Community Link
A newsletter of Napa Valley Community Foundation
October 2014

To children, the world is a big, sometimes scary place that can be difficult to navigate. Parents and teachers give kids tools to grow and develop. Yet, there are other types of learning and mentoring that can introduce young people to our big and complex world.


This month's edition of Community Link features three organizations that help youth to expand their view of the world, or teach kids some essential life skills. All programs featured have been vetted by Community Foundation staff. 


If you'd like to support any of them, you can recommend a grant by logging into your DonorCentral account from the homepage on our website. Or, you can fax us a completed grant recommendation form at 254.7955. 




Julia DeNatale & Marla Tofle

Philanthropic Services Staff

Library programs foster children's love for reading


Organization: Friends and Foundation St. Helena Public Library (FFSHPL)

What's needed: $5,000 for support of the children's literacy programs


Why they exist: The St. Helena Public Library (SHPL) has 10,000 card-carrying patrons on its roster. St. Helena is home to 6,000 residents, but people come from Angwin, Pope Valley and other rural parts of up Valley to check out books, access technology and attend classes and cultural events.  SHPL patrons are quite active; its users borrow more books and other items per capita than any other library in the state. A couple of years ago, SHPL conducted a needs assessment among locals and learned that services for older adults and Spanish-speaking residents were an unmet need.  The Library now hosts free hands-on computer classes for seniors; has doubled the size of its Spanish-language collection; conducts outreach to partner agencies that serve Latino community members; and, offers culturally-relevant programs in Spanish to kids and adults each week. SHPL also hosts several programs weekly--ranging from author talks and historical lectures to film series' and dance performances--that are free of charge and open to the public; last year attendance at these events surpassed 12,000.


What they do well: Literacy development among children has long been a mission of public libraries. To that end, SHPL's Children's Librarian leads nearly 40 classes a month to help preschoolers build vocabulary and create the foundation for reading. SHPL also runs a summer reading program--a proven technique to prevent loss of literacy during the school break--for nearly 500 schoolchildren. Other kid-relevant programs include: academic online tutoring for middle and high schoolers, in which students have instant online access to live tutors in a variety of subjects; and, book-to-movie programs like the "Harry Potter Cover-to-Cover Read-a-thon," which attracted more than a thousand residents and culminated in a special midnight premiere of the film. 


What we learned when we met with them recently: The library is a department of the City of St. Helena and receives funding from the municipality, which covers 79 percent of its operating budget.  Until a few years ago, the remaining 21 percent was covered by state and federal funding, but that was cut. SHPL has been using its reserves to cover the gap, and in 2015 those funds will be depleted.  FFSHPL, which is the nonprofit foundation whose sole purpose is to advocate for the Library and fundraise to enhance and sustain programs and services (like the children's literacy programs), has the task of covering the budget shortfall, which is currently $120,000 but will balloon to $250,000 each year after reserves are exhausted.


People served: 10,000 cardholders (1,400 are "youth borrowers")


Budget & Board: $197,000 ($7,000 for children's programs)/ 11 Board Members


Contact: Maria Criscione Stel, Executive Director,


Teens learn to leave gang life and succeed in school


Organization: Legacy Youth Programs (LYP), under fiscal sponsorship of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center

What's needed: $5,000 to support programs in Napa


Why they exist: Vintage High School's (VHS) Student Resource Officer (SRO), a Napa Police Department officer stationed on the school campus to enhance student safety, had developed trusting relationships with a number of gang-involved teen boys on campus, who were mostly Latino.  These young men confided in the SRO that they wanted a safe place to talk about their gang involvement, and to explore ways to leave the lifestyle.  Data from the Napa County Gang and Youth Commission backed up the SRO's observations and conversations on campus:  Roughly 80 percent of Napa County gang members are 17-year-old Latino males. In 2013, Legacy Youth Programs launched with 15 young men meeting once a week on campus. Since then, the program expanded to classes twice daily for boys and girls. LYP also has classes at Redwood Middle School and Valley Oak High School.  LYP's curriculum focuses on life skills and leadership development; academic tutoring; community service; college and career readiness; and, cultural and ethnic studies.


