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East Palo Alto Kids Foundation: Serving disadvantaged students


Courtesy of East Palo Alto Kids Foundation
Children enjoy a field trip to the California Academy of Sciences, funded through the East Palo Alto Kids Foundation. The foundation serves approximately 4,000 underserved students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park.

• Mission: The East Palo Alto Kids Foundation (EPAK) was formed by Faye Brown, Nicki Smith, Tricia Berke Vinson and Jacqueline Widmar Stewart, four local residents who became appalled when per capita funding for California schools plunged in the 1990s.

“Without school parents’ participation, children had no gym, art or music classes, and the library and classrooms were woefully understaffed,” Stewart said. “We agreed that the best way to benefit students in individual classrooms was directly through their teachers. Teachers were best positioned to identify their students’ needs.”

Today EPAK serves approximately 4,000 underserved students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park. Teachers from 12 Ravenswood City School District schools may apply twice a year for $600 microgrants toward the purchase of approved enriching materials and experiences, such as field trips, for their students. New teachers to the district may apply for $250 grants to spend on whatever they may need to get their classrooms up and running.

“Teachers can sometimes come into a classroom and there’s not much in the classroom for them to teach with,” said Karen Ross, EPAK board president.

• 2018 update: Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Heising-Simons and Lucile Packard foundations, EPAK’s board is working to connect donors with impactful stories demonstrating how their gifts have changed the lives of the teachers and students who receive them.

The board is also hoping to encourage more Ravenswood district teachers to apply for EPAK grants. Perhaps due to intimidation about the process or misconceptions about the time it takes to apply, not enough teachers are taking advantage of the program, according to Ross.

“I would expect 100 percent of the teachers to apply for grants, and not all of them do,” she said. “So that will definitely be one of our goals: How can we get a higher percentage of teachers applying for these $600 grants twice a year?”

• Why the Holiday Fund is needed: “It just helps us to serve more kids in these 12 schools in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park,” Ross said. “We really appreciate grants we get, like the one from the Los Altos Town Crier. It’s really important to us.”

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation

Location: East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park

Founded: 1993

Annual budget: $350,000

Staff: 8-member board

Information: epak.org

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