Believing hope will itself provide inexhaustible resources for the creative, inventive imagination of love. Jürgen Moltmann If you Google “Tenderloin San Francisco” the fourth hit that comes up is simply entitled, “Areas to Avoid.” The Wikipedia entry that pops up as the top entry describes the neighborhood this way: “The Tenderloin is a high-crime neighborhood, particularly violent street crime such as robbery and aggravated assault. Seven of the top ten violent crime plots (out of 665 in the entire city as measured by the San Francisco Police Department) are adjacent plots in the Tenderloin and Sixth and Market area. The neighborhood was considered to be the origin of a notorious Filipino gang Bahala Na Gang or BNG, a gang imported from the Philippines. In the late 1960s to the mid 1970s, the gang was involved in extortion, drug sales, and murder for hire. Dealing and use of illicit drugs occurs on the streets. Property crimes are common, especially theft from parked vehicles. Violent acts occur more often here and are generally related to drugs. The area has been the scene of escalating drug violence in 2007, including brazen daylight shootings, as local gangs from San Francisco, and others from around the Bay Area battle for turf. 14 of the city's 98 homicides took place in the area in 2007.”
Tenderloin District, San Francisco
True compassion is more than flipping a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that the edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. Martin Luther King, Jr. For those unacquainted with the Tenderloin, it is generally considered the most crime-ridden, drug infested and violent neighborhood in San Francisco and also houses the largest concentration of homeless people in the city. With close to 30,000 residents, the less than half a square mile the Tenderloin encompasses is the most densely populated in San Francisco. A recent piece in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that the Tenderloin has the highest rate of drug crime and prostitution in the city and the highest concentration of registered sex offenders, with 76 in total, or an average of more than one per block. It is a place with a scarcity of hope â€“ an â€œarea to avoid,â€? one would logically conclude, as noted by the Google hit.
In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot. Czeslaw Milosz
About twenty-five years ago, Roger Huang got a flat tire while driving through the Tenderloin on the way to work as a manager at a hotel in downtown San Francisco. While he was waiting for service to arrive to change the tire, he noticed two older boys – possibly gang members – beating up another younger boy. At that moment, Roger says he felt God asking him, “what would you do if that was your son?” As Roger sat in the car, he started to look more closely at his surroundings and began noticing kids all over the neighborhood. He wanted to learn more. Broadan Grant (4th Grade), Jerad Briceno (5th Grade), Cal Ladine (5th grade), Sean Hale (4th Grade) and Trayvon Hale (3rd Grade)
Grace is apprehended, cultivated and endured by finding ourselves in God’s dynamic, sustaining and redeeming love of creation, and then finding out how that story carries on, with us in it. Charles Mathewes
Later that week, Roger and his wife, Maite, took fifty sandwiches they’d made down to the Tenderloin and began handing them out to those they’d encounter on the street – many apparently homeless. As they began doing this one afternoon a week, they started building relationships and hearing individual stories. Several years later, Roger and Maite left their jobs and formed a non-profit to work with their growing set of friends in the Tenderloin. Over the years, the activities grew to include an addiction recovery program, a food bank and a thrift store.
Juliana Munoz (1st Grade), Maya Briceno (3rd Grade), Paneah Chea (1st Grade) and Itzel Jimenez (2nd Grade)
Test Capital isnâ€™t scarce, vision is.
One of the things Roger came to learn was that there were over 3,500 children under the age of 16 living in the Tenderloin, with the local elementary school having just under 400 slots and a small private school having another 100. The other 85% of the kids had to be bused to other schools, but, in the vast majority of cases, dropped out before completing 12th grade.
Amal Kaid (6th Grade), Clayton Ladine (8th Grade), Margaret Lockington (6th Grade), Erick Rodgrigez (8th Grade), Nedu Anibogu (7th Grade) and Amani Grant-P (8th Grade)
Only by investing and speaking your vision and passion can the truth, one way or the other, finally penetrate the reluctance of the world. Søren Kierkegaard
As Roger heard the stories, a familiar pattern emerged. Many of the kids were so far behind in reading and math skills – functionally illiterate – that they were dropping out before eighth grade or early in high school. By their early teens, many kids had gotten involved in gang activity, drug use and out of wedlock pregnancy and had very little hope to break out of a cycle common to older siblings and possibly their parents.
