted me to volunteer and get to know a community I had not worked with before.

  • He just opened my eyes to the injustice in my own community, and I struggled with some of the topics. Our church got involved (mostly short term) in many projects to help others. I think a lot of God's work is internal in these matters, and He changes our thinking about things.

What was worthwhile about attending the Social Justice Series?

  • It keeps the issues in front of me and keeps me asking what I can do about social justice or the lack of it.

  • Learning about inequality in education, and more about inequality in incarceration.

  • It addresses major topics with facts.

  • I think Christians need to know what is presented in this series so they can respond.

  • Very informational and I would recommend highly.  I've already been sharing with others. Also still pondering the issues from a biblical perspective, from a political perspective, and from a personal perspective.

What are the strengths of the series?

  • Awareness. I found it valuable to avoid presenting a solution which could be perceived as liberal or conservative. Maintaining neutrality while presenting facts helped convey messages - then leave God and Holy Spirit to work on moving each person's heart. Have received positive feedback from the youth as well.

  • GREAT info! Amy did great job of presenting. Good issues that people were concerned about. I liked that pre-reading/watching was suggested prior to each session topic.  It refutes misinformation.

  • I definitely left feeling more informed; some of the topics I had never even thought were social justice issues. I would recommend it to others, and I had some good conversations afterwards.

We are grateful for the way God is at work and drawing us together through these important conversations. If you are interested in having a BCM staff come and teach at your church or small group, please contact amy@bayshore.org.

In this picture Amy gives the Justice Series presentation.

In this picture Amy gives the Justice Series presentation.

Our Mental Health Themed Retreat

We are privileged to have moments like we did at the beginning of this month to gather as staff, board and volunteers for training, prayer and fellowship.  We began with a staff discussion on the importance of self-care from the lens of professionals in an organization that is rooted in service to others.  Jeremy Easton, Co-Director at the Christian Counseling Center in San Jose led the discussion and our church partner Highway Community graciously hosted us.  The second day our staff, board and volunteers gathered at Vallombrosa Center where Lety Arreola-Garcia, the Mental Health Services Coordinator at Children’s Health Council and also an active member of our community, gave an engaging presentation about the most prevalent mental health stressors EPA youth face. After lunch, where we were led in guided prayer by Seth Dickson, the City Director at ReWire and a long-time supporter of BCM.

 Here’s what our BCM family had too say about our time together:

 

Why did you decide to give up a Saturday to BCM?

  • I hear the students in Streetworkz regularly talk about all the stressors and challenges they face, both expected of the typical middle school experience (eg. grades, friends, parents), as well as those far beyond what they should have to contend with (eg. drugs, violence, death). I wanted to learn more about mental health and strategies to support them so I could be more helpful when conversations around these topics arise.

  • I think it is important to constantly stay up to date when working with kids and understand the responsibility we have when we're around them.

  •   I'm still fairly new to the BCM high school program and am still learning about issues facing the community. I wanted to learn more about ways to help, or at least not harm, when volunteering.

 

Surprises

  •   The number of housing insecure kids in the community.

  •   One thing that surprised me was how even those volunteers and staff members who had worked with kids in EPA for many years still struggled with some of the same challenges I do around how to best support the students when they are struggling.

  • The point about how kids are being affected by the housing crisis, especially those who are still here but are losing their friends and family who move away.

  • I learned that we are already doing a lot of things right.  I also learned that a big hurdle is just feeling equipped to be in a conversation about mental health even if we are not experts.

 

  Leaving equipped

  •   It encouraged me to continue pressing forward with mental health training for staff and making sure volunteers get the level of training necessary to support our students.

  • By learning the signs to look out for when working with students it helps us assess situations better and it's comforting that we can always consult with each other because we've all done the work-shop together. 

  • It reminded me that whenever a kid comes in and they act disgruntled that I need to ask them more questions.

 

Self-Care

  •   I plan to take deliberate time for self-care to re-center and get away so I can allow myself to feel my emotions and then return to daily activities.

  •   I plan to practice getting into a prayer posture before I pray and study God’s word.

  •   Because of my experience I totally understand the importance of self-care; I eat healthy, read books, meditate and do what I need to do to self-care. The first day of the retreat really confirmed what I was already doing.

 

Anything else?

  •   The retreat was very helpful and the speaker (Lety) was great because she is from the community.

  •   I feel like it gave me even more insight which prompted me to do more research and be more compassionate.

  •    I would definitely recommend the retreat to others. It was a good balance of theory, social and prayer time. It allowed us to digest what we had learned and think about how we can be of support to the students through prayer. 

