Stories from After School

A Reflection by Diana Liggs, KidSmart Program Manager

KidSmart is BCM’s afterschool program which helps students develop a positive attitude toward school and learning.  KidSmart also provides an opportunity for students to experience academic success.  This is accomplished by providing an environment in which students develop more positive self-esteem through consistent encouragement.  When we think back on KidSmart this past year, a couple of students stick out.

Photo by Emily Scott

Photo by Emily Scott

Owen

Owen* is a third grader who attends Brentwood Academy.  The areas Owen needed to work on when he started attending KidSmart were reading comprehension and memorizing multiplication tables.  At the beginning of the year Owen struggled to stay focused and motivated. We spoke to his teacher who informed us that he was having the same problems at school.  We also spoke to Owen's mother about his KidSmart attendance—which was dwindling—and informed her that if his attendance didn't improve we'd have to drop him from the program. After all, how could we help Owen if he didn’t attend, especially when there were other kids on a waiting list who needed help too?

After that check-in Owen's attendance improved, but he still did not want to do homework, read or practice math facts.  He actually fell asleep a couple of times while reading.  Again, we contacted Owen's parents. This time we talked about the importance of getting him to bed early.  Since then, he hasn't fallen asleep!  Around the same time, we also checked in with Owen’s teacher.  The teacher decided to set daily goals for Owen and asked that we check in with him too.  This partnership between us and his teacher helps keep Owen accountable, and ultimately it helps him be a successful student.      

Since February Owen's attitude has improved and he's doing much better.  He is much more focused and motivated, and he has a desire to learn.  When he encounters a new concept, Owen asks questions until he understands what is being taught.  His teacher said that he has moved up a few levels in reading and agrees that he is much more focused. During KidSmart, Owen reads every day for 30 minutes (without falling asleep!) and answers questions based on what he read. His reading comprehension has improved and he actually enjoys reading especially with his tutors.  His math skills are improving too.  He practices his multiplication facts daily and is currently working on his 8's.  At the rate he's going he should know his facts up to 12 by the end of the school year. 

Owen is enthusiastic about learning and is proud to share his scores on tests and grades with his KidSmart classroom intern and the KidSmart manager.  Most recently, Owen was excited to tell us he received a school award for "Most Effort."  We’re so proud of Owen!

 

Photo by Dwayne Johnson Photography

Photo by Dwayne Johnson Photography

Danny

Danny* is a 6th grader.  His biggest issues at the beginning of the year were attitude and organization.  He just didn't want to be at KidSmart, and on top of that, he didn't think he needed the help.  He was unorganized, forgetting to complete and turn in assignments, and generally had a negative attitude toward school and learning.  Sometimes he outright refused to do his homework. 

Now, his attitude is much better and he gets his homework done without too much complaint. (Do 6th grade boys ever do much of anything without complaining!?!).  He seems genuinely pleased when he completes his homework and gets it correct.  Danny's grades have improved and he brings in his test scores and shows them off with pride. 

There are several things that helped create this attitude shift.  By mid-year he was doing poorly in all his classes.  He and his parents were called in to a meeting with the school counselor.  For a short time he attended the school study hall, but said that they really didn't help him with his homework.  He did not want to attend study hall.  So, the KidSmart Manager and the Director of Ministries met with Danny.  They told him if his attitude didn't improve he would have to attend his school study hall instead of KidSmart.  During Danny’s renewed attempt at KidSmart, his tutors also became more familiar with him, learning how to help him—when to challenge him and when to back off.  Maybe the most important thing is that this process was surrounded by a healthy dose of prayer.

Most of Danny's teachers give him a list of assignments for the week.  His tutors help him plan out his studies and complete his assignments, as well as study for upcoming tests.  He usually completes most of his homework.  It was so rewarding to see this turn around in Danny’s life.

KidSmart student successes are due to the consistent encouragement of our dedicated team of interns and volunteers.  The learning experience for each student is enhanced by maintaining an ongoing dialogue with each student's teacher and parent(s).

*Name changed.    

