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Sister T’s Corner


StreetCode Academy Partners with Rosalie Rendu Center to Provide Laptops for Students

February 21, 2021

Another outstanding strategic partnership that the Rosalie Rendu Center has formed throughout the years — StreetCode Academy, in this case — has provided a critical dimension to empower our students to thrive. In the early COVID-19 days, our ESL students made do and attended virtual classes on their cell phones. This fall they were able to ramp up and improve their distance learning experience with loaner laptops from StreetCode Academy to learn English and stay close to their community via Zoom.

StreetCode Academy is visionary, streetwise, and uber generous.

The Academy was founded to support communities of color in East Palo Alto with the mindset, technological skills, loaner laptops and software that are foundational for seizing educational and economic opportunities.The mission of StreetCode Academy is to bridge the digital divide by providing tech training and loaner laptops to all families in need in East Palo Alto.

StreetCode Academy’s founders started with a vision to empower everyone in East Palo Alto to be innovative and fulfill their potential. The technology and training they provide is fundamental to learning, working and creating.

“Even before COVID-19, I could see students using their phones instead of laptops to learn,” said Kyle Carter, Community Engagement Outreach Manager for StreetCodeAcademy. “I looked at that as unfortunate and more proof of how East Palo Alto has been left out of Silicon Valley.”

The process of StreetCode Academy supplying MacBooks to Rosalie Rendu Center began with our students filling out the application on the StreetCode Academy website. Nearly all students qualified for a loaner laptop.

StreetCode Academy brought 25 loaner laptops to the Center where they were distributed. Two-by-two, students picked up their laptops and learned from Dick Hutsell, long-time RRC volunteer, computer class teacher and advisory board member, how to set them up. Dick showed the students how to connect to the internet, download software and set up their email accounts.

Thanks to StreetCode Academy and Dick’s comprehensive instructions, the students were fully equipped and operational for distance learning. No more struggling to learn English via Zoom on their phones.

The students have access to the loaner laptops for a year and can then reapply to extend the loan. StreetCode Academy also provides technical support, replacement laptops when needed and classes.

StreetCode Academy works with community organizations that are already supporting families in need, such as the Rosalie Rendu Center. Kyle, having lived in East Palo Alto, knew about the Center as a youth, long before working with StreetCode Academy.

“We don’t hold back. There are 7,500 households in East Palo Alto. Most are two-family households with an average of six people,” Kyle reports. “Many families have been sharing one computer for everything — work, homework and learning.

“Our goal is to make loaner laptops available to 100% of the families in EPA who need them. Once we know they have one or two, we’ve done our job,” said Kyle.

StreetCode Academy has a lot in common with the Rosalie Rendu Center as a non-profit dedicated to providing leading-edge learning and community building to enrich the lives of the people they serve.

Kyle believes leading-edge technology is simply the foundation on which success in education and work is built.

“We provide quality technology and education to help African Americans, Latinx and Pacific Islanders overcome adversity, become innovative and creative and make great things happen,” said Kyle.

“East Palo Alto is culturally very rich. It’s where I’m from so I know there’s a lot of talent here. And I know how much innovation we can produce in our small community,” said Kyle, who himself has participated in visual arts and written music and lyrics in the context of a social justice program.

“At StreetCode Academy, we provide laptops for students along with the technology and the tools they need for creativity and innovation. My goal is to help develop their hidden genius and convince them of their brilliance.”


Former Rosalie Rendu Center Student Blesses East Palo Alto by Paying it Forward

November 4, 2020

The lives of our Rosalie Rendu Center students and other East Palo Alto residents are, of course, complicated by COVID-19.

Thirty percent of Rosalie Rendu Center English as a Second Language students work outside the home, often part-time, in jobs such as babysitters, housekeepers and cashiers. Their husbands work as cooks in hotels and restaurants, and as gardeners and construction workers. Making ends meet has always been challenging.

One of our first Rosalie Rendu Center students works in a key role at East Palo Alto Academy addressing financial and educational challenges posed by COVID-19.

As a Parent Involvement Worker at East Palo Alto Academy, Martha Perez, an Alumna and Advisory Board member of the Rosalie Rendu Center, has a close view of the specific hardships facing members of the East Palo Alto community during the pandemic.

For years, Martha has served as a crucial connection between parents and teachers with the goal of helping students stay on track and perform well in school. But the challenges involved in that goal have multiplied and her role has critical new dimensions to fit the troubling times.

