Member Spotlight: Making a Difference
Faith Network of the East Bay is an Oakland non-profit organization founded in 2001. Their focus is to build healthy families, schools and neighborhoods by rallying community support for under-resourced urban public schools. Faith Network’s mission is to nurture and equip vulnerable children to rise above the generational effects of poverty, violence and educational inequity. Today, with the assistance of over 200 regular volunteers who work directly with students, 150 occasional volunteers who lend a hand with short-term projects, and nearly 60 diverse community partners, they are serving over 35 schools in the Oakland Unified School District, the Alameda Unified School District, West Contra Costa School District, and Berkeley Unified School District.
We asked Faith Network of the East Bay a few questions about how they keep their organization running and some of their favorite stories from staff and volunteers. To learn more about their individual and one-on-one mode and the work that “warms your heart” keep reading.
What is Faith Network’s hidden talent?
Our vision is that every struggling child is reached by a caring community at a critical time in their life to provide hope, the dare to dream, and opportunity to thrive. Our hidden talent is our “community enablement model” which makes it possible for us to pair a trained and experienced community tutor with the child who can benefit the most by the support of a caring adult.
Since 2001, Faith Network of the East Bay’s community enablement model has been helping vulnerable children in East Bay public schools most affected by poverty, violence and educational inequity. We do this by first raising awareness and rallying community support for the children, and then training and guiding community volunteers to teach, mentor, and nourish the children, providing each child a more fair and equal chance of fully developing their academic and life skills and realizing their God-given potential.
Utilizing our well-equipped, trained and coached volunteers, Faith Network partners with principals and teachers at the most under-resourced schools in our community. These educators refer children who are struggling the most with developing early literacy skills. The referred children are then paired with a Faith Network tutor, a caring adult who will tutor and mentor the child throughout the academic year. Our community enablement model systematically enables members of the broader community to develop a personal, supportive relationship with the children who need the most help. This approach is at the heart of enabling Faith Network to consistently transform the lives of vulnerable children year after year so they can rise above the many challenges they face.
Where does your program take place? What is your program as a student going through each session?
Our program takes place in elementary schools during the school day. We have implemented reading clinics in support of the 19 elementary schools (all Title 1 schools) served in the 2018-2019 academic year. These clinics are held in dedicated classrooms where the students and tutors meet for tutoring sessions. The reading clinics provide individualized reading instruction during each week for school-designated second and third-grade students performing far below their grade level in reading. Screened, trained and coached volunteers serve as the weekly tutors for these students, with each tutor conducting a 45-minute, one-on-one session for two children each week – supported in the field by a Faith Network literacy specialist. Tutor and child pairings remain consistent throughout the academic year in most cases. All students are pre-tested at the beginning of the school year, assessed mid-year and post-tested at the end of the year to evaluate progress. About 75% of the children in our program for a full year will improve their reading skills by two or more grade levels within the academic year.
During the sessions do you have an in house curriculum that you use? Tell me about it.
In consultation with each child’s teacher, we personalize the tutoring for each child based on an evidenced-based curriculum and approach to learning. Each tutoring session includes practice with phonics, sight words, and leveled reading fluency. The tutors use a variety of standardized teaching tools and games to accommodate different learning styles and reinforce skills. Our reading books are leveled based on Fountas & Pinnell reading levels and each child is progressed systematically through the curriculum based on verified progress in reading level ability.
What makes your organization stand out?
Our program consistently delivers remarkable results due to the educational experience of our staff, our tutor training and coaching – and the commitment of our wonderful tutors year after year. Many of our 200 tutors have been contributors to our program for at least 5 years. We also have years of experience and a strong partnership with the principals and teachers of the elementary schools we support.
Earlier this year we launched a four-year strategic initiative with a goal of supporting 5 times as many struggling elementary school children most affected by poverty, violence and educational inequity. By better educating the broader community, we believe we can develop and support an array of highly skilled and experienced tutors utilizing our community enablement model. By 2022, we hope to be able to transform the lives of more than 2,000 children every year and help drive a generational change in the East Bay community.
Any highlights for working with the organization?
Faith Network’s tutoring programs foster an important one-to-one relationship that develops between a child and a caring adult throughout the school year. This relationship, based on trust and reliability, is truly transformative and is as much about caring and “being there” as it is about learning how to read. A tutor “showing up” every week proves to a child that he or she truly matters and is important – building self-confidence and renewing hope that fuels personal growth and a desire to learn.
Why does your organization support literacy and early education in Oakland?
There’s a desperate need. The children we are working so hard to help are truly “at risk” without additional support from the community. They are at risk of not being able to realize their own God-given abilities and promising potential, and are also at risk of experiencing so much more of life’s harshness and sorrow – all because they’re born or live in a neighborhood that is substantially under resourced and, in many cases, under valued by our society.
Without the support of the community, there will continue to be way too many children who are not able to rise above their current situation. As we know, if a student doesn’t have the ability to read by the time they move into the 3rd grade, they will be substantially challenged to learn at grade level and won’t have a fair chance of being successful throughout their elementary, middle and high school years.
Many of our neighborhood children are in need of this type of support and it’s important that more and more of the community becomes involved and is willing to help. We do the work we do to help prevent children from getting lost in the system due to educational inequity and the unique challenges they face. Our heart is in helping these children rise above their many obstacles.
Why did you join the OLC Member Network?
It’s real simple: we love what you are doing at OLC. When Cassie reached out to us about Faith Network joining the partner network, it was an obvious “yes” by the entire team. The coordination OLC provides within the literacy community is extremely important. You are providing more synergy and collective power to literacy partners in the entire area – all for the benefit of the children. Joining as a partner of OLC was a very easy decision for us to make.