Katia Martinez, Alberto Viray, Samantha Mosuela, Juliana Munoz, Jorge Ek, Paneah Chea and Malachi Huang (all 1st Grade) with Laura Soun (teacher)
There is an enormous difference between what we think we can do and what God calls us to do. Our ideas of what we can do or want to do are trivial. God’s ideas for us are grand. Eugene Peterson Roger is one of the greatest entrepreneurs we’ve ever met. See the need and go for it, then persist with unwavering resolve despite the odds. What has become the K-8 San Francisco City Academy was bootstrapped – meaning virtually no outside capital, lean and mean bootstrapping – fifteen years ago as kindergarten. They began adding a new grade each year to accommodate the kindergarteners that moved to the next class. Roger is also the one of the most humble and sacrificial servants we’ve ever met. That observation can be extended to the entire team at the school.
Kindergarten Graduating Class 2012: Samantha Mosuela, Alberto Viray, Paneah Chea, Juliana Munoz, Malachi Huang, Jorge Ek, Katia Martinez and Yencie Pacheco
In a world torn apart by rivalry, rage, anger and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds. Henri Nouwen
By 2007 they had a K-8 school, graduating the first students that started with them nine years before. By then, the school had about thirty students, with almost all of them having their tuition mostly or totally covered by private supporters due to lack of family resources.
The wild, unrestricted love of God is not simply an inspiring idea. When it imposes itself on the mind and heart, it determines why and at what time you get up in the morning, how you pass your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read and who you hang with; it affects what breaks your heart, what amazes you and what makes your heart happy. Brennan Manning
In June 2012, eight Eighth Graders graduated from last yearâ€™s student body of 70. The school is incredibly ethnically diverse in a way that is reflective of the Tenderloin itself, with a wide variety of southeast Asian, Central American, South American and African countries represented. So many beautiful faces and names!
2012 8th Grade graduates: Amani Grant-P, Sarina Huynh, Clayton Ladine, Ruby Lynch, Erik Rodriguez and Zion Selvaraj 12
The leadership we need next cannot escape the complexity of the world, but has to develop a capacity for effectiveness that acknowledges that the fundamental reality is one of inherent unity. Thatâ€™s why the primary revolution we need is a spiritual revolution as opposed to a political or economic one. Leo Burke
A tradition at City Academy is having each of the eighth grade graduates give a short commencement speech, reflecting on their time at the school. Given the increasing class size, the format this year was the eight students collaborating on a group speech, trading off turns speaking.
2012 8th Grade graduates: Ike Anibogu and Zion Selveraj 13
Gratitude follows grace like thunder follows lightning.
It was a truly mindblowing fifteen minutes as the graduates spoke. The recurring theme woven throughout the reflections was a deep sense of gratitude for the school and the opportunity each student had been given; gratitude for the teachers, gratitude for the other students (â€œwe love each other,â€? was said more than once), gratitude for the many volunteers that tutor and help at the school and gratitude for those who have committed resources to help underwrite tuition.
Jaeya Bayani (5th Grade), Tracy Martinez (5th Grade) and Ajahbrielle Sheppard (5th Grade)
When we dream alone it is just a dream, but when we dream together it is the beginning of reality. Miguel de Cervantes
What struck us as we listened was the complete absence of any sense of entitlement. In its place was seemingly authentic thankfulness by each student that theyâ€™d be given an opportunity to learn, combined with a clear sense of hope about what their futures held in store.
Roger Huang (founder), Sarina Huynh (2012 8th Grade graduate) and Vanessa Brakey (teacher) 15
Beauty leaps out to a person who understands it.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing was hearing the graduates talk about their recent class trip to Mexico to work with orphans, many of whom scavenge the local dump to find scraps of food to survive. Here the students spoke of their compassion and desire to return again to help those theyâ€™d recently met.
