December 2014    

 A Holiday Wish From the CEO


Dear Friends,


This has been another amazing year for Safe Passages. During the holidays, I reflect back on all the blessings this year has brought to the whole Safe Passages family. We have deepened our work in our eighteen school communities in Alameda County and served over 4,000 families through the Early Childhood, School Linked Services, Juvenile Justice, Career Pipeline and Economic Development efforts. This work would not be possible without the support of dozens of agency partners and individuals who believe in equitable access to services and education for all children. Mostly, however, I am grateful for the families of our communities: the mothers, the fathers, the grandparents, aunts, uncles and all caretakers who believe in a better future for our children. Your partnership is the cornerstone of our work.


I ask today for your support. As we spend time with our families this holiday season, we are also reminded of the tremendous injustice in our country. The latest high profile cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Andy Lopez are painful reminders. We have come a long way but have much more to accomplish. Please consider making a donation of any size $25, $50, $100 or $1000. Your contributions will go along way in ensuring an equitable path for all our children. 

  • A donation of just $100 would help a family to participate in the Baby Learning Program.
  • A donation of $500 provides one middle school student with mentoring and additional academic tutoring.
  • A donation of $1000 could provide a student with a stipend for an internship with a law firm. Click Here to Make a Donation!

On behalf of the Safe Passages family, I wish you a blessed holiday season and a New Year filled with promise and social justice.


Warm Regards,

Josefina Alvarado Mena

CEO Safe Passages



Lighting up Smiles at the Havenscourt Holiday Party!



On December 13, Safe Passages was honored to host with Mayor Quan, the Oakland Housing Authority, Community United Elementary School and Coliseum College Preparatory Academy, the largest and most successful holiday party in the Havenscourt neighborhood. Over 1,000 Oakland residents attended the 4th Annual Mayor's Toy Drive Event.  



   The children were by greeted by Santa and with games by Safe Passages AmeriCorps volunteers.



DJ VETZ (Alberto Murillo) contributed with great holiday music.
Mayor Jean Quan greeted families and celebrated along with the entire community. 







































The event was made possible for thousands of Oakland donors who gave generously to the toy drive, and to Oakland merchants who donated food and drinks for the event: Trader Joe's Rockridge, Trader Joe's Lakeshore, Costco Richmond, and Costco San Leandro.



Thanks to all of the kind donations, over 2,500 children received toys and books just in time for the holidays!



Donations of Warmth for Winter


A gift of kindness goes a long way. At least this is the spirit in which Waypoint Homes, a single family rental homes company in Oakland, approached their first annual coat drive. Their efforts paid off and they were able to collect 170 coats to keep families warm this winter. FranCine contacted Safe Passages who was able to distribute the coats to dozens of families at the Elev8 West Oakland Middle School Family Resource Center.  

Thank you for helping keep families warm this winter!



December Graduations for the Baby Learning 

Program at Sobrante Park


"In the program, we learned a lot about routines and talking to our babies. I want to be a big part of my baby's learning so I really liked that we learned how important it is to talk to babies about everything. Now I look for the cues that he gives me.  He is communicating all the time and I can help him learn no matter what we're doing."

Juana Gonzalez, mother of an 11th month baby and graduate of BLCC.




The Baby Learning Collaborative, now in it's sixth year of operation, graduated another successful class of parents, caregivers and young children ages birth through five. Over 120 parents and children participated in playgroups, workshops and specialized services designed to give young families the tools necessary to care for babies and young children. 


"The class of 2014 in Sobrante Park was one of our largest classes yet in this community," explains Laura Cabral, Senior Association of Early Childhood Programs for Safe Passages, "I believe it's because the need for family supports is great and the program meets those needs."


The program, designed through a collaboration amongst specialized early childhood providers and parents, is intended to provide low income, recent immigrant, and families with disabilities with the services necessary to give their young children a good start in life.

Recent graduates of the Baby Learning Program proudly pose with their babies.


While the program has been expanding rapidly in Oakland, a recent national study confirms that it is vastly needed at a national level. Nearly half of U.S. children have gone through a traumatic experience like exposure to violence, economic hardship, family discord or mental health and substance abuse. Those kids were twice as likely as their peers to have a chronic condition and special health needs. And they were 2.5 times more likely to repeat grades in school. The complete study can be found at:


Out of the Shadows

Josefina's Reflections on Immigration Reform


President Obama said during his Immigration Reform announcement last week, "You can come out of the shadows." I was sitting at home with my children watching the announcement when this statement struck me to the core. Immigration is one of the greatest Civil Rights issues of our time. Moreover it is a human rights issue. 

The President's words took me right back to my first year as an Education/Civil Rights attorney and Echoing Green Fellow. I was the only full-time attorney in a legal services organization committed to serving the Latino community in Oakland, California. In the throws of my start up program, a mom with a toddler in tow and a baby in her arms came into the office. The mom was distraught because she had just come from the hospital with her baby and her fist was clenched. When I greeted her, she opened her fist to reveal a small vial containing a cockroach that had been removed from inside her baby's ear by the hospital doctor.  The mom went on to explain that her apartment was infested with cockroaches and other vermin; her stove was broken; there was no heat in the apartment and the plumbing had back up spilling raw sewage onto the carpets in most of the units in the apartment complex.

I asked the mom if she had spoken with the landlord. Shaken, she shared that she was undocumented and the landlord frequently threatened the tenants with calling, "la migra" or Immigration. She explained that many of the other tenants were too scared to come to our office because of the landlord's threats. We closed the office that day and walked the four blocks over to the apartment complex. As we went door to door, we saw, smelled and heard about the deplorable, inhumane living conditions from over a dozen tenants and their children. Many children were suffering from asthma exacerbated by the cockroaches. These were the families living in the shadows.

This experience profoundly impacted my work. It became clear that education rights by themselves would not be enough. The totality of the socioeconomic conditions, including poverty, immigration, education, and violence that disenfranchised the community had to be addressed. Eighteen years later, bringing people out of the shadows is still an incredibly daunting work in progress in Oakland, and every other city in America.

Now as the CEO of Safe Passages and as a social entrepreneur, I think about all my experiences working with disenfranchised, vulnerable communities and I am reminded of my own personal trajectory. My grandmother was brought to the U.S. as a toddler riding the shoulders of her uncle as they crossed the Rio Grande and I think, I would not be here if she had not.

So, President Obama-thank you for reminding us that we are all created equal, that all of us should have the chance to make of our lives what we will, and of this country's potential to be great. And please, take every Executive Action in your arsenal to bring more of us out of the shadows.

This article is an excerpt from the article posted by Echoing Green. The full article can be found at:


In This Issue
A Holiday Wish from the CEO
Lighting Up Smiles at the Havenscourt Holiday Party!
Donations of Warmth for Winter
December Graduations for the Baby Learning Program
Out of the Shadows Josefina's Reflections on Immigration Reform



Safe Passages disrupts the cycle of poverty by engaging youth and families to build and drive a continuum of services that supports student success and community development.     


We envision a community where all young people have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Our work is based on the premises that access to educational opportunity, health services, and family support should not be dictated by race or socio-economic status, and that healthy and supported young people are better prepared to learn and succeed.

Safe Passages' strategies span the age continuum of birth through young adulthood and include: Early Childhood, School Linked Services, Juvenile Justice and Career Pathways. 


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