Perspectives: Our Children at the Crossroads

By Jim Wambach
April 27, 2018

by Jim Wambach, Executive Director

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. – Leonardo da Vinci

Dear Community,

One volunteer + one child + love. A life filled with risk and despair can be transformed to a life of promise and hope. Karyn’s story is just one example of how possible it truly is for each of us to provide the extra care and support that can result in transformative opportunity for a better life.

We all know there are thousands of children in our community, whether in elementary school or high school, facing severe challenges not of their own making. Many are born into poverty or live in a neighborhood that is substantially under-resourced and, in many cases, undervalued by our society. These children, without receiving the additional support they need in a timely fashion, are at high risk of eventually dropping out of school, joining gangs, going to prison or early death. At a young age, they are literally at a crossroad between hope and promise and risk and despair.

What can we do to help more children have hope for a promising future and realize their God-given potential instead of leaving them “at risk?” Knowing there are so many children who need help at a critical and very real “fork in the road” in their young lives is not enough. Being willing to help is good, but is also not enough. We all must act now and with a high sense of urgency!

Make it a priority to become part of the solution! As a community working together, it’s not hard to make a real and lasting difference in a child’s life. As a Children Rising volunteer or partner, we will introduce you to a child in need and help you make a difference in that child’s life. As a donor, know that you monetarily and prayerfully support more volunteers and partners – increasing the community’s engagement and commitment to help children realize their potential and follow a path of love and hope – the hope of a rich and fulfilling life and the ability to one day give back to and strengthen their community.

For the children,


A Career Path is Found

By Chelsea Boniak
April 25, 2018

In the October 2017 newsletter, we featured a story about a CareerBridge intern named Karyn Lee. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Karyn’s mother, Marjorie, who shared her perspective on Karyn’s story.

Karyn (left) with Caltrans supervisor Rocquel Johnson and fellow CareerBridge intern Amanda Farmer.

Before she connected with CareerBridge, Karyn was losing steam. Marjorie had watched her daughter struggle in school after Karyn’s father passed away and had tried everything she could think of to help Karyn get back on track. Nothing worked until Karyn made the decision for herself to get ahold of her life. When she did, Karyn made incredible progress with her independent studies and worked hard to earn her high school credits. But this past spring, Marjorie saw her daughter losing momentum and become discouraged, especially when she couldn’t find a job that would give her a chance to succeed.

Marjorie couldn’t bear to see Karyn give up again, so she contacted Margena Wade-Green, our director of CareerBridge. Marjorie explained, “Sometimes [kids] don’t listen to us—but they’ll listen to Miss Susie down the street.” Margena stepped in as “Miss Susie” and helped Karyn get a summer internship at Caltrans.

Marjorie saw that at Caltrans, Karyn not only gained job experience, but also received mentorship from several individuals who strengthened her connection with the community. Karyn excelled and enjoyed her summer—so much so that she sought out a more permanent internship after the summer ended. Marjorie was excited to report, “They’ve even said that, once she finishes and gets her degree, she’ll have a job. Come on, that’s pretty big! And she started because she was an intern with [CareerBridge].”

Marjorie thanked everyone involved, saying, “[Karyn]’s got a lot to offer, but she was very broken, so she didn’t have a traditional path. A lot of people had to pour into her.” Karyn’s story is unique, but she is not alone. There are many students like her who have plenty to offer and just need someone in their corner, opening up opportunities they may not have been able to access on their own. Children Rising is grateful to be able to serve so many students in this way, connecting them with mentors and job placements.

Reading at the Crossroads

By Children Rising
April 3, 2018

by Eric Steckel, Communications Manager

By giving your support, you’ve helped 152 struggling readers catch up to their classmates.

Imagine, for a moment, the smiling young boy in the picture. He’s about to graduate third grade with his entire life before him, full of unlimited possibilities. Perhaps one day he’ll study to be a doctor or create the Next Big Thing in tech. He holds so much promise and has so much time.

