Sponsor Week: Nurturing and Being Nurtured

Sweet pea pods, shiny swiss chard, and dinner plate dahlias are springing up from our local garden.  As the students tend this bountiful planter box, they experience the cumulative effects of sunlight, rain, water, good soil, and care that make such a harvest possible. Miracle and Grace hold the bounty of our spring harvest in their hands--peas and peace.  Tending to living things is good for our souls.

Similarly, our students grow and develop when exposed to positive cumulative effects--access to comprehensive health care, early childhood education, nutrition support, stable housing, mentoring.  In an article put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics:  

Someone I didn’t know trusted me that I would do well in school. There’s something about having another person to believe in me.
— Keiara

"Recent research suggests that non-cognitive skills, such as perseverance, empathy, and self-efficacy, remain malleable during adolescence and build on the cognitive skills developed during early childhood. Interventions such as adolescent mentoring, residential training (eg, Job Corps), and workplace-based apprenticeship programs can increase academic achievement, employment success, and other nonacademic accomplishments over the life span" ("Poverty and Child Health in the United States, American Academy of Pediatrics News and Journals, April 2016, Vol. 137, Issue 4).


One intervention that we take seriously for our population of students is adolescent mentoring--adults coming alongside students to give guidance and support. Not only do our students have adult volunteer tutors that help them daily, but also adult partners who exchange letters and meet for lunch with our students.  

One sponsor shared, "This past week, I’ve been reading about poverty and toxic stress. The negative impacts of poverty and everything related are huge and seem unsurmountable.  I have also been reading about the emerging evidence of the protective effects of healthy, adult relationships. When I came to sponsor week and saw all the adults--Roy, Susie, and all the teachers, and I experienced the student excitement in meeting their sponsors, I realized that these kids really can thrive through God's work in relationships with you all (the Rise staff). And maybe me too!"  

In his article, "For Vulnerable Teenagers: A Web of Support," N.Y. Times writer Daniel Bornstein cites the success of Thread--an organization that supports students in the bottom quartile academically--with a community of adult volunteers who support and come alongside these scholars.  

"One of the ideas underpinning Thread is that poverty should be defined as a condition of isolation, not just a lack of money. 'Relationships are the key things that bring about real changes,' said Sarah Hemminger, who co-founded Thread with her husband Ryan."

We philosophically agree with the ethos of Thread in which a web of supportive relationships is central to combating deleterious social determinants.  Through the 5:1 student to teacher ratio, small class size, community volunteer help, personal connections to local churches and businesses, and personal sponsors, a scholar is surrounded by a web of care.  

The benefits of this web of care can be heard in scholar voices and reflections on sponsor week:

"Someone I didn't know trusted me that I would do well in school. There's something about having another person to believe in me."  - Keiara

"It is important because I have someone I can share my life with.  I can tell them what I am doing good at and what I am struggling in."  -Cintli

"If you go through stuff, and you can't tell your mom, there is someone else to talk to. I talk to my mom, my sisters, Dr. Ann, my family." - La Kayla

I feel more loved and really supported.  Meeting my sponsors made me excited because I got to know them.  They told me that they wanted to support me to become someone big.  That made me want to work extra hard.
— Luz

"We shared things about our lives.  I gained trust.  He's someone who wanted to meet me. And I wanted to meet him.  Great to have another person there to support me." - Luis  

As plants and flowers need a variety of influences to grow and develop, our own Rise students need different people in their lives--parents, teachers, mentors, role models--to nurture them in their development.  This is part of the slow, deliberate work of nurturing peace in our neighborhood and in the lives of our very precious students.  


"Poverty and Child Health in the United States, American Academy of Pediatrics News and Journals, April 2016, Vol. 137, Issue 4

"For Vulnerable Teenagers, a Web of Support," Daniel Bornstein, NY TImes, March 8, 2016


Not Your Average Middle Schooler


by Kendall Lee

In kindergarten, that’s when part of my hair started to grow white. Older kids always bullied me and said I was growing old. I never thought my hair was unique. Also, I was not strong. I was weak and people also bullied me for being skinny.