A Farewell Letter from Pastor Bennett

Dear BCM Family,

Over the past few years, we have enjoyed a fruitful season at BCM serving hundreds of children and youth from our community. It has been a pleasure to work alongside many dedicated and faithful colleagues. I would like to take this opportunity to share about an important transition for one of those colleagues. Pastor Bennett, our Director of Ministries, will be leaving BCM at the end of the school year to focus on a new ministerial direction. Below, you will find a letter in which he shares his vision for this future work as he continues to build God’s Kingdom in the East Bay.

Join us in celebrating his leadership and contributions to our work at a Farewell BBQ on May 21st. The event will be at BCM from 5pm to 7pm; dinner will be provided.  

Please lift BCM in your prayers as we interview candidates for this position and as God prepares our ministry for a new, creative and productive season!

Blessings,

Rolando Zeledon
Executive Director

 

A Letter from Pastor Bennett

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30: 7-9

To my BCM Family,

It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with and alongside you all for the past five and a half years. I truly believe that we have impacted the lives of many students and families together as we served this community for God’s Kingdom. Over the past two years I have been sensing and feeling a shift in my ministerial calling toward the adult community. I have served at-risk youth and young adults for the past twenty five years, and through my service I could not help but notice the lack of programs that cater to the whole family. I realized in order to reunite and strengthen broken families, the parent community must be aided through exposure to the Gospel as well as professional opportunities.

In my past thirty years of ministry I have noticed an alarming amount of men and women struggling to get re-established in society because of mistakes made in their past. While serving those in low-income, urban communities, I have learned that poverty and a lack of resources contributes to the bad choices some adults make. Namely drug use, drug sales and criminal acts are primary temptations. Proverbs 30:7-9 has truly opened my eyes to the course that nature will take if divine intervention does not steer us away from evil and lead us into righteousness. When we* first began this journey of urban ministry the great earthly proverb was fervently planted in me: “If you give a man a fish he can only eat for the day, but if you teach a man how to fish he can eat for a lifetime.”

Well the honorable Dr. Perkins, who established the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), visited East Palo Alto and shared that every man cannot fish in the same pond. He encouraged many urban workers to strive to become “Pond Owners” so that we could make a greater impact within the urban communities we serve. With that said, the time has come for me to become a “Pond Owner” so that while I am fervently preaching the Gospel I can also provide more employment opportunities for adults whose lives have been drastically affected by poverty and a lack of resources. Please pray for us as we launch JPS Café—Just Potato Salad Café—and much, much more. We will also continue work on our CRADIL Program. Our goal is to establish a chain of JPS Café’s across many urban communities as well as the CRADIL Program after our first year. We endeavor to hire 100 men besides women and teenagers in the next 5 years. As always our thoughts, prayers, and support will forever continue with Bayshore Christian Ministries.

Blessings,

Pastor Bennett

Editor's Note: At times, Pastor Bennett uses the words “we,” "us" and “our” to refer to he and God—seeing his ministry as co-work with God. 

 

Thank you, Pastor Bennett, for your many years of service to our community!

A Parent's Perspective

A reflection by Angela Luke.

Over the last few years, Bayshore Christian Ministries (BCM),  has been much like a family to my twin daughters Nia and Jordyn, and it truly has been a blessing. From attending KidSmart, an after-school program, four days a week, my daughters have improved academically, especially in math. BCM has thoughtful, caring tutors to help assist them with their homework.

During another program, StreetWorkz, they have learned to be more outspoken and independent young people. My family and I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, and I am thankful my daughters have had the opportunity to be a part of the BCM family and community. 

Rays_of_Hope.jpg
My family and I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, and I am thankful my daughters have had the opportunity to be a part of the BCM family and community.

The skills they have learned have definitely made an enormous impact on my daughters' lives. I remember the year 2012 when they attended the summer program, SAIL, and how excited they were. At the end of the summer program they had a celebration like a banquet. All the kids showed their talents. They sang songs they learned, performed step routines, and shared spoken word poetry. My daughters faces were filled with joy over what they had accomplished. And, at that moment I noticed how important BCM is to the children on the East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park community. 

I want to personally say thank you for all you do. I am truly grateful. 

