East Palo Alto afterschool program gets national spotlight

SAN JOSE, Calif. - An afterschool program that has quietly been helping hundreds of students in a poor pocket of booming Silicon Valley will make it to the national spotlight Monday.

A five-minute video clip about the Center for a New Generation in East Palo Alto will be featured at the national GOP convention.

The center was founded in 1991 to expand the learning opportunities and help bridge the socio-economic gap for children in the Ravenswood School District in East Palo Alto, a town that has long been the poor stepsister of Palo Alto just across U.S. Highway 101.

''These are kids who would normally fall through the cracks. They're not necessarily the brightest children, but they're motivated and they need additional support,'' said Jacqueline Glaster, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula, which merged with the Center for a New Generation three years ago.

The program is based in a city of about 25,000 on the edge of San Francisco Bay, where 85 percent of the population are minorities. About 65 percent of the school district's students speak English as a second language, 80 percent are poor enough to qualify for subsidized lunches and the schools have just one computer for every 28 students.

Across the highway in Palo Alto, where 82 percent of the 62,000 residents are white and the median home price is around $630,000, the city is so flush with New Economy money it plans to install high-speed fiber-optic Internet connections to every home.

The program has been trying to address those disparities since it was co-founded in 1991 by Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University professor and Gov. George W. Bush's chief foreign policy adviser, and Susan Ford, president of the Sand Hill Foundation, a local philanthropy.

The program works with elementary and junior high school children who show promise for academic excellence but need focus, encouragement and extra attention to fulfill their potential, she said.

And since East Palo Alto does not have its own high school, the goal is not only to get the youths to attend high school but also develop enough self-confidence to adjust to high schools in neighboring affluent communities such as Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton.

''They come from classrooms that are not as rigorous or as competitive,'' Glaster said. ''So we're trying to give them that extra boost to do well in high school and to feel good about themselves.''

As many as 100 students attend the center's classes every day after school and during part of the summer. Interested participants must be recommended by teachers or principals and maintain at least a C+ average. Students are encouraged to stay with the program until they attend high school.

The classes are taught by paid teachers and students from neighboring Stanford University work as classroom volunteers and mentors.

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