Claudia Ramos (6th Grade) and Kayla Huynh (8th Grade)
For to be free is not merely to cast off oneâ€™s chains, but to live in a way that enhances the freedom of others. Nelson Mandela
It was personally humbling to listen to these stories and a stark reality check on our current culture. As we left, we could not but help think that we had been in the presence of true greatness and the most unexpected of outcomes: here were eight survivors coming from the most difficult circumstances and surroundings imaginable, possessing a much clearer sense of personal purpose â€“ rooted in thankfulness, not self-obsessed entitlement â€“ than many of us living in the upscale, high-income surrounding neighborhoods.
We cannot be vague about what we believe in, what we are willing to fight for, and to die for. There are twenty ways of criticizing a battle, but only one way of winning it. G.K. Chesterston
But the story of San Francisco City Academy – as with any visionary entrepreneurial endeavor – also includes periods of great challenge. In 2007, 230 Jones Street – the building housing the school – was reviewed for fire code compliance specified for city schools. The fire inspector identified a number of violations that would need to be corrected; otherwise the school would have to be shut down or moved elsewhere.
Jerry Escobar (4th Grade), Destinee Carpenter (5th Grade), Maya Briceno (3rd Grade) and Elle Loise Ladine (3rd Grade)
You do not need to know what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope. Thomas Merton
Addressing the code violations would cost several hundred thousand dollars, which Roger would need to raise to keep the school open. He first approached some supporters from the East Bay that had worked as contractors or real estate developers to help him assess what needed to be done.
Dianne Tacadong (5th Grade), Lisa Dieker (teacher), Tracy Martinez (5th Grade), Jaeya Bayani (5th grade) and Kahaleana Dermitis (6th grade)
The redefinition of problems is a creative act . . . that involves an aggressive rebuilding of reality and is, by implication, a declaration of personal freedom. Robert Grudin
The assembled group graciously offered to help with pro-bono labor to bring the building to school fire code. But they encouraged Roger to think bigger. 230 Jones was a structurally sound building with five floors – “good bones,” they said. A lot of potential to create more capacity for the school. Instead of simply fixing the code violation in order to keep the couple classrooms available to serve thirty kids, why not gut the whole building and build ten new classrooms to serve hundreds of kids?
If we were incapable of humility we would be incapable of joy, because humility alone can destroy the self-centeredness that makes it impossible. Thomas Merton Over the course of two years, more than a thousand volunteers â€“ from the original visionary contractors, to architects, lawyers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and masons (and plenty of non-skilled folks just joining in to do demolition) contributed over $3 million in pro-bono services to complete the project. Most of the materials for the project were donated either outright or at cost.
Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we are born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth. Our life is for others. Eugene Peterson
The pro-bono services and free or reduced cost materials dramatically reduced the cash outlay required to complete the project to approximately $1.2 million. This was graciously provided on a short time line by a handful of large contributors â€“ along with hundreds of smaller partners â€“ to real-time fund the purchase of materials for the project.
Paneah Chea ( 1st Grade)
The possibleâ€™s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.
And now, San Francisco City Academy has the classroom capacity to serve up to 250 students over the coming years. The 2012 fall class included an additional 25 students, bringing the number to 96, up from 70 the year before and 40 the year before that. The vision of the schoolâ€™s leadership team is to bring an additional 20 to 30 new students in annually over the next five years.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
It is our dream to do everything we can do help make this happen. With 96 children currently in the school, the current annual cost to operate the school is approximately $600,000 or about $6,000 per student. This compares to an average cost per student in public San Francisco elementary schools of $14,000, implying that it would cost the city close to $1.4 million to serve the same number of students that San Francisco Academy is providing, in what evidence would suggest is a far less effective manner. And SFCA is 100% privately funded, with no grants from the city, state or federal government.
The place God calls you to is the place where your heart’s deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. Frederick Buechner
More importantly, the standardized test results of the children of SFCA exceed those of the local public school in the Tenderloin. San Francisco City Academy is the ultimate proof point of a bootstrapped, entrepreneurial solution, sacrificially led by a team whose commitment to the flourishing of kids’ lives is itself the incentive. Amid the current debate on the role and expansiveness of government, it is a city on a hill.
