Back to School and New Beginnings

Fall usually brings back memories of new beginnings–it’s usually the start of the school year, and it has been fun to hear staff talk about their kids starting preschool, elementary, high school and even college. I have very fond memories of the first day of kindergarten for both my girls, who had the same teacher although they are eight years apart. The teacher went by her first name, Patsy, and kept bunnies in the room. I cried both times when I left them, even though I was a regular volunteer. When they each started college, it was fun to settle them into their dorms, although this felt like a much bigger step. Once again I cried as I left each, both happy and sad, but somehow we all survived, and thrived.

It’s that time of year in America when students of all ages head back into the classroom–some eagerly, some a bit sorry to see the summer end–but all as participants in education: an important key to unlocking opportunities for everyone.

It may seem obvious, but when kids have good attendance records, they do better in school. At Potrero in San Francisco, where BRIDGE is working to create a vibrant, mixed-income community, the Healthy Generations Project operates a “walking school bus.” Each school day, community health leaders walk nearly two dozen children to their local schools, getting the kids to class on time for breakfast and offering supportive and safe companionship and mentoring along the way. I love this low-tech, high-touch way of building community and boosting attendance.  With a host of partners, we also provided nearly 300 backpacks and back-to-school resources to the Potrero community in early August.

Last week, classes started at Vincent Academy, a tuition-free charter public elementary school in West Oakland that offers rigorous academics, enrichment activities and after-school programs. Just one year ago, on land owned by BRIDGE, we completed development of the school’s new home, which has allowed it to grow and serve up to 350 students, about 20% of whom live at the four BRIDGE properties nearby. We’re proud of this community development partnership which addresses two systems–housing and education–that make a fundamental difference to children and families.

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