November 2020 Newsletter


A Message From Our CEO

Dear Safe Passages Allies,

More than ever, I am extremely grateful to all of you for the tremendous support over the past six months. You have helped us help thousands of families with children in critical need of community and a helping hand.  While we continue to walk with our families in this time of unprecedented need, we recognize the resiliency and commitment of our communities to families.

In this newsletter, we highlight the work of our partnerships over the past two months and highlight individuals who have leaned into this tremendous endeavor. From food distributions to online tutoring and classroom support to pumpkin patches for little ones, to continued immigration outreach and education, to simply a kind word, we have all amplified the meaning to being in it together.

Thanksgiving has never had a greater meaning. We reach out to you once again to help us continue to bring relief and hope to so many families who have lost their jobs, their health, and loved ones. We are seeking support for continued food distributions, toy and coat drives for the holidays, and overall support for our mentoring programs for our most vulnerable children and youth.

In Service,

Josefina Alvarado-Mena, J.D.
Chief Executive Officer, Safe Passages

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Supporting Students, Families, and Teachers with Online Learning

Education goes beyond the classroom, and this year it has become more evident than ever. As we all continue to navigate the world during an uncertain pandemic, Safe Passages continues to stay committed to supporting students, teachers, and their families. AmeriCorps members have been assigned to work in partnership with teachers to support small breakout room sessions during online classroom time. Our members are also available to support small, in-person learning pods at several high-needs schools in Oakland, Emeryville, and Union City. For teachers, this has been a great relief, as teaching 30+ students over a screen can be daunting.

Jonathan Soria leads a drawing class via zoom, as students color in the coloring books they received as part of the Get Active Urban Arts Initiative to educate and bring families together.  

As we try to support students and their families, we also cannot forget about the educators on the other side of the screen. Safe Passages continues to find ways to show our appreciation. One way that we are trying to convey our gratitude is by participating in the Teacher Thank You Shout Out, created by the non-profit ‘One Percent for Education’, where we are taking to social media to acknowledge the teachers who have made an impact in our lives. By nominating and tagging others to participate, we hope to trend this initiative worldwide and show how much we care about our educators

A #teacherthankyoushoutout video of Randy Hamati, Safe Passages AmeriCorps Director and passionate Oakland Educator. Click the video to watch!


Baby Learning Celebrates 10 Years of Serving Our Communities

Time flies when you’re having fun, and what a decade it has been. 2020 marks the 10th year anniversary of our Baby Learning Communities Collaborative Program. It has been an extraordinary experience watching young babies come into the program and being able to see their growth and development ten years later. At Safe Passages, we understand the support a child needs from the very first few months after birth, all the way through grade school and into higher education. Not only has it been rewarding to see their growth, but it has been impactful and moving to hear from parents on how the Baby Learning program has supported them through the years.

Children and families attend a pumpkin patch where they were able to pick their own pumpkins in time for Halloween at Esperanza Elementary as part of the Baby Learning initiative. 

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AmeriCorps Member Highlight

Diego Cisneros, speaks about his experience working with 3rd grade students and how educational programs from Safe Passages have helped him and his siblings. 

Our efforts to nurture the community from the first months of birth, through high school, college, and early adulthood, has reached a full-circle moment for Diego Cisneros.

His start with AmeriCorps and Safe Passages first began with his brothers, who received help from Safe Passages while in high school. After he saw the positive impact Safe Passages had on his own family, he decided to join the program, but little did he know how much of an impact he would make as an educator and the effect that Safe Passages would have on him. Diego now works as an AmeriCorps Elev8 member with 3rd grade students. As a member of the Safe Passages academic mentoring team, he is helping students in his own community succeed in school despite the obstacles they face.

“Safe Passages is a really good organization. I have met all kinds of people working here. I have bonded with all kind of people, and it’s brought me to places that I didn’t think there were.”

This is the kind of work our program brings to members of our own community, who now work as agents of change.

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Emeryville Unified School District Super Stars Literacy Program

Teaching young children can be a challenging task, especially now that the virtual learning environment has created new obstacles for teachers, students, and their families. Recently, Safe Passages has acquired the Super Star Literacy Program, further committing Safe Passages to continue supporting students to reach their  reading goals.

The new partnership between Safe Passages will expand to additional schools within the Emeryville Union School District, where we will be able to reach more students and propel them to reach their proficiency levels. This new partnership will extend beyond the 4,200 students and their families that Safe Passages currently serves and will allow us to provide additional academic support throughout Alameda County.  

This year, the Safe Passages Super Star Literacy project expanded to Bridges at Melrose Elementary School, Esperanza Elementary School, Laurel Elementary School in Oakland Unified, Anna Yates TK through 8th grade school in Emery Unified,  and Searles Elementary School and Guy Emanuele Elementary School in New Haven Unified.

SSL AmeriCorps members are working diligently to make sure students reach literacy proficiency by the 3rd grade, understanding that preparing students at an early age ensures that they thrive throughout their academic career.

“Third grade literacy matters. It indicates if a student will be able to graduate from high school on time and if they’re able to be successful later on in life.” – Katie Brym, Early Literacy AmeriCorps Manager.

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Continued Food Distribution Efforts

As Thanksgiving approaches, we would like to give thanks to the Alameda-Oakland Community Action Partnership for assisting in our efforts to bring some much needed relief to families this holiday season. We would also like to thank Alameda County Community Food Bank and their volunteers for their efforts to help families bring food to their tables.

We are thankful that we have been able to help so many families from our Oakland Community these past few months. During the months of September and October, we were able to distribute 90,290 pounds of food to our families at Coliseum College Prep Academy, Esperanza Elementary, Greenleaf Elementary, and United for Success Academy.  

We understand the need for our Oakland families is oftentimes great. We also understand that due to the pandemic and all of its long-lasting effects, the need in our city has never been greater. Our work would not be possible without all those who help us, our dedicated staff, and the the communities we call home.

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Annual Toy Drive Campaign

Safe Passages is fundraising for our annual toy drive! Every year, we partner with the City of Oakland to distribute hundreds of toys to our families in Alameda County through an exciting annual toy-giving event.

This year, due to COVID-19 health and safety reasons, we will not be able to hold our annual gift-giving event, but we are still keeping the giving spirit alive and delivering gifts directly to families in our community!

The need in our communities is higher than ever. With the added stress and economic pressures from COVID-19, many families that we work with will not be able to purchase toys for their children this holiday season.  At Safe Passages, we believe that every child has the right to play. Toys and playing have been proven as developmentally appropriate tools for positive mental health during times of crisis. Now more than ever do we understand the value and importance of play in a child’s life.

We are currently seeking funds to make sure that all our families and youth are able to play and receive gifts this year. Please consider making a donation to help us with this effort. Every donation, small or large, will make a massive impact in the lives of our youngest community members.

This fundraiser will help us serve over 650 families in Alameda County.


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Now more than ever our communities need you. You can be a part of the solution and heed the call for action. Through Safe Passages’ Elev8 Youth Initiative, AmeriCorps members provide academic intervention to small groups of students with the goal of improving their academic achievement by one full functional grade level.

Members are placed at our partner schools throughout Oakland and New Haven Unified School Districts. In return for your service, you will gain valuable professional skills, a modest living stipend, and an education award to support your college studies. If you are interested in applying, please contact Alyssa Mamaclay, for more information.


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