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Lecture

Pictured, Lety Arreola-Garcia gives her lecture about the mental health struggles students face.

Be Our Valentine

Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of love, we invite you to take part in at least one of the following three easy ways to love on BCM this Valentine’s Day.

Write a review for BCM on Google or Facebook                                                                                                   Help us collect testimonials about BCM to better understand the things we are doing right as well as what we need to improve, and to increase BCM’s visibility to the community. BCM no longer wants to be ‘the best kept secret’ in East Palo Alto, so help us spread the word!

“I rated BCM a 5 stars on Facebook because I believe in their mission. I've been a participant, a staff, and a volunteer. Since my involvement in 2013, I have witnessed the way BCM has not only transformed my life, but the lives of my peers. BCM feels like a home away from home and out of all the organizations in the city, it feels the most genuine. I know that whatever endeavors I take on, BCM will always be there to support me! To me, it is important to support BCM this way because I want others to know how much of an impact BCM has on the community. BCM is not just a non-profit organization, but they constantly seek to provide resources for not only their students, but also community members within the area.” Jorge, via Facebook

 To rate/review BCM Via Google:

1)      Sign into Google (using your Gmail account)                                                                                

2)      Search for BCM on Google                                                                                                                     

3)      Click the reviews section to leave a review                                                                                     

4)      Select star rating, write review and submit

To recommend/review BCM Via Facebook:

1)      Log into your Facebook account

2)      Search Bayshore Christian Ministries and select our page

3)      Scroll down to ‘Recommendations and Reviews’

4)      Click YES in response to the “Do you want to review Bayshore Christian Ministries” prompt

5)      Write and submit a review


 Join our Prayer Team                                                                                                                                               “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” –Acts 4:31 The Lord has always called us to fellowship together in prayer and your prayers and praises on behalf of our ministry are significant.  There is strength in numbers and a feeling of unity when seeking our Savior together.  

“Prayer is the most powerful when we need guidance and wisdom. We have this awesome privilege to take everything to God in prayer because of His great love for us; I have experienced the joy of many answered prayers. Praying as a team is great because Jesus tells us where two or three are gathered in His name, He will be there in the midst. May God richly bless BCM’s efforts as they reach out to serve the young people.” Inez, current BCM prayer team member.

 Join BCM’s Prayer Team by contacting Amy at amy@bayshore.org


Become a Monthly Giver                                                                                                                                            Monthly Givers provide greater financial stability to BCM by allowing us to predict cash flow and budget for our programs every month, cut fundraising costs and redirect those funds to our programs and lastly, help continue the work God is doing in our community through their generosity.

“Though the largest part of our monthly charitable giving goes to our local church and reaching the community that our church is), we wanted to give monthly so students in East Palo Alto and Belle Haven could learn about God and have a safe place that would invest in their future and walk with them through some of the most important life-shaping years.  I also believe that giving monthly shows the staff that there are people behind them supporting their hard work.” Cassie, monthly giver

To Become a monthly giver (online)

1)      Click the following link https://www.classy.org/give/158554/#!/donation/checkout

2)      Select/type in the amount you would like to give

3)      Select “Monthly” to indicate you would like to give a monthly gift

4)      Fill out credit/debit card information

5)      Confirm monthly gift.

 If you would like to give monthly via Paypal or physical checks, please contact Dyimah at dyimah@bayshore.org

Meeting New Staff Members

We are pleased to introduce our new Director of Ministries Andrew and our new Operations Manager Jennifer. Both have history with BCM and are excited about returning. Here are their thoughts about rejoining the BCM family.


I was one of BCM's founders and served as Executive Director until 2008, then moved to Austin, Texas and worked in a variety of educational settings and consulting projects.  Some of the consulting projects were exciting -- especially working with Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in the Bay Area and with The Refuge (Home for Domestic Minor Victims of Sex Trafficking) in Austin -- but they were short-term. Teaching was more stable but did not seem like a calling.  

 In January 2018 started my beautiful job with Austin Bridge Builders Alliance (ABBA) but in June it came to an unexpected end.  I loved the work of building collaborations among Christian leaders from churches, businesses, non-profits and government. But the ABBA board determined a new direction for the ministry which left no place for me or for the relationships I'd developed.  So, I went into job search mode.  When the search wasn't ending as quickly as I wanted, I began to look outside of the Austin area.  I had two live prospects outside of Texas when I received the newsletter celebrating Cassie Arnold as she stepped down from the Director of Ministries position. "Wait a minute, if I am thinking about jobs in Arkansas and Washington, I have to at least look at the possibility of coming home to the places, people and ministry that I love." That led to a conversation that led to an application, that led to my return to BCM as the Director of Ministries. 

