What is Our Approach in East Palo Alto?

By: Avani Patel

That’s a good question that we haven’t quite nailed yet. Here’s my attempt at explaining where we are in the process. Feel free to leave comments if you have suggestions as we continue to sort through this. 

In the Local Portfolio, our work is heavily steeped in the communities of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven. The way we do this work – our process – has changed over the last couple of years. 

Our goal is to be responsive to the community, and focus our grants in the PreK-12 education space (as we believe education can be a pathway out of poverty). We are school-type agnostic. This means we are partnering with traditional public, charter, and private schools – the schools that are offering the best chance at a quality education. A partnership has been created with most schools in the community.

We take our direction mainly from leaders of the schools in the community, and the leadership team at Ravenswood City School District. Although we still welcome meetings with non-profits directly, we respond to leads mainly from schools. Let me give one example of what this looks like. Superintendent Dr. Gloria Hernandez-Goff recently invited me to a principal meeting at Ravenswood City School District. I learned that Playworks and CASSY (Counseling and Support Services for Youth) were the highest priorities for schools in terms of partners. In addition, throughout the school year, I met with principals, visited school sites, and asked students the value of these programs – so this news was no surprise to me (The surprise came when I learned each school receives just $50,000 in discretionary funds that goes towards supplies, yard duty staff, and program partners for the entire year!). As a result, I gave a recommendation to our board to continue and increase support for the programs. In addition, it gave me more insight into the realities principals in Ravenswood City School District face when making decisions for their school sites based on the little discretionary funds they have allocated – invaluable information for us to keep in mind when making decisions.

We are also working with non-profits that support students during the school day, and a few organizations providing programming after school, that are well connected with the schools. 

Although we would like to meet all requests for schools and the community, our resources are limited. With this in mind, we’re looking for partners that have a strong commitment level to the community, who have strong leadership with a cohesive team, and are bringing quality programming to students in the community – sometimes this takes a while to establish. 

Even though our team is still trying to nail down our process and what our approach looks like, at a time where there is heightened vulnerability for youth and families of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven (highlighted here and here), one thing we know is that the Peery Foundation’s commitment to the community is not wavering.