What they do well:  Most LYP youth are involved in gangs, and all are at-risk for being expelled from school.  These kids also are primarily from low-income families and Latino, and, by and large, feel marginalized at school.  One of LYP's strategies is to strengthen participants' cultural identity, and their analytical skills for viewing the world; the goal is to empower these youth to make good decisions and learn self responsibility from a place of positive cultural identity. The Student Resource Officer also teaches LYP classes alongside the instructor, which helps the kids develop a positive way of relating to law enforcement.


What we learned when we met with them recently: Since the program started, the majority of  students who participate have raised their grade point averages--most start the program at a "C" average and exit at a "B" average.  Also, more than 75 percent of LYP students graduate from high school--a less likely scenario had they not participated. LYP's college-readiness tenet encourages students' academic success; the program also boosts kids' motivation by taking them on college visits and introducing them to role models who have left the gang lifestyle and turned their lives around.


People served: 60 students in the Napa Valley Unified School District


Budget & Board $263,000 ($95,000 for LYP)/ 9 Board members


Contact: Carlos Hagedorn, Project Manager & Coach,

At-risk kids get mentored by adult role models


Organization: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Bay (BBBS)

What's needed: $5,000 to support programs in Napa


Why they exist: For more than 100 years, BBBS has been working nationally to provide at-risk kids with caring adult mentors: the nonprofit's mission is to create "matches" between adult volunteers, known as "Bigs," and kids, ages six through 18, called "Littles." In Napa, BBBS works with 50 matches, who spend time together at least twice per month for activities like helping with homework, going bowling or visiting a museum. This consistent contact allows the pair to build a trusted relationship that is especially helpful for the youth--many of whom experience challenges at home or are in the foster care system--to make positive life choices and avoid risky behaviors.  Kids that participate in BBBS are more likely to show improvement in the classroom and in friendships, and less likely to be truant, or use drugs or alcohol. Involving the Little's parents or guardians also is an important piece of the puzzle: Families provide input that helps BBBS select the best match, and communicate regularly with the Big to approve outings, as well as talk about the child's progress. Families also participate in trainings and education on child safety and development.


What they do well: BBBS fosters a lasting relationship between Bigs and Littles. The nonprofit aims to pair each at-risk youth with a caring adult who will mentor them for at least two years. In Napa, matches tend to exceed this standard and stay together three years or more.  BBBS takes steps to ensure the match will be successful, including: A BBBS bilingual counselor carefully screens each Big candidate, and then chooses the ideal person based on personalities, location and other factors, like gender and ethnicity (matches of the same gender and ethnicity tend to work better); Bigs are informed of the unique needs of their Little and his/her family; and Bigs receive training on effective practices for encouraging their Little's positive development.  The BBBS counselor and Big meet on a regular basis to assess how the relationship is going and ensure that it is positive and impactful.  BBBS' goal is to create matches in which the Big mentors the Little through high school and actively supports the youth's college readiness, which increases their odds of attending post-secondary education.


What we learned when we met with them recently: Recruiting the adult half of the match isn't easy, and takes time.  Most Big candidates require two or three interactions with BBBS staff before signing on.  Plus, the rural spread of Napa makes pairing kids from up Valley difficult; while BBBS typically has a wait list of kids in St. Helena and Calistoga, finding mentors in the area is a challenge.  BBBS has established a committee of local "Ambassadors" comprised of current or former Bigs that help recruit new mentors. This year, BBBS also plans to hire a new staff position dedicated to outreach, that will focus some time in Napa to recruit Bigs needed in the Valley, in particular, Latino adults.  


People served: 50 Littles and 50 Bigs in Napa County (450 Littles and 450 Bigs throughout the North Bay)  


Budget & Board: $923,000 ($115,000 is for Napa programs)/15 Board members


Contact: Lauren Grayman, Interim Executive Director,

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