On the phone with parents for most of her working days, Martha has been providing connections to community-based solutions as well as much appreciated emotional support and encouragement.

Distance learning has created educational hurdles for students and under-employment is posing daunting financial challenges for their parents.

Many students started off with inadequate technology and internet connections to learn via Zoom, for example.

“Students often don’t have the Internet, so they borrowed hot spots but then we heard complaints that their connection is slow or doesn’t work,” Martha reported.

“Parents are often not at home to supervise; the children struggle and might finally make the Zoom connection ten minutes late. The kids get so frustrated. ‘The teacher didn’t see me; didn’t let me into the class,’ they say.” Martha has helped solve the issue by directing them to a program that provides affordable internet service.

Financial problems for parents during this pandemic are as daunting as the academic challenges for children.

“Parents sometimes can’t pay for groceries, phone bills and rent; and some of the students told me they’re so stressed out that they can’t even sleep,” Martha said.

To help prevent families from losing their homes, Martha advises parents of the California Moratorium on Evictions; often guiding them to pay at least 25% of their rent when they can. She also advises them of where to find free or affordable legal aid.

Addressing the difficulty of shrinking budgets for food, Martha points parents to resources such as the Boys & Girls Club which provides free dinner every night and groceries twice a week.

“It was very difficult for the families early on in the pandemic, when parents lost jobs and couldn’t afford food or rent. That’s when the idea of the Bulldog Buzz Cut challenge came up,” Martha reported.

Participating members at East Palo Alto Academy were willing to dye their hair or have their heads shaved in the process of competing on teams to raise funds. The Buzz Cut Challenge was a great success.

It was great fun for teachers, staff and students; and provided both much needed levity and grants for needed expenses. Martha said, “I believe we raised $100,000 for the families!”

You can learn more about Martha’s critical role in the lives of parents, teachers and students at East Palo Alto Academy in our upcoming newsletter. If you’re not signed up to receive the Rosalie Rendu Center bi-annual newsletter, please visit our contact page and send us your mailing address!


Language Partners Break Down Social Barriers with Improved English Skills

August 3, 2020

Language Partners give the highly prized gift of time and attention, acknowledging the value of each individual learner’s life experience in all its dimensions. Jessica* wrote the letter below to her 8-year-old daughter, Alicia*, with the help of her Language Partner while we were still meeting in person. This type of activity not only serves as a conversation and writing exercise, but also taps into and provides the vehicle for Jessica to express her internal motivation for acquiring English. Internal motivation is key to energizing perseverance in adult learners, especially during extraordinarily challenging times such as these.

When we transitioned to holding classes online, some days Jessica would Zoom in from her car. She was parked outside her workplace waiting for one group of employees to exit so that she could enter safely. Other days, she would join the class from home where she lives with extended family. Her younger daughter would be next to her drawing a picture. When Jessica’s son needed her presence to stay focused during his online classes, she began connecting to our afternoon class which we created for her and another student.

Our students keep showing up because they know that at the Rosalie Rendu Center, they are a part of a community that shows up for them. Our Language Partners continue to meet virtually.

Dear Alicia,

This is a letter from your mom. I want to share advice with you and appreciate my daughter. I love that you are creative. I feel proud that you are independent because you are interested in learning how to pray.

In the future, I hope that you will finish all of school and study what you love. Later in life, I would like you to go to Mexico to meet my parents and learn about the culture of Mexico. You are a great daughter. I love you so much.

Love,
Mom

Our students live out the truth that “love…always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:7.

You can help our students! Learn how you can build up our community.

*Names changed for privacy purposes.


Reflections of a Stanford Student

November 19, 2018

Wint Thazin, a student volunteer from Stanford, was a vibrant and loving force here at the Rosalie Rendu Center last summer. Wint captured the spirit of our center and her own meaningful experience eloquently.

Reflections from Stanford Volunteer, Wint Thazin

My time with the sweet ladies and children of the Rosalie Rendu Center has taught me a myriad of truths about education, community, and myself. Everyone here is so full of life, love, and support.

I was able to witness first hand the importance of a nurturing community space like this. At the Center, they had a place where they were comfortable enough to learn English and life skills from people who understood them. They struggled, learned and thrived alongside friends and family.

