It’s an incredible time to live in Silicon Valley and Palo Alto. Many of us are enjoying unprecedented levels of growth and wealth. People from all over the world are striving to move here to participate in our culture of optimism and opportunity. At the same time, this prosperity isn’t being felt by all, and many young people are growing up disconnected from what makes our community so dynamic.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula’s vision is that all young people, if they work hard, can live fulfilling lives with a good education, a fair paying job, decent housing, and the ability to raise a family. We want kids’ futures to depend more upon their own actions and less upon the circumstances into which they were born.
Let’s make the Palo Alto area a great place for all kids to grow up. These are Our Kids, growing up in Our Town, on Our Watch.
Silicon Valley, especially around Palo Alto, is experiencing dramatic segregation and stratification along economic lines. As the successful concentrate in the most attractive neighborhoods, the poor are being left behind. Home prices and rents are squeezing families out. Differences in education, which is supposed to be the great equalizer, are exacerbating the inequalities. In East Palo Alto, just across Highway 101 from Palo Alto, 80% of the students are below grade level, only 65% graduate from high school, and too few are prepared for post-secondary education or training. Too many East Palo Alto youth live in the shadows, growing up without the skills required to access Silicon Valley’s opportunities.
The root cause is the opportunity gap. In low-income neighborhoods like East Palo Alto, 40% of the youth are homeless or in foster care, and over half their parents didn’t graduate from high school. Many youth enter elementary school without having attended preschool, and most lack access to after-school and summer enrichment programs. Many don’t have positive role models or social capital. Their parents often cannot support their education, as they must work multiple jobs and don’t know how to navigate the school system. For many youth, education is secondary to household responsibilities like watching younger siblings.
All students need access to expanded learning and enrichment opportunities that help them develop a love of learning. They need engaging summer learning experiences to avoid summer learning loss, small group instruction, and relationships with positive role models so they can develop the academic and life skills needed to succeed in school – so they can ultimately access the myriad opportunities Silicon Valley has to offer.
Solution: BGCP @ Brentwood School in East Palo Alto
To close the opportunity gap for the Brentwood School students, BGCP is providing an expanded learning time program in tight collaboration with school and Ravenswood City School District leadership. We share facilities, curriculum, data, and staff training to deliver academic and social interventions designed to increase student outcomes and graduation rates.
Our program serves 180 students during the school year and 300 in the summer. Students benefit from 740 hours of expanded learning time, a 60% increase over the school day alone. 90% of program alumni graduate from high school vs. 65% of their peers.
The program has three components, all delivered on the Brentwood campus:
During the school year Brentwood students remain on campus until 6pm, participating in structured programming including homework support, small group academic instruction, and electives such as athletics, healthy cooking, STEM, and arts. Students are part of a program culture where holistic student success is prioritized with an emphasis on socio-emotional learning and identity development. In reviewing national data, it is clear that if students do not master 3rd grade reading proficiency, their chances of future academic success diminish greatly. This year, we have added intensive literacy skill development services for our 2nd and 3rd grade students to improve reading proficiency.
Summer Learning Academy
BGCP and the Ravenswood City School District have merged summer programs to use limited resources more efficiently. Together we are able to provide better academic support and serve more students. Students participate in a five-week learning academy with 5:1 student to instructor ratios. They receive three hours of math, reading and science instruction from certified teachers each morning, followed by five hours of enrichment delivered by BGCP staff using Camp Galileo curriculum. 95% of participating students avoid summer learning loss, thus reducing the achievement gap.
Our staff members collaborate with teachers and the principal during the school day to share insights into our members’ experiences, strengths, and needs. Mentors gain the knowledge needed to effectively reinforce school-day learning after school. In addition, staff lead valuable programs during the day such as student council and lunch-time clubs or intramurals.
BGCP also actively engages parents. We help them navigate the school system and host events where families can come to celebrate their children’s accomplishments, thus being involved in the educational process. Our staff frequently serve as liaisons between parents and school staff. Parents report that they often feel more comfortable building initial relationships with BGCP staff, who are more reflective of the families we serve.
Partnership with the Masonic Lodge of Palo Alto
Thanks to the Masonic Lodge of Palo Alto's sponsorship, students in East Palo Alto at Brentwood School will be able to access the opportunities they need to succeed in school, go on to post-secondary education and careers, and live fulfilling and meaningful lives. Together we are making Silicon Valley a great place for all kids to grow up.
In the Middle Ages, there were no public schools, only private tutors. There were no other avenues for learning, only vocational apprenticeship. Operative Masons take young, sound mind and body apprenticeships to teach them and provide them the necessary skills in building a trade. They housed and clothed them and treated them as their sons for seven (7) years and as mentor by whatever means they could provide. As these students progressed they would be presenting their masterpieces and eventually if they passed the test the process would continue by selection of another apprentice whom they would soon teach. This was the earliest form of education that our forefathers had done. Primitive it was, but it was the early assistance of education by Operative Masons. This was also the earliest form of charity introduced by our forefathers in Freemasonry.
Masonry is considered an educational institution as we are concerned with building good men better. We, as Speculative Masons, also have a role to play in the realm of education. We are concerned with people. We deal with people; we educate people, purposely not for building cathedrals but developing their characters and leadership, to be better men and citizens of our country. This is the objective of the program we will be implementing - to assist our youth, develop their characters, and make them better men and citizens through this joint venture with Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula and Brentwood School of Palo Alto.
Our youth has always been considered the future of our country. This is our concern. This program of our Lodge will provide them with an umbrella of protection from the showers and rains of misfortune, the evils of drugs, the economic troubles brought about by the inadequacy of parents to supply their educational needs, and other tribulations wherein the lodge could come in as their temporary foster parent.
Let us make our youth aware that charity in the olden times continues today in the realm of Palo Alto Masonic Lodge as we focus our assistance on the educational advancement of students at Brentwood School. Thus, we are giving our Masonic Lodge support and services to these students for them to prosper and be a contributory force in the place where they live, learn, work and play so as to make a big difference in their life. We will provide them an opportunity to experience a meaningful new breed of charity and this is it - the program that we have now.
For more information on the Masonic Lodge of Palo Alto, visit their website here.