Community - December 15, 2010

Holiday Fund: Taking on the school-dropout problem

Submitted by Peter Fortenbaugh, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula.

Arnoldo Verduzco and Guillermina Mendez were worried that their limited English didn't permit them to provide their two youngest children — 9-year-old Arnoldo Jr. and 14-year-old Alejandro — with the homework assistance they needed to be successful in school.

So, five years ago, they enrolled both of them in the after-school enrichment program run by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (BGCP) at Belle Haven Community School in Menlo Park.

Both boys had low grades when they joined the program but that began to change during the first year. Son Alejandro was even chosen as Scholar of the Year at Belle Haven two years ago and learned valuable skills that have helped him succeed in an academically challenging high school. Alejandro and his parents got help with admission and financial-aid applications and that help, together with Alejandro's dedication and commitment, resulted in his admission last year to St. Francis High School in Mountain View.

The Verduzco's experience is not an isolated example. BGCP welcomes all youth, ages 6 to 18, from three of the most underserved communities in the Bay Area (East Palo Alto, eastern Menlo Park, and the North Fair Oaks section of Redwood City), where over half of the youth do not graduate from high school and more than 80 percent score below proficient in math and reading.

The organization serves about 1,000 youth daily at three full-service clubhouses and eight school sites — four elementary and middle schools and four high schools.

BGCP's vision is a community where all youth graduate from high school with a plan for post-secondary education or training — an environment where it is cool to learn.

Bringing about real change requires collaboration. No one organization can meet the needs of these at-risk youth alone. The Club partners with schools, school districts, families, cities, and other community-based organizations to create a community of learners who expect to succeed academically and in life.

Together with these other community players, BGCP is implementing proven practices to double high school graduation rates.

To respond to the challenges faced by youth in our underserved communities, BGCP provides safe places where kids can belong, feel respected and respect others. The caring staff and over 500 volunteers challenge members to meet high expectations and help them make good choices.

Members benefits from tutoring and small group enrichment in reading, math and science, athletics, life skills and social education, exciting programs in visual/digital arts and performing, as well as leadership and community service activities.

BGCP's College Bound program gets kids ready to succeed in high school and provides intensive staff involvement to keep students on track to graduate. Parents join for fun family nights and can also enroll in ESL and parent education classes.

"We like the program because it offers the support students need to achieve their goals," says Arnoldo Verduzco. "Kids get help with their homework and enrichment classes help them develop their academic and social skills. The Club's hours also are very convenient for working parents. We would recommend the Club to other parents."

Visit or call 650-646-6140 for more information. Donations to the Holiday Fund benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula and nine other community-service organizations.


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