 I am so excited to return to the Bay Area, to East Palo Alto, and especially, to Bayshore Christian Ministries.  I have remained in relationship with the ministry and with Rolando Zeledon in particular.  I have tremendous respect for his leadership and am happy to be able to serve with him in a new role.  I have been so encouraged to see the ways that BCM has thrived and grown over the years -- especially in community partnerships and the technological focus. The program managers that I'll be working with are terrific.  I am impressed with their motivation and care for youth and am excited to work with them, renew relationships with families and leaders in the community, and to participate in the great work God continues to do through this ministry. What a joy it is to enter into this new season of ministering in a place that I know and love well. 

—Andrew 


I was born in East Palo Alto and raised between here and Chesterfield, VA.  Throughout the years I lived in CA, I attended BCM year-round during elementary and middle school. During my time and participation in KidSmart, StreetWorkz and SAIL, I was mentored by so many amazing people and created unforgettable memories and relationships. I was inspired to attend an HBCU after high school and contribute to various activities that allowed me to empower youth in underprivileged communities.  I attended colleges in Texas (PVAMU) and Virginia (VSU) pursuing a computer engineering degree. During my time in Virginia, I got married and had a beautiful baby girl. We found our way back to the Bay Area shortly after. Nowadays, when I’m not running all over the Bay Area with my active daughter, I find myself painting, writing poetry, watching anime, trying new foods and traveling.  I also enjoy teaching Sunday school at South Bay Community Church.   

 I have happily accepted the opportunity to serve BCM as their Operations Associate. I am grateful to be able to give back to East Palo Alto in such a meaningful way that contributes to the education of and care for our youth. In the future, I plan to continue my education in the field of computer and electrical engineering in which I would love to create a bridge between both my academic passion and my personal passion. 

—Jennifer

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Pose!

Jennifer (center) poses for a picture with some of her BCM friends. (Picture taken in 04)

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Throw back!

Here is a picture of Andrew taken in 1991.

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Outting

Here Jennifer and a large of students take a picture during a BCM outing to Universal Studios. (Picture taken in 2006)

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Boys Club

Here Andrew and another staff member poses with the “Boys Club”. (Picture taken in 2004)

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Beach Fun

Here Jennifer poses with some friends at the beach during BCM’s Spring Camp 2007.

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Funny Faces

Here Andrew and some BCM students take a silly photo. (Picture taken in 2006)

A KidSmart Parent

“I found out about BCM from my sister, who had been introduced by someone at church” said Julie*, a BCM parent. She and four of her children have been with BCM for the last 13 years; the eldest is now in Lit, our high school program, while the younger ones participate in KidSmart, our after-school program for elementary students.

“When my daughter first [enrolled in BCM] she was behind in her reading,” said Julie as she discussed how English is her daughter’s second language and that she speaks Tongan fluently. Before Julie was introduced to BCM, she had her children enrolled at another local after school program but noticed that she was not seeing the improvements in her daughter’s reading skills that she knew her daughter was capable of making, so decided to give BCM a try. “BCM really helped her a lot; it did not take long to bring her up to reading at grade level.” Julie went on to discuss how her children are always telling her good things about their experience at BCM and how they are never afraid to ask for help on their homework. “BCM helps them with the classes they struggle with.”

Julie is not only a BCM parent but also an enthusiastic advocate for her friends and family whose children, she feels, could benefit from attending BCM programs. When asked if she had ever spread the word about BCM Julie excitedly responded “I did! And they came! The people I recommended to BCM have been there for a few years now.” In the past, Julie has even picked up applications and brought them to the families she was encouraging to enroll their children.

“I love how [BCM] has dance classes!” Julie said as she spoke about how her kids, who are in sports, have BCM’s dance classes as an outlet to work off some energy during their sports off seasons. She went on to say that one thing she would love to see make a return to BCM’s program agenda would be music classes as she reminisced about the time her son was taking guitar lessons through BCM.

“What BCM is doing right now is fabulous,” said Julie as we neared the closing of our conversation. In her final thoughts about why she and her children have stayed with BCM over the past 13 years, Julie said, “I just fell in love with how they treat the kids; I know they care.”

 

*Name change for privacy

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Smile!

A KidSmart students smiles for a picture during class.

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Lets Play

KidSmart students play in the leaves during recess.

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Reading

A KidSmart Student looks up from her reading to take a picture.