Students shared their stories as they learned, as they cooked and ate together, and as their children played together. They lifted each other up throughout. They came from similar stories and backgrounds, but each person was vibrantly herself.

At the Center, they were able to express themselves, share their culture, and bask in each others’ warmth. This humble center is a source of happiness, unity, stability, and hope for so many deserving individuals. This is exactly why the Rosalie Rendu Center, and spaces like it, are vital to healthy communities.

From these women and men, I have learned that diversity is truly a blessing. Because everyone had their own lovely personalities and quirks, everyone had something new to offer. This was really what drove me to the task of teaching a cooking and nutrition class to them.

It was so exciting to introduce food from my Asian and vegan culture. The students were wonderfully open and receptive to the experience. And, of course, everyone in the room had their own tricks and talents. During the end of the summer potluck, I was touched and delighted that all of the students were eager to share a bit of their own culture with me.

I was handed plate after plate of colorful and rich dishes. In my eyes, sharing food is equivalent to giving love, both of which were always floating around our classroom.

Lastly, working with the lovely families at the center has taught me great things about myself. I came upon my love for teaching, as well as learning.

I saw what it was like to make an impact through providing exposure to information, careful time and effort, and mutual hard work between teacher and student. In witnessing the profound changes education can bring for so many families here, I start my exploration into a rewarding field.

I am grateful for the summer that Ms. Maria, Sister T, and all the families at the Rosalie Rendu Center have shared with me. Continuing my own education and self discovery, I treasure the friendships seeded at the center and hope to further flower with this profound organization.

Blessings,
Wint


Creative and Collaborative Venues Augment ESL Classes

July 11, 2018

Education in English as a Second Language (ESL) has expanded beyond the classroom at Rosalie Rendu almost since its inception. We’ve had great success in our traditional model of teaching ESL, with classes growing significantly every year.

But every season, we also experience new, exciting and effective ways to provide learning in literacy.Our students love the challenge of refining their English speaking, reading and writing in a variety of venues and settings outside the classroom, including Conversation Club and outside cultural and educational events.

Our staff, students and volunteers regularly outdo themselves in creating thrilling, collaborative adventures in advancing literacy. In one especially creative venue — Readers Theatre — they wrote, produced, directed and performed a chapter from Francisco Jimenez’ The Circuit, “Miracle in Tent City.”

Readers Theatre is an oral presentation of a written work that has been adapted into a script with narrators and characters. Volunteer Jane Stern and teacher Maria Lozano brought Readers Theatre to our advanced English class with the goal of improving our students’ reading comprehension, fluency, pronunciation, expressiveness and presentation skills.

The adult students chose to dramatize a passage from “The Circuit,” a fictionalized autobiography of a Mexican migrant family that had meaning for them because it reinforced the importance of faith and a supportive family in getting through difficult times and reaching one’s dreams. Jane and Maria worked together to compose the script.

David Riggs, a retired professor from Stanford, guided students in the art of writing a synopsis, one of which was used in the program. In volunteer David Hutsell’s basic computer class, students created the program; and in Elisa Madrigal’s Art Club, students painted stage sets. Students from Stanford who had enrolled in a service learning class integrated the diverse aspects of the production into one project.

The beginners’ conversation club welcomed and escorted the audience into the courtyard “theatre” and the performance commenced. In a festive pot-luck after the presentation, the audience and performers celebrated the fruitful collaboration with the Stanford students.

As the seeds of teaching English literacy proliferate every season, so does our respect for our creative, hard-working Spanish-speaking and,  increasingly, bilingual students. Their eagerness to learn and to participate in breakthrough ways of learning English keeps us all on the growing edge.

Synergy among our students, staff, volunteers and donors is a big part of what makes Rosalie Rendu the inspired and magical place that it is in realizing our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty and helping our students advance towards fulfilling careers and thriving lives.

We welcome volunteers and donors to brainstorm their own imaginative activities and funding ideas and to bring their unique talents and skills to share with our Center.

We can’t thank you enough for your constantly flowing contributions of talent and energy to make new, creative and highly effective educational opportunities possible for our students!

Thank you for dreaming big with them.

Sister T


The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Awards Rosalie Rendu Center A Generous Grant

January 18, 2018

Happy New Year! Our 2018 has begun with thrilling news!

The Rosalie Rendu Center has just received a very generous grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, allowing us to buy new computers, hire another ESL teacher, continue our family enrichment program and offer a new week-long spring break program for school-aged children.