Now imagine that same little boy standing at a lonely fork in the road. On one path he is supported by a caring community, catching up to his classmates in reading and realizing the promise of unlimited possibility. On the second path, he doesn’t get the help he needs to catch up in reading, putting at risk the dreams of academic achievement and a fulfilling career… or, worse, sealing him for the harshness of a life of poverty.

Will you complete HER Circle of Care?

Through one-on-one reading and math tutoring, and family support, you will nurture an eager child in a circle of care so they may succeed in school.

That fork in the road is very real. Children who cannot read at grade level in third grade are at a critical moment in their young lives. During this precious time, students transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students who cannot read to learn fall further and further behind, going to class but gaining nothing. But that’s not all.

Children entering the fourth grade who cannot read at grade level are fueling the school-to-prison pipeline. According to US Department of Education, 60 percent of America’s prison inmates are illiterate and 85 percent of all juvenile offenders have reading deficiencies.

If that fact isn’t sobering, consider this: 60 percent of third-graders in the Oakland Unified School District are reading below grade level.

In the 2017-2018 school year, your gifts of time and resources are helping over 270 struggling students in the East Bay learn to read. Your support of our Succeeding by Reading program allows us to intervene at this crucial stage. You are helping 270 ”at-promise” children avoid becoming “at risk.”

There is a pressing need for reading tutoring in our Oakland Public Schools. Your continued gifts will help us expand the program in more schools and guide many more children facing a lonely fork in the road.

Every $50 gift provides one year of tutoring materials for a new reader in our Succeeding by Reading clinics.

$100 will support one school library visit with storytime for 25 children. A $250 gift equips 10 community volunteers to serve as literacy tutors. $1000 supports one struggling readers with a weekly tutor for a full school year! Will you partner with us to help a struggling student learn to read? You can give online today at

It’s not too late for YOU to be a tutor. Volunteer today, and you will give a child the one-on-one care they need to rise to their God-given potential.

Yes, I can empower a child to become a lifelong learner.

 I want to learn more about online reading or math clinics to see if in-school tutoring is right for me!

I want to help fund Children Rising tutoring and mentoring programs to empower more children this year!

Markham Elementary’s Library Dream Team

By Children Rising
April 2, 2018

by Kim Farnham-Flom, Director of Library Services

Janice McClure, Marian McGaw, and Poly Thy at Janice’s graduation

Three years ago, Janice McClure was approaching retirement from her professional position. At that time, she read an article in the Children Rising newsletter about our contribution in opening and sustaining libraries in Oakland public schools*. Intrigued, she set about using some of her newfound time as a library volunteer.

Since then, she has discovered a new love working with students in East Oakland. “The students have taught me a lot. I am more aware of the need for providing books for students connecting with their own culture and the urban environment,” she explains. “Kids at the elementary age believe they can do anything and books encourage those dreams.”

Two years ago, Janice’s enthusiasm and commitment led her to join a group of other library staff to work towards a Library Technician certification. The cohort of school staff and volunteers completed the program with a festive graduation in February 2018. Children Rising provides training and support to all volunteers, which is instrumental to the success of the Library Services program. However, Janice took it further and committed to a series of 10 classes in Library Science through Diablo Valley College. “The program was a lot of work, but now I approach my time leading class visits differently. I research books, assist with the bulletin boards, and try to stay one step ahead of the students.”

Janice is part of a Children Rising team serving Markham Elementary. Marian McGaw has served school libraries for over 12 years with Children Rising. During this time, she has mentored and inspired a new generation of library volunteers. Marian’s dedication has inspired hundreds of elementary students to develop their love of reading. Together, Janice and Marian work with Poly Thy, the school’s library technician, to make a library dream team. “We feed ideas off of one another, laugh together and ensure the students have the best library experiences we can offer.”

If you would like to be part of a future library dream team, there are schools in need of library assistance. Both reading for pleasure and for school are important to a child’s literacy development. Just a few volunteer hours a week can impact a child’s ability to explore the world of books discovered in the school library. Visit to learn more.

“Librarians save lives: by handing the right book, at the right time, to a kid in need.”

– Judy Blume, American author

*Lack of funding has forced many schools to close their libraries. Our library volunteers help provide library services so that students have access to books on a weekly basis.

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