Let's Get Uncomfortable

A blog by Stefie Dominguez, EPA Fellow

In this day and age, being an EPA Fellow for two years in a row seems like a crazy idea. Societal norms usually dictate that I should be squirreling away money or climbing up some corporate ladder while I’m still in my 20’s. Apparently choosing to spend my first two years out of college working at a place like Bayshore Christian Ministries with the kids we serve is an anomaly. It’s not something that leads to a life of comfort. I didn’t know that when I signed up, but I know that now. The number one thing I have learned while living in East Palo Alto and serving as an EPA Fellow, is that fear and stigma have paralyzed some of us Christians from actually making a difference in the world. It is easy to love justice and compassion—until there’s a personal cost.

Stefie joins another staff member's children outside of BCM as together they celebrate BCM programs coming to a close.

Stefie joins another staff member's children outside of BCM as together they celebrate BCM programs coming to a close.

"It is easy to love justice and compassion--until there's a personal cost."

The streets of East Palo Alto (EPA) were once known for violence, the memory of which can keep many people away. Through the EPA Fellows program, I have intentionally stepped out of my comfort zone to live and work in EPA. Here, my eyes have been opened to many systemic injustices. I’ve learned about how badly broken our education system is. I’ve learned about immigration policies that directly affect the families I interact with. And, I’ve learned about the issue of mass incarceration—a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away in America. These injustices are an astonishingly real part of daily life for our residents. Even so, confronting these topics is not always comfortable. But, where in Scripture does God call us to live in comfort? If we claim to be Jesus followers, then we need to look at how He lived His life and follow what He was about. When I look at stories of Jesus in Scripture, I see someone who spent his young adult years radically reaching out to, and walking alongside, people who were different than Him. I see someone who stood up and advocated for the marginalized. I see a social anomaly.

"When I look at stories of Jesus in Scripture, I see someone who spent his young adult years radically reaching out to, and walking alongside, people who were different than Him. "

Stefie, filling the role of Camp Director, stands alongside two interns from the Tech & Arts Camp during summer 2014.

Stefie, filling the role of Camp Director, stands alongside two interns from the Tech & Arts Camp during summer 2014.

In spite of fear and stigma that we may face as we enter into communities so affected by injustice, Jesus calls us to a life of service. He is our Protector after all!

Reflecting back on these past two years as an EPA Fellow, I realize that my life goals have changed from what they once were. I learned how to live with my eyes more open. I now recognize the value of confronting the wrong in our nation, and doing something about it. Comfortable Christianity seems to be an epidemic spreading through some American churches, and it is my (new) goal in life to never be infected by it. Will you join me in this mission, even if we have to get a little uncomfortable?

Editors Note: We are proud to announce Stefie's time in East Palo Alto with Bayshore Christian Ministries is not over. She will return this fall in the staff position of Middle School Program Manager.

Tutoring to Give Hope and a Future

A blog by Margaret Kazibwe, EPA Fellow.

The mission of BCM is to equip East-of-Bayshore youth to grow spiritually, gain life skills and develop as leaders so they have hope and a future.

When I read that, I think about my role as the StreetWorkz Coordinator and ask myself, “Margaret, are you doing this well?” This mission, which fits into one short sentence, comes with a lot of responsibility. 

Youth gather while on retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Youth gather while on retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

As I reflect on my students over this past year, I see their most evident need is to develop as leaders so they have a hope and a future. The word hope continuously grabs my attention. Some synonyms for the word hope are aspiration, desire, aim, goal and plan.

I want my students to be motivated to become more than they believe they can be and to make big plans for their futures. I want to help them realize they have potential beyond what they have been told and beyond what they have seen in themselves so far.

This fall, BCM implemented an academic tutoring program for the middle school students we serve in StreetWorkz. We realized the lesson of our founders—that academic help is just as important. In much of Jesus’s ministry we not only see spiritual healing, but physical healing as well. In Matthew 9 Jesus heals a paralyzed man and also tells him to go because his sins have been forgiven. His ministry was holistic not just focusing on the spiritual aspect of forgiving sins, but also the physical aspect of healing the body. So because BCM is a holistic ministry, we want to enhance them spiritually as well as academically. We care for the person as a whole; mind, body and soul. For many different reasons, some of our students are struggling academically. Because of this struggle they tend not to care about school all together.