Robotics

On November 18th our two robotics teams, the Spartans and the Knights, competed in a scrimmage. The competition consists of four parts: a team presentation about their values as competitors, a presentation about their research project, a presentation regarding the design/function of their robots and the actual robot competition. For the competition portion, two students called ‘Drivers’ go up for their team and prepare the robots for the challenges. There are ten challenges and the robots are programmed to complete as many as possible within 2.5 minutes to maximize points. Here are some comments from Greg, our head Robotics coach, about how the competition went:

“The Spartans and the Knights competed in three rounds of robot competition as well as the judging elements.  It was a full day of activity and overall, I'm proud of our showing.  The Spartans had an impressive and capable robot, but unfortunately had trouble scoring consistently in their rounds.  The Knights were able to score a perfect run with an efficient robot, hitting all 5 of their missions.  On the judged portions, both teams thought they performed well (scoring rubrics to come).  

 After the tournament, here is what a few families had to say about the impact of the program on their kids:

 “[My son] always looks forward to his LEGO robotics class, he enjoys this program a lot. He says it feels like family. I feel confident and happy every time I drop him off.”

 “I think this would be [my daughter’s] 3rd year in robotics. CONFIDENCE: Robotics has helped increase her confidence. I see how she communicates with her teammates and isn't scared to share her thoughts.  I also notice how the kids are challenged to really put their thinking caps on to figure out challenges. She really enjoyed her role."

 Our Executive Director Rolando, who also had a chance to see the team in action, commented saying “What I love about our robotics teams is that it allows our kids to compete with the best; our kids can hold their own compared to higher resourced teams.”

  Some of our Robotic students said the following about their experience:

“The best part about competing against other teams is seeing what they have to share.”

“My favorite part about Robotics is building the robots because we work together.”

 Although our students did not place this year, we are proud of their efforts and positive attitudes and are excitedly awaiting the Sumo Robotics competition.

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Competition

Judges watch and rate the missions our students complete.

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Robot Construction

Students work together to build their robots.

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Test Run

Students and coaches gather to do a test run before the competition.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us! And we wanted to share what our staff, board, students, parents and volunteers are thankful for. Here are some of the answers we received from the following questions: What are you thankful for? What about BCM are you thankful for?

 

CREATE Students

“For me to be alive and to have people that love and care for me.”

“How [BCM] feels like a family.”

“I am thankful for every [BCM] volunteer.”

KidSmart Students

“I am thankful for help with my spelling.”

“I am thankful for other [BCM] students; we help each other.”

“Family; they give me a roof over my head and pay for my schooling.”

Bible Club Students

“My mom because my mom provides food for me.”

“I am thankful for Bible Club.”

“Family, cat, people, school, Jesus, Christmas, God.”

Lit Students

“I am thankful for my best friend because she’s always there for me.”

“LiT helps me get through tough times in life.”

“Ari and Jordan and all other BCM staff.”

Streetworkz Students

“Waking up, soccer, BCM, God.”

“Streetworkz, friends, clothes, art.”

“Time, life, health, music.”

Parents

“Estoy Agradecida infintamente por la familia que Dios me dio que son todo para mi, mis hijos y esposo. Gracias por tan marovillosa la vida.”

“All that you [BCM] do; your family to my family. You all have big hearts, we love you and are very thankful for you!”

“Soy, una madre que les agradece tanto a dosos y cada uno del personal de BCM, por la ayuda que le had dado a mis hijos bendiciones. Gracias por todo su apoyo.”

Volunteers

“I’m thankful for God leading me to serve in BCM’s KidSmart program where I’ve been enjoying the laughter and learning progress of our young students.”

“I’m thankful for God’s overall provision for my family financially and overall good health and safety in the past year, specifically amid a recent traffic accident which left my wife and I unharmed.”

“At BCM I am thankful for Ms. Diana who is takes care of the interns, tutors, students, and curriculum. But more importantly for the families who realize the value of education and take the time and effort to come to KidSmart.” 

Staff

“God’s grace, patience and love.”

“I’m thankful for the community of volunteers and opportunities”

“To serve alongside great believers and to see God’s hand move in and around us.”

Board Members

“Having a personal relationship with Christ.”

“My education and freedom to keep growing and learning.”

“Meeting the [BCM] kids, hearing their stories and seeing their dreams come true.”

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Bible Club

Students write down what they are thankful for and and put the notes in their “Thankful Jars” during Thanksgiving themed Bible Club.

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Streetworkz

Students create a Thanksgiving wreath made of clothes pins adorned with what they are thankful for during Streetworkz their Thanksgiving themed program.

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Staff Prayer

During staff prayer, we too a moment to reflect and write down what we are thankful for. This is one of the notes.

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.