Holiday Spirit

Elia practices English with a volunteer at an Upward Scholars Conversation Club. The nonprofit benefits from donations to The Almanac Holiday Fund. Courtesy Upward Scholars.

Posted Jan. 4, 2023

Upward Scholars drives multigenerational impact in San Mateo County

by Dr. Linda Prieto/ Special to The Almanac

Upward Scholars has helped over 1,200 adult immigrants in the Bay Area pursue upward mobility through a community college education by providing them with financial and academic support, career development and holistic services. Every year, our wraparound support -- aided by dedicated volunteers and community members -- impacts the lives of hundreds of students and their families.

One of our success stories is Elia, who left her home in Michoacan, Mexico, at the age of 26, seeking better financial opportunities in the United States for herself and her two young daughters. When she arrived, she set about obtaining a driver's license so that she could get to and from work. But as she prepared to take the exam, tragedy struck. Elia suffered a significant work injury that resulted in limited mobility in her legs. The prognosis was not hopeful -- her doctors said she would be completely paralyzed in 10 to 15 years. Out of concern for public safety, driving was out of the question.

Today, 20 years later, Elia has beat the odds. Not only has her condition not worsened to the degree her doctors originally expected, Elia has worked to maintain much of her mobility through regular walks around her neighborhood in Redwood City. She has also earned her GED from Sequoia Adult School and is well on her way to completing an associate degree from CaƱada College, where she's made the Dean's List more than once. She has raised three children while working as an adult caregiver and caring for her ill father. But she hasn't gotten a driver's license, which has made everything else in her life harder, making her dependent on unreliable public transit and ride-sharing.

Though reluctant at first, earlier this year Elia began working toward getting her driver's license, with encouragement from her children, the clients she cares for, and the Upward Scholars staff. When Elia has a goal, she pursues it -- and this fall, she passed the written test! While she still needs to take the driving test, Elia is excited about the future. Even a simple thing like getting a license can drive multigenerational impact: "It would make life so much easier. I would be able to drive my son to school; get to work and back much faster; attend in-person classes, especially when I transfer to a university; get to finally visit my daughter in Vallejo; and take my father to his doctor appointments," she says. Her whole family would reap the benefits.

Elia appreciates the support Upward Scholars has given her since 2018. From textbook and food assistance to scholarship application support and Student Safety Net funding for rent, she knows her family would not have fared nearly so well during the pandemic were it not for Upward Scholars. When we first shared Elia's story with the Upward Scholars community, the support she received was astounding. Thanks to the generosity of an Upward Scholars donor, Elia now benefits from yet another kind of support: private driving lessons. Soon, Elia will be ready to take her driving exam and will be able to use her new skills to support her family in ways she's always wanted to.

Upward Scholars is one of this year's beneficiaries of The Almanac Holiday Fund. Donations are divided evenly between 10 nonprofits that serve local residents, and can be made online at .

For information about donating time, talent, or treasure to Upward Scholars, contact Jessica, Upward Scholars Marketing & Development Manager, at [email protected] Or, if you're curious to learn more about us, visit our website, . You can tutor or help a student like Elia practice their English skills, lend your specialized skills to the Upward Scholars team, or contribute funds to support our work.

Dr. Linda Prieto is the executive director of Upward Scholars.

Make a donation
2021 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.

Health Connected
Serves over 5,000 students and their families each year through comprehensive sexual health education programs. Students learn to have ongoing communication with parents and to make informed decisions that will apply to their lives, now and in the future.

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.

St. Francis Center
Helps low-income, working families become self-supporting members of the community by providing long-term solutions through educational programs for children and parents, as well as after-school programing at Siena Youth Centers. St. Francis Center also provides housing, food and clothing services to address short-term needs.

