2017 Hope and Grace Fund Grant Recipient: Mission Graduates

May 2, 2017

It’s May, which means it’s time to introduce you to this year’s Hope & Grace Initiative Grant Recipients! This illustrative list of community leaders and initiatives are making great strides in the field of mental health, shining a light and improving lives every single day. We’re proud to assist them in their goals, and to that end are proud to announce that this round of grant recipients brings us to over 3 million dollars granted in just three short years. It’s our honor to help these initiatives pave the way to a brighter future for mental health.

We’d like to introduce you to our grant recipients, starting with today’s feature on Mission Graduates, a program born and based in the historic Mission District of San Francisco, CA. Eddie Kaufman and Ryan Helton, the Director and Development Director of the program, respectively, took some time to tell everyone a bit more about this amazing program:


“Mission Graduates started in the early 1970’s out of a church congregation. The original focus was to support young people and families in the Mission District, and over the next three decades, they wanted to focus on one specific thing to level the playing field for Latin youth and their families: higher education. The central idea of our cause was, and is, simple: if you can get a college degree, within a generation you can change your family’s socioeconomic dynamics and prepare them for the future. Since that turning point, all our programming has focused on higher education. We have a pipeline of services from Kindergarten all the way through college that supports and assist young people in getting prepared for, getting into, and graduating from college.

We’re proud to report a rather wide impact: between all our programs, we serve about 3,000 young people and parents. Our overall program is called the Parent Partner Program, and the focus is to help parents become educational partners in their child’s education. We do that by helping parents develop the same college-going expectations and desires as their kids so families can talk about the importance of going to college at home. We also educate parents on a host of educational issues that help them become active partners in their child’s education: we provide ESL classes, math skills training, literacy workshops, training around reading levels, information around reclassification for English language learners, and other tools to create active parental participation. Finally, we train parents to become leaders in their school communities. Recognizing our parents are working in schools where there are specific needs for English language learners, we support our parents as leaders in those school communities. We have a cadre of 50 parent leaders across 14 different school sites here in San Francisco, all of whom are advocates and decision-makers that support English language learners, ensuring students that are building their English skills get all the support and services they need.

We’ve had quite a few wins this year. We’ve increased to 14 schools this year, up from eight last year, and we’re now serving over 1,100 low-income Latinx parents, primarily mothers.

In the fall semester, we served 809 parents, which is a 35% increase from the entire previous school year.  Our Latina Tech Mentor Program started with six parents two years ago, and it’s now serving 42 mothers on their path to technological success.

The funding hope & grace is providing via their grant present an incredible opportunity for us to focus on our parent leaders through our Latina Parent Leader Mental Health Support program. For us, just working with young people around going to college just isn’t enough; we know it’s incredibly important to involve the parents and get the whole family on the same page. We started noticing that once our parent leaders started to hone their skills and get more involved, their sense of efficacy, self-confidence, and wellness started to shift. We’ve come to realize that through active engagement and involvement these women have a more positive mental health outcome. Part of this funding will be dedicated to building out the wellness component of our work. We want to perform wellness and overall outcomes assessments for all our parent leaders. We also plan to build content that supports their needs around wellness, specifically emotional wellbeing, and provide the tools to help them communicate that message in the schools where they work.

Our model is parent-to-parent education. We’ve seen that individuals outside the community aren’t necessarily that effective, so we know peer-to-peer education is the most effective program for our families. By building up our parent leaders, we place strong evangelists for a pro-education message within the schools who can help other parents. By building this wellness component into their training, our parent leaders not only have a better understanding of their own wellness and emotional wellness, but they’re then able to communicate that message out to other parents within the school. We’re extremely excited!

We’re very happy to start this wellbeing support work, particularly since this year has been incredibly difficult for Latinx and immigrant parents. Despite all the misconceptions of the community and the harsh view of immigration in the media, our parents have shown self-determination, self-reliance, resilience in the face of a scary environment, and they’re continuing to push for change. They’re staying focused on what’s important, which is ensuring their children have every opportunity to succeed. Although we started this program as an opportunity to develop parent allies in their children’s education, we’re realizing our Parent-to-Parent program develops a pathway to self-sufficiency for our parent leaders. Through their work with us, our leaders develop skills that help them get paid and obtain positions that help bring up the economic stability of the entire family.

One of our new parent leaders has been so inspired by the conversations within our Parent Leadership Team about creating a college-going culture at home (which speaks with children their hopes for the future and how college can help to achieve them) that she decided to enroll in community college herself. She signed up for two different child development courses, inspired to serve as a positive example for her daughter. When she got her first report card a few weeks ago, she was delighted to share her A and B grades with her daughter. She is now committed to receiving her degree in Early Childhood Education and continuing her professional development,  a possibility she had not considered before starting work with Mission Graduates last year.

We can’t say enough about what happens to children when they see their parents actively involved in their education, fighting for what they believe in. The next generation of Latinos and Latinas get to see their moms actively involved in their school life. They view their moms as leaders and educators for other parents, as people who are creating community change, activists who stand up for the rights in which they believe. It gives our Latin children an opportunity to see their parents as the leaders they truly are. That feeling goes both ways. Because of our program, our parents feel more empowered, more able to take on the issues of supporting their child’s education, and feel confident they have the tools to help their child succeed in school.

We welcome you to find out more about us and help support us in our goals. You can go to our website, or find us in the schools we support around San Francisco. We’re continuing to grow and expand, searching for more schools where we can continue to change lives through a focus on higher education.”