June 27, 2007, Oakland, CA — A modest Oakland couple, both retired teachers, has decided that, upon their deaths, $3 million of their estate will establish a fund at the East Bay Community Foundation to help students graduating from “McClymonds Educational Complex” who go on to college or trade school.
The couple says their fondest hope is that their gift inspires others to similar action. “We fervently hope the generosity and wisdom of these two people inspire others to establish their own personal legacies of giving,” added Karen Stevenson, President of the East Bay Community Foundation.
“You can assure that at least a portion of what you have accumulated in your life is devoted to a cause dear to your heart and our cause is education,” said the couple, who wishes to remain anonymous.
The mechanism to provide financial assistance to McClymonds graduates is called a “testamentary fund,” which allows for people to complete a written agreement now with the Foundation that will take effect when their estate is being settled. In this instance, the assistance program will be managed and administered by the school itself and a local church with money provided by the Foundation from the testamentary fund.
The McClymonds complex consists of BEST High School and EXCEL High School, both college preparatory schools.
The two former instructors have been deeply involved in tutoring Oakland school children in literacy and have been funding a tutoring program at another Oakland school for the past 10 years at a cost of $100,000 annually.
Intending to expand their tutoring efforts in the late 1990s, the two discovered what they describe as “the horrible drop-out rate” among students at McClymonds and set out to do something about it by establishing a fund to provide financial aid to deserving students.
“The first year, we provided $10,000, the second year $75,000,” they said. “So far we’ve invested $450,000 in the future of deserving students at McClymonds and other funders are now stepping up to provide even more assistance.”
Both say they are deeply disturbed by the magnitude of education needs in Oakland and would like nothing better than for their efforts to motivate others to do what they’ve done. “We’ve seen estimates that there are 90,000 people in Oakland who need help with literacy,” they said. “Something must be done about that and something can be done.
“We’ve seen consistent improvements at McClymonds since we were first involved. In 2001, for example, 16 students qualified for assistance. This year, 40 students qualified. Our purpose is to support those improvements and to provide assistance for students continuing their education in college or trade school. We can think of no better way to use this money.”
In their case, the money comes from stock accumulated as a result of the long-range financial benefits of living modestly for their several decades of married life.
“We see a widening gap between the rich and the poor in Oakland,” they said. “The way to break that cycle is to ensure that deserving students have financial assistance to continue their education. Education is the key to economic opportunity.”
“Improving education remains one of our continuing top priorities for both grant making and community leadership work in Alameda and Contra Costa counties,” said Stevenson.
The Foundation is involved in a number of education initiatives.
It is assisting the Oakland Unified School District’s “Expect Success!” initiative to retool the district’s operations and academic framework. The primary focus of the Foundation’s work is to increase community knowledge about the Expect Success strategy, to ensure that the reform efforts are transparent and inclusive, and to monitor the $23 million investment in the initiative from local and national foundations. With the implementation of Expect Success, the district is expected to increase its ability to manage and serve schools and to improve students’ academic success.
In addition, the Foundation has been building the capacity of local after-school programs, schools, and community-based organizations to implement high-quality, after-school programs for youth. As a result of these efforts by the Foundation and its grantees, more than $10.5 million of state funds for after-school programs were awarded to East Bay schools in January 2007 by the California Department of Education. These funds will enable almost 8,000 additional children and youth – a high proportion of who are low-income youth of color — to receive after-school services in the coming school years.
The Foundation’s newest education program assists Hayward Unified School District in raising academic performance of its growing immigrant school population. With a grant secured from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the East Bay Community Foundation is working with the district to improve the quality of before- and after-school programs and to enhance parental involvement at schools with immigrant students.
The Foundation also provides education “mini-grants” up to $800 apiece for East Bay classroom teachers to do special projects with their students beyond the regular school curriculum.