Holiday Spirit

Club instructor Sandy Orozco is a former BGCP student, and was chosen 2014 Youth of the Year. An instructor in the nonprofit's intensive literacy program, she supports second and third graders in achieving grade-level reading proficiency. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula.

Posted December 30, 2019

Nonprofit Boys & Girls Clubs addresses the opportunity gap

by Elizabeth Harris, grants manager, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula

Jorge has been a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (BGCP) since kindergarten and is typically shy and hesitant to take the spotlight. Last spring, when BGCP mentors encouraged him to present an eighth grade speech, Jorge worked with his mentors to improve his writing and public speaking, skills that Jorge knew would be vital to his future success in school.

At the 8th Grade Gala, Jorge gave a commanding speech in front of 100 peers, teachers, and community members about the need for computer science and other programs that prepare low-income youth of color to be competitive in the 21st century job market. His parents and community were proud, but, more importantly, he was proud of himself.

Jorge is one of 2,500 low-income K-post-secondary students benefiting from BGCP programs at three clubhouses and 10 school sites in East Palo Alto, eastern Menlo Park and Redwood City. Although our students live adjacent to some of the wealthiest communities in the world, BGCP students are primarily low-income students of color, and face tremendous odds. Nationwide, only 8% of Latino students graduate from college.

"For students at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, it's not a matter of lack of skill, talent or intelligence. The difference is the lack of opportunities that our students have access to," says Esmeralda Ortiz, senior director of high school and post-secondary success programs

BGCP, one of 10 beneficiaries of The Almanac's Holiday Fund this year, wants kids' futures to depend more upon their own actions than upon the circumstances into which they were born. We are not selective and welcome all K-12 students.

Our goal is to provide students with engaging learning experiences, exposure to opportunities that develop interests and passions, relationships with positive role models, and the academic and life skills required to graduate high school and pursue post-secondary education or training.

In addition to the academic support, enrichment, and social-emotional learning programs for all students, students who are at-risk of falling off-track for school success receive intensive second and third grade literacy interventions and sixth through ninth grade one-on-one advising, social-emotional coaching and goal-setting support.

BGCP students also have access to five full-time on-site therapists to address mental health challenges, which are a barrier to many students' success.

After participating in BGCP's summer high school transition program, Jorge is flourishing in ninth grade and demonstrating both personal and academic confidence. The next step in BGCP's K-12 continuum is our Future Grads program, which supports 10th grade through post-secondary students to become the first in their family to graduate from college.

BGCP staff will be proud to see Jorge and many BGCP peers join the over 200 Future Grad students who have graduated high school and the 89% that have enrolled in college.

To learn more about the nonprofit, visit

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2024 Recipient Agency

Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula
Provides after-school academic support, enrichment, and mentoring for 1,800 low-income K-12 youth at nine locations across Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and the North Fair Oaks neighborhood of Redwood City.

Ecumenical Hunger Program
Provides emergency food, clothing, household essentials, and sometimes financial assistance to families in need, regardless of religious preference, including Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for more than 2,000 households.

Fair Oaks Community Center
The Fair Oaks Community Center provides social services to the residents of the neighborhood, including programs for seniors, immigrants, renters and the unhoused, as well as housing assistance, ESL classes and child care.

Provides shelter/housing and supportive services across 18 sites in Silicon Valley and the Peninsula. Serves thousands of homeless families and individuals annually on their path back to permanent housing and self-sufficiency.

Literacy Partners
Supports literacy programs and projects through fundraising and community awareness. Helps community members enhance their reading, writing and related skills and education to improve their economic, professional and personal wellbeing.

Ravenswood Family Health Center
Provides primary medical and preventive health care for all ages at its clinic in East Palo Alto. Of the more than 17,000 registered patients, most are low-income and uninsured and live in the ethnically diverse East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks areas.

St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room
Serves hundreds of hot meals six days a week to people in need who walk through the doors. Funded by voluntary contributions and community grants, St. Anthony's is the largest dining room for the needy between San Francisco and San Jose. It also offers take-home bags of food, as well as emergency food and clothing assistance.

Second Harvest Food Bank
Second Harvest Food Bank distributes nutritious food to low income individuals and families, leveraging every available food resource and collaborating with other organizations and people to feed the needy in the community.

Serves more than 32,000 people throughout San Mateo County, including children, young people and families, with counseling, prevention, early intervention, education, and residential programs. StarVista also provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services including a 24-hour suicide crisis hotline, an alcohol and drug helpline, and a parent support hotline.

Upward Scholars
Upward Scholars empowers low-income adults by providing them with financial support, tutoring, and other assistance so they can continue their education, get higher-paying jobs, and serve as role models and advocates for their children.

As of November 29th, 31 donors have contributed $53,372 to the Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

5 Anonymous12,300
John Donald and Elaine Hammond*
Lori & Dennis McBride*
Barb Jacobson150
John and Shirley Reiter150
Greg & Penny Gallo500
Marc & Mary Ann Saunders*
Colleen & Geoff Tate*
Jim & Karen Lewis*
Paul Perret1,000
Vicky Rundorff*
Don & Catherine Coluzzi*
Janet Buce Cook*
Barbara and Charles Preuss500
Karen Perlroth*
Karen Perlroth*
Paul Welander25
Dennis Ruby300
Sybille Katz*
Kayleen Miller200
Kurt & Sue Jaggers10,000
Cathy and Jim Koshland150
Mark and Karen Weitzel*
Sidney Chen & Sandra Lee Chen*
Bill Wohler462
In Memory Of

Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Bob Mueller100