What they do not realize is education is important because it gives us knowledge of the world around us. It helps us develop opinions and a worldview. Education helps us better interpret information as we apply it to our daily lives. In a spiritual context, education helps us understand the context of scripture and how to apply it to everyday life. This is what makes the educational disparity in our community so saddening. Did you know only 24 percent of high school students of color in the Silicon Valley graduate ready for college? This is according to a report by Aspire Public Schools. In East Palo Alto, the high school dropout rate is estimated to be over 60 percent. And, the Ravenswood City School District scored 712 on the Academic Performance Index, which falls short of the 800 statewide target. That is why adding the academic tutoring component to our middle school programming is important. We want to give youth more opportunities to grow, to be challenged and to be encouraged as they gain knowledge. Since adding the academic tutoring component to our program we have begun to see hope unfold and growth occur.

 We have only provided tutoring for a few months, but I already see a difference—especially in attitude—in some of the students who come to the program.

Sydney shares words of wisdom to a youth while she completes her art homework.

Sydney shares words of wisdom to a youth while she completes her art homework.

One day recently, I was helping one of our students with her math homework. She came in last week and told me she did well on the assignment. I told her afterward how proud I was of her and gave her a high five for getting all the problems correct. As she received my praise, her face lit up. She excitedly told me since school started back from Christmas break, her grades have gone up. I am overjoyed to see her understand something or have a huge smile on her face because I believe in her.

I want the students of StreetWorkz to leave from the tutoring and program nights feeling like they can do whatever they set their mind to. I want them to know that someone has confidence in them, even while they are still facing challenges.

BCM’s mission comes with a huge responsibility, but I believe through StreetWorkz we are making progress as we little-by-little develop leaders so they have hope and a future.

Pray Without Ceasing

Dear BCM Friends and Family,

I trust your new year has been off to a great start and that the Lenten season finds you seeking stillness in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Bayshore Christian Ministries (BCM) is extremely grateful to have your continual and intentional prayers and financial gifts. Your unwavering support has not gone unnoticed, and on behalf of the entire BCM team, I would like to simply say, thank you.

EPA Fellow Briana, works with a youth to prepare the StreetWorkz fellowship meal.

EPA Fellow Briana, works with a youth to prepare the StreetWorkz fellowship meal.

Before delving into the impact BCM has made in the lives of youth in East Palo Alto (EPA) and eastern Menlo Park, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Sydney, and I am an EPA Fellow. I began working with BCM this past fall after graduating from college. The Lord led me here to do ministry. EPA, in some ways, reminds me of my hometown—in terms of the issues that plague the community as well as the felt needs. As a Fellow, I work alongside another woman named Margaret. Together we support middle school youth through spiritual development, mentorship, leadership training, and life skills coaching.

Recently we discovered many of our students need not just the weekly youth group we provide, but also academic assistance. So, we launched an evening of dinner and tutoring for the ones which need this kind of support most. We spend a lot of one-on-one time with our youth outside of program hours too, in order to establish deeper and more meaningful relationships. We intend to be positive influences in the lives of these youth as they continue to face the harsh realities of peer pressure, bullying, gangs and violence—just to name a few things. We realize in some instances we may be the closest examples these youth have to what it means to live out the Gospel, and we dutifully accept that responsibility. We continue to be intentional in their lives to ensure their optimal, holistic growth.

"Sometimes we are surprised by how many challenges the youth are up against. The simple luxuries and even basic necessities we take for granted can be absent from the lives of many of our youth."

Margaret and a youth pause as they get ready to go on retreat.

Margaret and a youth pause as they get ready to go on retreat.

Sometimes we are surprised by how many challenges the youth are up against. The simple luxuries, and even basic necessities, we take for granted can be absent from the lives of many of our youth. Some of them do not have hot water in their homes, or access to clean clothing, or sufficient food, even. It is not too far fetched to assume that the meals provided during program hours are the first hot meals our students eat that day.

Between our regular program night which offers fellowship and a meal, and the extra night which provides tutoring, we meet some of the felt needs of the youth. In addition we also have one-on-one meetings that offer youth mentorship and guidance during difficult days. In an effort to provide balance to the work we do, we also take youth on outings. We have gone to the skating rink, to a basketball game, and to a restaurant for a meal. This kind of exposure is crucial, as many of our students do not often leave the boundaries of East Palo Alto. Knowing what is beyond these city walls can open up endless possibilities for their future, even as problems at home feel overwhelming.

