Written by Vince A. Figueroa, EAHS Foundation Board President
I hope this newsletter finds each of you safe and well, as our community works together to move out of the purple tier in the coming weeks. Each year we go through the fundraising process leading up to our annual event and for some years now it seems like every time we connect with our community partners, we are up against a new battle. Yet, year after year, our supporters continue to come back and invest in our mission to support underserved youth in Southwest Santa Rosa. We are filled with gratitude and appreciation for each and every one of you as we head into our 2nd ever virtual Fiesta on Thursday, March 25th at 6PM. We hope to see you all there with a margarita in hand!
As many of you know well, Elsie Allen High School (EAHS) has the highest percentage of socio-economically disadvantaged students in our county, however, the pandemic has presented a whole new level of challenges. Elsie Allen High School’s zip code is unfortunately at the top in our county for Covid positive cases. There are many reasons for this, among them the fact that our students live in multi-generational homes that are forced to continue working through the pandemic to put food on the table. In many situations we have seen a decline in students attending distance learning as they need to enter the work force and help their families. We, as a Foundation, are having to broaden our scope of support this year to make sure our students have the tools they need to finish high school, and an opportunity to pursue higher education or a career in the trades when we return to some normalcy. The need for support from our Foundation is greater now than it has ever been.
My experiences growing up in Sonoma County are what brought me to the EAHS Foundation and what drove me to take a leadership position within the organization, despite not attending the school myself. As I heard more of the regular struggles our students go through, I saw more and more of myself in them. I grew up in a family of six children, my father went to prison when I was a teenager, and my closest brother went to prison when I was in high school. He eventually lost his life to drug and gang violence. I had some negative influences around me and not many opportunities to walk down the “right path”. Despite dressing in baggy clothes and not being a star student, I dreamed of one day having a great career that would give me the ability to financially help my mother. Luckily, a group of people saw that drive in me, helped me turn that drive into action, and made college a possibility for me through mentorship and scholarships. Once I saw the opportunity in front of me, I worked my hardest to make most of it.
I share this with you all because I truly believe that hardship like I experienced and like these students are experiencing right now builds character and a will for perseverance that is unmatched. I know these students are going to return to school wanting more for themselves and their families. The EAHS Foundation invested a record amount in our students in the 2019-2020 school year. We hope, with your help, to increase that support this and next year to give our kids a fighting chance.
With that, I ask that you please head over to our event page and sign up to join us on March 25th. You can join us for free while you enjoy your dinner and cheers virtually with Herman G. Hernandez, Senator Mike McGuire and myself.