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, founders of the CZI Initiative

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, founders of the CZI Initiative

CZI grants address many community needs that coincide with our own vision, mission and concerns, including education, housing and workforce development.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative believes that those most impacted by challenges should be guiding the development of solutions. Launched in 2017, the CZI Community Fund supports organizations working in Belle Haven, East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks, and Redwood City to address the most pressing needs identified by residents and local leaders.

Learn more at https://chanzuckerberg.com/community-fund/recipients

At the Rosalie Rendu Center, we offer all of our services for free, so we depend upon gifts and grants to operate.We also rely on talented and dedicated volunteers in addition to our small staff to offer the very best instruction in English, life-skills and computer literacy.

We so appreciate our generous and loyal donors and volunteers and we thank you all for making the work of the Center possible. We hope you share our joy in our latest grant from the CZI and look forward to celebrating a fabulous new year at the Center with you.


Capturing the Spirit of the Seasons: Prepping for Fall after Summertime Fun

November 20, 2017

This year, rather than our traditional classroom ESL classes, we decided to hold all kinds of engaging workshops to provide creative ways of learning and socializing in English. The Spanish-speaking and bilingual students and their families loved it. It gave them exposure to cultures, skills and expertise not easily experienced elsewhere. It also provided a much-needed break from the rigorous school year.


Our workshops and their teachers were fun and diverse. A Stanford student serving as a summer intern, Wint Thazan, taught the students how to make vegan nopalitos salad and ceviche. Carrie DuBois, a long-time friend instrumental in helping to launch the Rosalie Rendu Center, is also known among her appreciative family, friends and colleagues for her elaborate cake baking and decorating. She shared her expertise with the students and was amazed at how quickly they caught on.

We also began a hiking group where mothers converse in English while exercising in the fresh air along with their little ones.

Our Art Club teacher, Elisa Madrigal, orchestrated a special art project. After focusing intently on their creations, our students’ talent was displayed vividly in painted frames that reflect their colorful culture.

On a hot Sunday afternoon in August, wrapping up a summer of fun, we held an ice cream social. The young children of our ESL students loved the ice cream and were almost as excited about picking up new books and back-to-school supplies. Our volunteer music teacher, Hannah, rallied her shy young singing students into providing us entertainment for the social in the form of a little concert. One of their greatest hits included lyrics, “People who make music together cannot be enemies…we are friends forever when we sing together.”

We’re glad we experimented with workshops this summer. It provided much needed restoration for our staff, students and volunteers; it helped students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom in a more relaxed setting; and it gave them a chance to discover and use their talent and creativity.

We welcome volunteers and donors to brainstorm their own imaginative activities and funding ideas. We and our students are infinitely grateful for new, creative opportunities for our students, and for your generous contributions that make them happen.


Sowing Seeds and Reaping Lasting Harvests for Our ESL Students

September 11, 2017

When we began teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to serve a struggling, Spanish-speaking immigrant community years ago, we had no idea that our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty would lead to quite so many thriving endeavors and life-changing opportunities.

We at the Rosalie Rendu Center, along with our students and their families, have been blessed, generation after generation. Lives have been transformed and wonderful new educational and professional realities have been created for our Spanish-speaking community.

(more…)


Sister T’s Vision

November 1, 2016

Karen O’Leary Englebart, a Junior League volunteer, visits to the Rosalie Rendu Center after almost 20 years have passed. She reflects below on how much the Center has grown and dimensionalized with so many lives inspired and transformed.

Almost twenty years ago, Carrie DuBois and I attended a baby shower for a resident of the Carriage Manor apartments.

It was a rainy day. The courtyard was flooded and the apartments were cold. But there was a sense of joy in the air as the women from diverse communities celebrated the mother to be and the new life to come.

Women in the Junior League had recently joined Sister T as volunteers in support of her mission to break the cycle of poverty in her beloved community of brave, hard-working, Spanish-speaking immigrants.

(more…)


Sister Trinitas, warmly known as Sister T at the Rosalie Rendu Center, shares her reflections of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in the East Palo Alto community. Sister T and her team have been offering free, specialized ESL classes for over 15 years in a traditionally underserved neighborhood in the Bay Area. Hundreds of families have benefited from the resources at the Center, and Sister T continues to deliver on the promise to combat poverty through education.

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