When I was in first grade, my dad would always pack two Oreos for my lunch. Because I usually sat in my own little corner, one 5th grade girl would always force me to give her my Oreos. She figured out I was shy and that I wouldn’t tell any adult from my school. She would always lie to me by saying things like, “I promise I’ll trade you for something,” or ,“If you don’t give it to me, you will get in trouble.” I believed her, but she would always just run away and never come back with anything. Also, she was much stronger than me. If I didn’t give her the cookie, she would grab it from me. I never told anyone about this. It happened for months. After a long time, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I stopped bringing Oreos for lunch.

Like other people, I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want to be the one who got picked on. I wanted to be like everyone else, I wanted to be like them.

When I got to Rise Prep, things were different. 

On the first day of school, everyone was talking to one another.  Some people even went to the same elementary school. But everyone showed kindness to me. I felt less different, less isolated. I felt like I was special.

A few days went by and I still had no true friends though. I realized another girl named Dulce was sitting alone at lunch just like I was. I sat next to her.

We talked a little while we ate. She had a little food and I had a lot. I asked her if she wanted some of my homemade pizza. Dulce took it and ate it, and she LOVED it. And she loved my white hair too. She said I was unique. After that we started to hang out and became very good friends.

Rise Prep taught me to be positive even when life is hard. I am glad Rise Prep accepted me. They taught me that I am special. Rise Prep is a great community of people and an awesome school. They taught me to be who I am.

I am Kendall Lee.

The De Young Museum: Teotihuacan

by Lily Gabler and Cintli Covarrubias

On January 26, the entire Rise Prep class went to the Botanical Gardens and the De Young Museum. The outside of the De Young looked like it was from a different planet because it looked slippery and blocky. It was also a dark bear brown fur coat color.

In the museum, we saw different types of statues, jewelry, and miniature figurines. Some of those things were the statues found pointing to the center of the city. They were meant to be the guardians that watched over the offerings to the gods. We went to the museum to study the artifacts found in Teotihuacan. Studying the artifacts was important because we were able to learn and know more about what happened hundreds of millions of years ago.

As a city, Teotihuacan began around 150 B.C. and collapsed sometime in the seventh century A.D.. During that time, it was probably the most powerful city in all of North America, dominating even the Classic Maya, who were their lowland contemporaries far to the east in what is now called southern Mexico and Guatemala. It was very interesting to see all the artifacts that were found in Teotihuacan.

Another most extraordinary thing we saw were the obsidian human figurines. The first time I looked at them, I thought they were some of the offerings, but then read the template, and it told me that they were the figurines that boys had made and used to tell stories and to play with.

The last thing we saw were the paintings in a wing of the museum. “Some of those paintings people found weird and inappropriate. But some were very beautiful landscapes and portraits of very important people. I found them interesting,” said student Mariah Bess. A lot of the landscapes were of countrysides or busy city centrals. Everyone was amazed.

In the Botanical Gardens we saw fabulous things. One of the most beautiful things we saw were the magnolias. When we looked at them, they were in all sorts of colors. There were purple, red, white, and pink. A lot of people thought that the red ones were the best.

Past Present Future

by David Carter

Once when I went to my grandma's and grandpa’s house in the third grade, my dad and my grandpa were talking about old computers and how you had to type ones and zeros to do almost anything on a computer. I really got intrigued in coding and how lots of math helps with coding.

Whenever I open a coding program, I get excited to design something that I will have fun using and other people will have fun using. It makes me happy and proud. It brought me to the conclusion that I want to make more people happy by making video games. Not only do I want to make video games, I also want to create websites for businesses, work, and everyday life. For example, I would love to help Google produce even better self-driving cars and phones which you could holographically see and use through your mind.

I currently spend many hours practicing code in a video game that will be a sandbox/adventure game in which you are a stickman and learn all the parkour skills to get faster and faster at completing your chosen levels.  Eventually there might be a level editor. The more you play, the harder the levels get. It will be a big project that might take me years, but the more code I do, the better and faster I will get at coding which will make me very happy and satisfied, as I dream forward, into my future.  

Waking Up Before I Go Go


by Keiara Martin

As I hear my mom call my name, I slowly open my eyes and reach for my phone. As soon as I see it’s 6:00 am, I rush out of my bed and run to the closet to find some pants, a P.E shirt and some shoes. Once dressed in uniform, I hurry to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth.

Everything has to be done within an hour so that we still have enough time to get me to school before 8:45 am. My family and I normally leave the house around 6:50 am. Unlike other students who live minutes from Rise Prep, I live in Fairfield and travel 2 hours a day to get to school.

