Saturday, May 18, 2013

Remembering Elmer Owens

Elmer Owens, First Book SF Board Member, passed away after a long illness on Tuesday, April 23, 2013.

Elmer was an accomplished speech pathologist. He was a kind and gentle man of great good humor who contributed much to the success of Up on Top and First Book San Francisco. He is greatly missed.

A celebration of Elmer's life will take place on Sunday, May 19 @ 2:30 pm @ the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin @ Geary.

Here is a link to Elmer's obituary on SF Gate.

Below are two photos of Elmer in lively conversation with fellow First Book San Francisco Board Member Kathy Katz at a First Book event in May 2010.


Elmer Owens and Kathy Katz

Elmer Owens and Kathy Katz

Friday, May 03, 2013

Jamestown Community Center - Preparing Parents To Be Excellent First Teachers

In the first of our blogs featuring the people who are part of our FirstBookSF Community, we chat with Alli Cuentos, an Early Education Specialist at Jamestown Community Center. The Center serves more than 1100 youths and their families in the Mission District in San Francisco. The center offers academic enrichment, sports, leadership training, youth employment, violence prevention and community building programming.

How long have you been operating, and how many staff and volunteers do you have? We’ve been at work for 41 years and have close to 60 staff and over a dozen volunteers. We serve families with children, from birth to young adulthood who live in the Mission. Our services are free of charge and we are a welcoming and helpful community center.

What is a ‘normal’ day like at Jamestown? It’s a mixture of routine -- and being surprised! The ritual of setting up educational materials, art projects and literacy activities and cleaning them all up somehow never seems boring. And the kids and family members are always teaching me new things. Each day I interact with children growing and exploring by the minute and excited families who are eager to support the healthy development of their kids. Included in the mix are meetings with kindergarten teachers, staff at other community agencies and trying to document what I do along the way.

Why is childhood literacy so important to these communities? Early Literacy is a key component of our Early Education Program. We have 75 children a year between birth and age five who attend one of our weekly parent-child groups, our Kindergarten Readiness Program or whose family members attend our Family Literacy workshops. Almost all of our children are English Language Learners and many of them don’t have any formal early education experience. Helping their parents be outstanding first teachers is vital in ensuring that the children be set up for success upon entering the public school system. Having a strong foundation of literacy skills in their home language will better prepare them for success in school. 

Can you tell us how a client or family has benefitted from your organization?

One mother, a recent immigrant from Guatemala, has a 16 month old daughter. She and her husband share a very small room in an overcrowded living situation and her husband works long hours in a restaurant. This mother is incredibly dedicated to the education of her daughter and committed to doing whatever it takes to guarantee the best option for her future. The lively pair attends our Early Education programs twice a week and never misses a parent workshop, literacy event or parent meeting. The mom is constantly asking questions and is hungry for articles and resources to better support her family. Through connections made at our program she has started taking English classes, now has a public library card (inserted link to SF Public Library here) for herself and her child, and attends other fun and stimulating programs around the neighborhood. She has also shared her positive experiences with other recently immigrated moms at the park and brought several of them with her to our program. She now has a decent collection of bilingual books at home and a ton of ideas about how to share them daily with a toddler on the go!

If there was one thing you could say to a potential donor, what would it be?
Celebrating Jamestown's Spirit Day 

There is nothing in the world more gratifying than seeing parents and family members fall in love with reading along with their child. The privilege to facilitate a passion for life-long learning and connections between children and the adults who care for them is priceless. Whether it means purchasing books for distribution or supporting direct programming, this is TRULY the gift that never stops giving.

To read the latest news on the Jamestown Community Center, go to