We Raise Grant Harvests Hope for Students in Oakland
Meet Trinney and Joel of Oakland, Calif., participants of the After-School Enrichment and Youth Leadership programs run by Harbor House Ministries, a 2018 We Raise Foundation GrantsPlus grant recipient.
Trinney, a sweet, soft-spoken 5th grader, loves coming to Harbor House to do her homework, talk with her friend Jailah, and participate in poetry club. But she probably enjoys Harbor House field trips the most. “Field trips are fun because some people are stuck in their houses and can’t get out,” she says.
Joel, a high school senior, is a teen intern who helps lead the after-school program for elementary students like Trinney. He remembers coming to the United States from El Salvador when he was 8 years old and struggling to learn English while trying to do his homework. Although he was involved with a hospital visitation program in 8th grade, it was hard to make connections.
A friend in high school told him about the Harbor House internship program and his application was accepted. “Now that I can speak English better, I can help other kids—give them something I didn’t have,” he says.
Executive Director Kacie Stratton notes that Joel is truly a hard-working, kind, responsible young man. “He’s great with the kids—one of the best interns we’ve had since I’ve been here!” she says.
We Raise donors help give Oakland children and teens a safe place to learn, grow, and build a strong community together, regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status. In an area where nearly 90% of children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, Harbor House’s after-school enrichment program and teen internship program gives kids hope.
“Kids enrolled in the after-school program come from 15 different countries, including Iraq, Nigeria, and Vietnam,” says Stratton.
“In the mix of that we have our African-American and Latino families who’ve been in Oakland for generations and a handful of refugee students and recent immigrants.”
For Stratton, that ‘beautiful diversity’ might be Harbor House’s greatest strength. “We all look differently from one another and we all talk different languages, but we’re all family,” she says.
Mondays through Thursdays, Harbor House staff pick up 60 children from the local elementary school and walk them to their facility. Afternoon activities include a nutritious meal, reading activities, indoor/outdoor games, homework time, and choice of enrichment activities like sports, art, or music.
The teen interns arrive via Harbor House van shortly after the children; each teen manages a group of three to four kids, checking in with them and helping them with homework.
Interns are paid a stipend, which, according to Stratton, is immensely helpful to them. “A lot of our high school students have additional pressures: help with bills, help with the younger kids,” she says. “The stipend helps takes the burden off, so these teens can actually enjoy school and use their talents to serve.”
Thanks to the faithful support of donors, We Raise can double the impact of every grant. In this case, We Raise staff helped Harbor House launch an incentivized crowdfunding campaign (in addition to the $50,000 grant), which raised more than $39,000 in 30 days and then received an additional $10,000 from We Raise. This extra funding enabled Harbor House to double the number of teens in the internship program. It was something that Harbor House staff had never considered before.
“The only reason we did it is because we had the support and encouragement through We Raise,” Stratton says. “Add the amazing incentive program, and we’re like ‘how could we not take advantage of that?’” We Raise webinars, staff support, and website guidance make it painless and even fun for Stratton and her staff.
“I’m just amazed at how well We Raise Foundation staff cares for its grantees—it feels relational,” Stratton says, adding that her gratitude extends to We Raise donors.
“Their financial support is making it so that kids in Oakland who are facing a lot of challenges are getting opportunities that could potentially be very life-changing for them.”
Because of you, Oakland students like Trinney and Joel are catching a positive vision for their future. Thank you.