Last fall, Maria,* one of our students was tormented by the possible divorce of her parents, which ultimately led to episodes of depression and self-mutilation. After speaking with the academic dean at her school, it was no surprise for us to find she had been failing or barely passing every one of her classes. After learning that, another Fellow who knew Maria well began spending more one-on-one time with her outside of program, taking a special interest in her life. While we all have taken it upon ourselves to be intentional about forming relationships with students outside program hours, this tough season in the life of one child made the relational aspect of what we do much more critical. Though not all stories lead to a happy ending, this one did. By God’s unwavering grace Maria’s parents worked out their differences. As a result, she stopped self-mutilating. Praise God!

"During program, we laugh and play, learn about Jesus, and focus our attention mainly on being present. So sometimes it escapes us that those same jovial spirits are also subject to much anguish, pain and suffering."

This youth meets with Sydney as she completes art homework.

This youth meets with Sydney as she completes art homework.

It is easy at times to forget what our youth struggle with in their home lives. During program, we laugh and play, learn about Jesus, and focus our attention mainly on being present. So sometimes it escapes us that those same jovial spirits are also subject to much anguish, pain and suffering. Aside from funding, our deepest need is prayer. At BCM, we are firm believers that prayer changes things, and we have all been witnesses to His mercy.

On behalf of BCM, I would like to ask that you pray for our StreetWorkz youth. Pray for our new academic program and those who struggle to understand their homework. Pray for our youth (and their peers at school) who do not have basic needs met. Also, please pray for our youth who are experiencing troubles in their home lives as well as for those who do not have a healthy outlet for their stress. Pray that God continues to work through us as vessels and servant leaders. Pray for strength, confidence to lead, and direction by the Holy Spirit as we stand as examples of Christ’s love to youth as well as other members of our community.

As you continue on this journey with us and our students, please pray without ceasing. Keep us in your hearts and minds as we minister to the children of East Palo Alto.

With heartfelt thanks,

Sydney Brown
EPA Fellow

*Name changed.

Seasons Change

A reflection by Tammy Slaughter.

Season: 1. one of the four periods of the year (spring, summer, autumn and winter). 2. a period of the year when something is best or available  Dictionary.com

Change: 1. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone  Dictionary.com

We all have seasons in our lives, and depending on where we are and our perspective, we will determine whether each season requires some kind of change.

A student takes a break between homework and singing at Bible Club on the West Side.

A student takes a break between homework and singing at Bible Club on the West Side.

Julian* has been attending Bible Club Plus** off and on for about three years now. He loves to fellowship and have dinner with us, but it is difficult to establish a relationship with him. Additionally, he doesn't seem to fully understand the parameters and disciplines that come with attending Bible Club Plus. For example, he doesn't often have homework, so he wants to socialize throughout group, disrupting other students. Whether speaking loudly and out of turn, or hitting the boys and teasing the girls, Julian can be pretty disruptive.

Juanita* on the other hand is pretty quiet. She likes to hide away in the midst of the students. One day, 6 year-old Juanita was asked to share one thing she likes about herself. She said her [plaited] hair. The boys laughed. She shut down.

Another student Abigail*, needs a place where she can be free to sing and express her feelings. She’s 10 yrs old but at this age is already whispering to me about women, marriage and raising a family.

Each of these students is lively and vibrant and need to be able to express themselves without the fear of being ridiculed. They need separate clubs—one for boys and one for girls. Two clubs, one night. With the assistance of a new Bible Club leader this year, we've been able to provide a venue where the boys are able to be boys and the girls are able to be girls.

Julian has been joining groups a bit more often. One day he worked so quietly within the group, I could not stop affirming him. He was so happy, he reminded me on a number of occasions to share the news with Steve—the club leader—who would arrive a bit later. Across the street, eight girls including Juanita and Abigail would freely dance and sing to praise and worship music. Later, they’d write in their journals about how they believe God sees them. Their views are different and interesting.

A young boy receives homework help from volunteer, Jordan, during bible club plus.

A young boy receives homework help from volunteer, Jordan, during bible club plus.

There are many areas where we desire to grow and change. And the changes, although challenging to some degree, have been great! I can see where Pastor Les, Steve, Stefie, the kids and I are being challenged and stretched.

We hope this process will help us to understand these youth better, and aid in developing curriculum that more closely relates to them.

Would you please pray for us during this season of change?