I first started attending school in San Francisco when I was in kindergarten and ever since then I’ve been attending school in San Francisco. It’s important for me to remain going to school in San Francisco because I think that Rise Prep has more to offer than other schools.

For example, Rise Prep has fun and educational field trips. There’s a period where you get assistance with any homework you have; there are some really fun electives; and the teachers there are very kind and helpful.

For example, at the start of the year, when I was having trouble with basketball in P.E, my P.E teacher helped me to better understand the shooting and dribbling drills.

In the end, my family and I believe that my going to Rise Prep is worth the two hour ride each day...even if I have to wake up a little earlier.  


Western Addition Beacon Center's Sylvia Hom Joins Rise Board


Hailing from the Midwest, Sylvia Hom moved to Berkeley, California to attend law school at Berkeley School of Law. After practicing law for a few years, she wanted to spend her time and life doing something else.

She ended up working as an operations administrator at a small Oakland nonprofit and after a short time, realized that this was the call on her life and has worked in the nonprofit sector ever since. Her interest in kids and education began in earnest with two events in her life: she was hired as the first Chinatown Beacon Center Director at Jean Parker Elementary School and she had her first child.

For most of the past 20 years, she has worked part-time in the San Francisco Beacon Initiative, in schools or at the initiative office. She also spent a great deal of time raising her kids and volunteering at their schools, serving as classroom volunteer, PTA Co-Secretary, fundraiser, and School Site Council Chairperson.

Sylvia is a member of Redeemer Community Church. 

Sylvia joins Tacing Parker (Associate Executive Director of Bayview YMCA), Danny Fong (Pastor of Redeemer Community Church), Olive Rubio (Teacher at Highlands School), and Kirk Davis (Families and Community Pastor at First Pres Hayward).  

Pastor Kirk Davis Joins Rise Prep Board

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Kirk Davis was born and raised in San Francisco. He’s glad to say that he is a product of Mission High School.

Kirk Davis is a program manager at YCD. In 1998 he became a Youth Pastor at Providence Baptist Church and joined YoungLife a para-church youth serving organization. He was Area Director in the Southeast sector of San Francisco (Bayview Hunters Point). He has also been an assistant Chaplain at Juvenile Hall Youth Detention in San Francisco. 

He was the founder of Street Survivors, a ministry that helps kids deal with post-traumatic stress. With the help of his wife, he ran an after-school tutorial program and summer day camp that grew to over 100 kids in Bayview Hunters Point. He’s been the recipient of the KQED Essence of Excellence Award in 2005 and the recipient of the Black Educators of the Year Award in 2003 and other congressional awards. 

In 2008 Mr. Davis started a non-profit organization called Rapha House Foundation, Inc. which had a program called YLDP (Youth Leadership Development Program) which taught life-skills and did college tours yearly. 

For the past several years, Mr. Davis has served as Families and Community Life Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Hayward. 

He has been married for 31 years to Denise Davis and has 3 children (Destini, Curtis, and Isaiah).

Youthful Muse: 78 year old Iona Lawhorn Speaks of Rivers

Ms. Iona Lawhorn lost her sight in her twenties, but she did not let that stop her from reading and experiencing life through poetry and words. 

Ms. Lawhorn visited her public library asking the librarian for recordings by black authors, and she became enthralled by the poet Langston Hughes, listening to his poems on cassette tape.  

"I was infatuated by Langston Hughes because he told the story of the struggle of African-Americans." Her interest in civil rights and the stories of the African-American struggle led Ms. Lawhorn to college where she received her bachelor's degree in history.  

Ms. Lawhorn recited the poems, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", "Negro," "Jim Crow's Last Stand," "The Ballad of Sam Solomon," and the class favorite "Mother to Son."

"Mother to Son"

Well, son, I’ll tell you

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—


But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Ms. Lawhorn ended by reading from her Daily Prayer book in braille: "I have every answer and a mind with confidence, and others when I experience self-doubt.  I am a unique and perfect expression of the divine and I am human."  

These words of our unique identity created and loved by God help our students to continue climbing up step by step even in the midst of splinters and darkness.  Ms. Lawhorn's words and example show how even in blindness and tribulation, we move forward surrounded by God and others who encourage us along the way--climbin' and risin'.