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.
BCM high school students are ask to share their opinions and suggestions with the Strategic Planning Committee as we plan for the future.
The Strategic Planning Committee take a visual approach to the process by sketching their hopes for the future.
These are some of themes that have been uncovered through the strategic planning process.