* Students names have been changed 

**Bible Club Plus is tailored to meet both the spiritual and physical (or felt) needs of students in 1st-5th grade. We hope to build positive character traits based on Biblical principals while introducing students to the gospel of Christ. We also provide a healthy and nutritious meal and snacks and seek ways to increase family involvement. Additionally, students meet twice a week to receive homework support. 

Volunteers Make BCM Programs Go!

All of BCM's school year programs are back in full swing this new year! We have lots of great kids involved, but are short on volunteers. Have you ever thought about volunteering? Here's where we need the help:

StreetWorkz is our middle school spiritual program. We have about 24 kids coming every Thursday evening for dinner, games, and a Bible lesson. Our 2 leaders, the EPA Fellows Margaret and Sydney, need help with dinner prep, as well as the facilitation of games and lessons.

Photo by Federica Armstrong

Photo by Federica Armstrong

KidSmart is our after school academic program for elementary school students. We need volunteers to provide homework help, do skill-building work, or read one-on-one with the students on Monday-Thursday afternoons.

Our group of about 45 students are split into 5 classrooms that are each supervised by interns. These wonderful and hardworking interns need the support of volunteers in order to help each child in their class. 

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Photo by Alex Vakulin

We have lots of sweet and silly students in KidSmart that need the homework help and attention of caring adults to help them thrive as they navigate elementary school and the beginning of middle school.

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Would you like to visit and try it out? Email volunteer@bayshore.org or call(650) 327-9941 to get in contact with Holly Meyer, the Coordinator of Volunteers.

Have you met Christian?

Does Siri function as your personal assistant? Did you know BCM doesn’t use Siri? We have someone better, and his name is Christian. Christian, our front desk receptionist, came to BCM nine months ago and greets our students, parents and visitors everyday with a warm, gentle smile. Since starting, he has gone above and beyond the expectations of his job; he answers requests of program staff to fulfill small and large tasks, works as an adjunct program manager for the Lego robotics team, and is often the last staff member to leave the building, ensuring the safety of the students and staff. Needless to say, Christian has become an invaluable asset to the team. 

Christian is motivated by the diversity and experience of the staff, interns and volunteers here at BCM. Having an interest in child advocacy and education, he sees BCM as a passage toward his future career in teaching. According to Christian, BCM is a place where he can converse with people from all walks of life: "I can talk with Ms. Diana who has experience in accounting. I can knock on Rolando’s door; he is a Stanford Alumni. I can kick it with the EPA Fellows who are my own age. I have access to a wealth of knowledge."

 Having moved to East Palo Alto in 2010, leaving his parents to live with his sister as he finished high school, Christian longs to be reunited with his parents and prays that the strains of life aren't too heavy for his family to bear. In the future, Christian dreams of giving back to the students in East Palo Alto, the city that renewed his hope and inspired his goals.

Join us as we pray for Christian, thanking God for his commitment to BCM, and lifting up his family while he is away from them.

 

I can talk with Ms. Diana who has experience in accounting. I can knock on Rolando’s door; he is a Stanford Alumni. I can kick it with the EPA Fellows who are my own age. I have access to a wealth of knowledge.
— Christian

A Triumph After All

An interview by Briana Carter

 I sat down with staff members and volunteers of KidSmart, our after-school tutoring program, to discuss their journey, the growth of KidSmart, and the unspoken truths about working with urban students.

 What is your role in KidSmart?

Diana: As the manager of KidSmart I create an open relationship with teachers. And, you could say I’m the “middle man,” like the liaison between teachers and parents.

Ed: I’m a ‘room leader.’ I tutor 3rd and 4th grade students.

Waniya: I’m a tutor that helps with every subject, but specifically I tutor twelve 3rd -5th graders in math facts, reading, writing and spelling.

Ada: I help in Waniya’s classroom; I do homework help and one-on-one reading with 3rd-5th graders.


 When you first started interning with KidSmart, what made you nervous?

Ed: I don’t have children of my own so I was nervous about discipline. I wasn’t sure what I should or should not say. I think not knowing how I would respond to the students’ behaviors was huge in the beginning. Funny, it sometimes still is, but I have Diana - she’s a huge help!

Ada: I would agree; the student’s behavior.