2011 Eighth Grade graduates: Cyprian Hynes, Julio “Macky” Martinez and Sahill Lal
Faith is not a leap out of the everyday but a plunge into its depths. Eugene Peterson But San Francisco City Academy is much more than school. In our observation, this is a prime reason for its success. The November 10th edition of The Economist included an insightful piece entitled, “The Poor in America – In Need of Help.” One sad observation was the America’s poverty rate among children was the highest in the developed world (and second only to Mexico among OECD countries). The piece identified two primary sources of childhood poverty: 1) lack of or poor education and 2) the disintegration of the family and the alarming increase in unmarried pregnancy.1 Without a functional family – to encourage, support, invest, model and discipline – the likelihood of a child completing high school level education drops substantially. For single parents with low incomes, the dropout rate among children is precipitous, all but assuring low income or outright poverty for the child for the remainder of their lives.
Source: The Economist, November 10, 2012
current unmarried birth rate in the US is 41% across all ethnicities and education levels. Among white women without a high school degree, the rate is 60%. The overall unmarried birth rate among Latinos is approximately 50% and, for African Americans, 70%. 26
Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human being what I have received from God; namely his unconditional acceptance of me as I am, not as I should be. Henri Nouwen In our firsthand experience, the transformative impact of San Francisco City Academy is largely based on the fact that it transcends being just a school, and is actually a family to its students. By deeply loving, faithfully encouraging, loyally supporting and personally investing in each child – in ways that go far beyond school functions and hours – the team at SFCA has stood in the breach to provide what the majority of its students lack in their lives outside the school. In our view, that’s the secret sauce and it is why we believe SFCA has been so impactful in the lives of the children it serves and is so effective in helping change the trajectory of their futures.
Roger Huang (founder), Amani Grant-P (2012 8th Grade graduate) and Vanessa Brakey (teacher)
Each life is a fresh canvas on which God uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportions that he has never used before. Eugene Peterson
Alberto Viray (1st Grade), Itzel Jimenez (2nd Grade) and Katia Martinez (1st Grade) Yencie Pacheco (1st Grade) and Katia Martinez (1st Grade)
Juliana Munoz (1st Grade) and Paneah Chea (1st Grade)
Jorge Ek (1st Grade) and Malachi Huang (1st grade) 29
The great masters of imagination do not make things up out of thin air, they direct our attention to what is right before our eyes. Then they train us to see it whole â€“ not in fragments but in context, with all the connections. Eugene Peterson
Margaret Lockington (7th Grade)
Juan Jose Villela (6th Grade) and Broaden Grant (4th Grade)
Je'lea Hale (5th Grade), Tracy Martinez (5th Grade) and Jaeya Bayani (5th Grade)
Sean Hale(4th Grade) and Darren Mariano(4th Grade)
Maya Briceno (3rd Grade) and Ermes De Arma (2nd Grade)
The aim of the person of faith is not to be as comfortable as possible, but to live deeply and thoroughly as possible â€“ to deal with the reality of life, discover truth, create beauty, act out love. All acts of hope expose themselves to ridicule because they seem impractical, failing to conform to visible reality. But in fact they are the reality being constructed that is not yet visible. It takes courage to act in hope. Eugene Peterson
Kindergarten Graduating Class 2012: Samantha Mosuela, Alberto Viray, Paneah Chea, Juliana Munoz, Malachi Huang, Jorge Ek, Katia Martinez and Yencie Pacheco
Please join our family. Our dream is to see three things happen: • Create financial sustainability and fund tuition to expand the number of children we serve: –
Develop a sustained and ongoing base of funding for the school (regular, ongoing funding of the current $600,000 operating expense)
Incrementally provide funding for 20-30 new students each year over the next five years to fill the school to its new capacity of 250 children (approximately $120,000 to $180,000 in new funding annually)
Our most immediate financial need to is create funding for the 26 new students that joined the school this fall ($156,000 in total)
• Introduce many new friends in San Francisco to San Francisco City Academy and its students, and open up opportunities for tutoring, mentoring and other forms of support and encouragement of the students • Form an informal advisory group to see creative ways to raise the visibility of the this incredible work and attract more talent and resources to amplify its impact 35