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 March 26th, 184 donors have contributed $305,280 to the Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

40 Anonymous28,370
Lorraine Macchello100
Kathy & Bob Feldman500
Alice F. Schenk & John L. Richardson200
Jan Jedkins400
John & Cooky Galen 50
Michael & Lenore Roberts200
Gail & Susan Prickett1,000
Lucy Reid-Krensky100
Mark & Karen Weitzel*
The Mendelsohn Family2,500
Joel Jakubson & Krishna Mitra250
Betty Meissner100
Barbara and Bill Binder *
Sidney Chen & Sandra Lee Chen*
Ken Turkowski100
LindaKeegan 1,000
Linda keehan1,000
The Wang Family300
Carol Kemper200
Charles Bacon and Cynthia Dusel-Bacon250
Mary and Bob Dodge300
Derek and Susan Hine*
Joe and Julie Zier*
Gisela Brugger1,000
Karen Fleck & Ian McDowall*
Judy & Jim Lipman50
J. Wong*
Martha Cohn100
Kayleen Miller100
Barbara Kent150
Walter Robinson250
Nita & Clay Judd*
Robert & Connie Loarie*
Bill Wohler440
Sandy Cold500
Terri D. Bullock Family Foundation5,000
Richard & Jean Duda120
Tim & Mia Clark500
John & Lisa Whelan100
Barbara Oliver200
Elizabeth Tromovitch75
Connie & Bob Lurie30,000
Arnie and Judie Cornez*
Leonard Shar750
Dorothy Saxe*
Gallo Family Fund500
Barry L. Goldblatt150
Susan carey1,500
Kerry & Rick DeBenedetti*
Dennis Monohan100
Ann C. Treadwell*
Colflesh Charitable Fund50
Bruce & Ann Willard1,000
Andrea G. Julian1,000
Lynne S. Fovinci75
Roger & Pat Witte200
Nancy & Bill Ellsworth*
Novitsky Family100
Kathy & Bob Mueller100
The UMOC Charitable Fund100,000
Pegasus Family Foundation1,000
Susan Kritzik and Bruce McAuley*
Kevin Novak & Hannah Gilula500
Judy and Doug Adams*
Roger and Wendy von Oech1,000
Anne Davison100
Leigh Flesher and Mark Bailey*
Margaret Melaney2,000
Mitzi Moynihan*
Mitzi Moynihan*
John Donald and Elaine Hammond100
Marc & Mary Ann Saunders*
Owen & Hannah Sowerwine100
Robert Mullen 250
Juli and John Parker250
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
Donald & Judith Mac Millan500
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Barbara Jacobson200
Melanie Austin500
Mary Ann Hurlimann500
Susan Higley Russell100
Nancy & Dan Witeck200
Betsy Stockdale*
Bill & Melba Rogoway*
Leslie & Michael Crisp*
Bryan & Susan Lovegren50
Sue Bartalo and Dave Fischer250
Kajsa Tabor*
Mayling Dixon*
Dave & Diane Toole100
Jim Lewis*
Maggie Markdasilva1,000
Ross & Liz McDougall*
Barbara Bessey*
Douglas Keare Jr & Jill Morgan2,000
Carrie German*
Margaret & Jamis MacNiven100
Jerry & Shirley Carlson250
Austin Grose250
Sue Bishop & Viole McMahon100
Vicky Rundorff*
Mr. & Mrs. Kurt Jaggers15,000
James E. Esposto*
Janet Buce Cook500
Gordon Russell & Batina McAdoo1,000
Volckmann Family Foundation3,000
Leslie Airola500
Geoff & Colleen Tate*
Tom & Ann Livermore1,000
Kathryn Stivers Charitable Fund500
Joyce castellino 200
Bob and Marna Page*
Erika Crowley*
Donna Mackowski200
Paul Perret1,000
Bob & Barbara Ells500
Kathleen Elkins*
Don & Catherine Coluzzi*
In Memory Of

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard1,000
Dr. Fereidoon Kaboli*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Doug Hutton200
Paul & Ingeborg Katz*
Vicki Jones & Dee & Jerry Carlson125
Nancy Sallaberry500
Wiley Birkhofer2,500
Stephen F. Martin5,000
Hugh D. Kennedy*
Ted Heidinger500
Jean Zonner1,000
In Honor Of

Nella and Bill Berry1,000
Marer Family200
Nancy Stevens*
The Liggett Family*
Dennis McBride500
As a Gift for

Mira Lajoie100
Businesses & Organizations

Rotary Club of Menlo Park Foundation10,000
Griffin & Sons Construction, Inc*
Hewlett Foundation8,750
Packard Foundation15,000
Menlo Park Firefighters' Association500
Lyn At Your Service*