Waniya: For me I did not know if I would know the answers to their homework questions. I have definitely had some difficult questions that caused me to learn the subject again and then explain it to them.


  Working with students you learn a lot. What did you not know year 1 that you know now?

Diana: I didn’t realize how advanced the education system/curriculum was. I guess I hadn’t been paying attention once my children were finished with their schooling. I seriously learn so much from the students.

 Ada: It didn’t initially register with me that any student, no matter race or socio-economic background, when receiving one-on-one attention, will thrive. I’ve seen that be true time and time again at BCM.

 Ed: I didn’t think about family background and family structure dynamics and what implications this would have on a students ability to learn, behave, and interact among their peers.

Waniya: Now that I’m three years in the game I know how to deal with difficult students -- and when I say difficult, I mean a student that doesn’t want to receive help. I have a tough shell now-- I’ve learned how not to take offense.


Photo by Federica Armstrong 

Photo by Federica Armstrong 

 Since KidSmart has on average 40-50 students each year, it is safe to say you deal with a variety of students each year. I presume you’ve had a wide range of success as well. But have you had any failures?

Diana: Unfortunately, yes. But I’ve realized that I can’t save all my students. Some of my students have outside barriers that are beyond my limit of control. I also have limited expertise, and I’ve learned to be okay with that.

Waniya: Yeah, last year I wanted a student to know their multiplication table 1-12 by heart. I worked super hard with the student, but the student was indifferent about knowing them fluently. As the year came to a close, I realized I was not going to reach my goal, but I was still happy that the student knew 1-4 by heart. I guess you lose some and win some.

Ada: I had a student who I just couldn’t get through to. It appeared the ability was there, but role models outside of KidSmart were a bad influence. The student didn’t even complete KidSmart, which was a bummer.

Ed: I can’t really think of any right now.

Photo by Federica armstrong 

Photo by Federica armstrong 


 Now that you’ve been working with BCM for a few years, what has changed?

Ada: A lot! Diana has done an incredible job of streamlining the program. The necessary resources and supplies are readily available. And Diana has brought order and consistency in understanding the reading scores and levels of each student.


 So would it be safe to say, as the years go by the job gets easier?

Waniya: It does most definitely.  You start to see repeating situations, so you just know how to handle it. I think learning how students will react is a big advantage that definitely makes the job easier, especially those students who continue to come year after year. Developing relationships with students makes the job a lot easier.

 Ed: One-on-one is a lot easier now, but having to juggle nine kids is definitely a challenge.

 Ada: Yes, especially when kids return because you build an understanding with them.

Diana: It’s not easy and your heart has to definitely be in it. I would say its easier being as I now know what I’m doing.


 After the interview, I took a moment to reflect on the impact these four individuals have had on their students. These are ordinary people like you and I who want to see students receive a preeminent education. Each year we get new volunteers, but I’m always amazed by the volunteers that come back year after year. It’s so refreshing to hear them say things like, “I look forward to coming back each year.” Volunteer and staff  have celebrated times of success and persevered through times of failure, making KidSmart an epicenter of educational growth and learning. Our children deserve the best education possible and I am so proud to be a part of an organization whose vision is to see our youth graduate from school and emerge as leaders in their community.


    From left to right: Diana, Waniya, Ada, Ed                                                  



 

       

                    

 

                                  

 

   

 

 

 

 

 


The Legacy Lives On

During the summer of 1984, 13 college graduates followed the vision of Amos 5:24, "but let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never failing stream," and moved into the marginalized community of East Palo Alto. For these young adults, the pursuit of justice meant serving and living among African American & Latino students in order to address the felt needs of this unique community.  Now, 30 years later recent college graduates from around the country are following the same vision. 

For Stefie, now a second-year fellow, the satisfaction of seeing Sabrina learn about God's forgiveness in a practical lesson during the middle school retreat brought the words of Amos 5:24 to life.  The commitment to bring revival to the city of East Palo Alto in a holistic manner spurred now second-year fellow, Briana, to pour into the community. She has advocated for solutions to eliminate the overwhelming number of men and women re-entering the prison system as well as lobbied for affordable housing policies for East Palo Alto residents on the West Side. 

Both Stefie and Briana's motivation behind the work they do is rooted in a belief that Christ is the hope that sustains; the same belief that propelled the founders to move into East Palo Alto.  While the 13 founders have transitioned from their previous roles, their dream is still living on through the lives of EPA Fellows. 

