Sunday, November 17, 2013

Up On Top - Hope, Stability and Fun for All

Part of FirstBook SF's Advisory Board, Up On Top is a tuition-free after-school and eight-week summer program working with underserved children from K-5th Grade living primarily in the Tenderloin and Western Addition neighborhoods of San Francisco. 

Up On Top supports families by providing children with safe and enriching after-school and summer programs.  Here, we speak to Luanne Schulte, a speech pathologist and volunteer at Up On Top.

How did Up On Top come to life? 
We opened our doors in 2001 in response to the shifts in federal welfare.

How many staff and volunteers do you have?  
Up On Top has four Administrative Staff, seven Program Leaders and 40 Volunteers, serving 110 families.

Who attends Up On Top programs? 
Our target population is children from low-income families who attend the Tenderloin Community School a public school, serving the Tenderloin and Western Addition neighborhoods respectively.  Both of these areas have significant minority populations living with income levels far below the median for San Francisco families.    

Why is childhood literacy so important to these communities?

Students in low-income, high-need communities are three times more likely to drop out of high school than their more affluent peers; they are often not reading/writing up to grade level and by the time they enter high school they are two years behind. Up On Top infuses literacy into all activities in our After School program and in our eight-week summer program. 
Our summer program, focuses on preventing summer learning slide. Every morning credentialed teachers and our program leaders work with the children to encourage them to become joyful readers.  At the end of our summer program in 2012 the children were tested and 93% of the children either improved their reading or stayed where they were at the end of the previous school year. The children can also go to the nearby public library where they can take out books.

What sort of support do you provide for children who need extra help?

For many of the children, who attend Up On Top, English is not their first language so it is doubly important that they receive additional support in English reading and writing. For the children who struggle more than others Up On Top has trained volunteers who provide one-to-one support both after school and in the summer.  We offer a wide variety of activities, healthy snacks, structured play and literacy skill boosting fun - all in a safe environment for families who are in desperate need of after-school and summer care programs.

Tell us about some of the children at Up On Top.
Elvis is one of our 4th graders, who has attended Up On Top since kindergarten. Both of Elvis’s parents speak Spanish fluently with very little English. Elvis has progressed from a below basic student in reading/writing and everyday math  to performing at grade level in math and proficient in ELA (English Language Arts).

If there was one thing you could say to a potential donor, what would it be?

Up On Top infuses literacy throughout all program areas so students are learning, growing and developing skills each day to be successful in school and in life. By giving to Up On Top, we can help students in our community have access to the same information and resources as their more affluent peers and will offer the same opportunities for the future.  Come along and see what we're about!