The founders had it right. I think building genuine relationships with the residents of EPA is key to doing urban ministry well, which is why I love that I live in the same city that I serve.
— Stefie Dominguez

----

P.S. Stay tuned to receive an update on our 2014-15 Cohort of Fellows. We added three more this year!

Throwing her hands up,Stefie celebrates with a Streetworkz student after winning a game of Princess Night Rider during a Thursday night meeting 

Throwing her hands up,Stefie celebrates with a Streetworkz student after winning a game of Princess Night Rider during a Thursday night meeting 

Dancing to the tune of her own beat, Briana celebrates with a Streetworkz student during a Thursday night dance party. 

Dancing to the tune of her own beat, Briana celebrates with a Streetworkz student during a Thursday night dance party. 

So Long, Sweet Summer

Summer has come and gone.  At BCM, our summer was full of new adventures and lots of celebrations!

David & Goliath: a skit put on by VBS youth this summer.

David & Goliath: a skit put on by VBS youth this summer.

New programs this summer were challenging to plan, but ended up being quite a success.  VBS which had the theme, Heroes of the Bible, kept elementary students enthralled and longing to learn more about the characters.  One student said, "Learning about the Bible," was his favorite thing about VBS this summer, while another student told us they applied the character trait of obedience learned this summer by "lisenting [sic] to our parents and earning time to play." 


Afternoons were teeming with 3rd-8th graders who couldn't wait to get their hands on the Legorobots which they built from scratch.  Some afternoons, too, were spent with fingers diligently typing on keyboards, and pressing the mouse, as they designed their own video games.  To complement all this use of the left brain, students spent the other half of their afternoons in an arts and crafts class, where they learned graphic design principles, colored self-portraits, and created trees from tissue paper.

 
 

BCM sourced local staff to run the summer programs.  Two of these young leaders were also alumni of our programs.  Sammetra Daniels returned this summer from Brooklyn, New York where she works with at risk youth, to be our Summer Bible Club Outreach Assistant.  And, Jazmin Perez, a sophomore at Ohio University, was our Creative Arts Director.  We're so thankful for their support, and so proud of all they have accomplished so far! 

And, how dare we talk about summer without celebrating the provision of God.  All of our summer lunches were sponsored or provided by donations from local friends, and friends as far away as Michigan and North Carolina.  For their support, and the support of Don Polk who campaigned for the gifts, we are so grateful.

 

How was your summer?  Did you slay any giants of your own, build something new or find a place to serve others?  Drop us a line in the comments.

"A Summer Banger"

Photo by Steve Joh

Photo by Steve Joh

On a warm Saturday afternoon students and their families gathered on BCM's campus to celebrate another successful school year of programs. Everyone enjoyed a number of arts and crafts activities along with live entertainment from three local hip hop artists. We even had a dunk tank with none other than Pastor Bennett--our Director of Ministries--perched precariously above the water. Students from the Teens 'N' Tech program contributed to the celebration by offering a robot demonstration. And, awards were given to Bible Club students with perfect attendance.

Photo by Steve Joh

Photo by Steve Joh

  We're so grateful to our partner, Highway Community Church, for the support they provided in making this event possible!

A 30th Anniversary Celebration


Standing on her former street corner, Sammetra recalls the second chance she received because of BCM.  Hear her story here .

Standing on her former street corner, Sammetra recalls the second chance she received because of BCM. Hear her story here.


Hear Rosie share how through BCM she opened her heart more to Christ and discovered a new passion for technology.  Click Here .

Hear Rosie share how through BCM she opened her heart more to Christ and discovered a new passion for technology. Click Here.

 

On May 4th, we held a fundraising banquet. For the first time, we were able to host it in East Palo Alto at the Four Seasons. Seven of the original founders joined us, along with several alumni. A few current students and their parents joined as well, dining with guests and sharing their stories over dinner. 

Our two guest speakers, Sammetra (pictured top left), an alumna who serves youth in New York City, and Rosie (bottom left), a current student who developed an App through the Technovation Challenge, shared about the impact BCM has made on their lives. 

Seven BCM founders gathered during the banquet.

Seven BCM founders gathered during the banquet.