Grantee Community Profiles

East Oakland Highland

East Oakland-profile

East Oakland Highland is a densely populated community in Oakland located between 69th and 98th Avenues and I-880 and MacArthur Boulevard. International Boulevard, the major thoroughfare dissecting the neighborhood, is one of Oakland’s highest stress police beats.

The center of the community is the campus of two small elementary schools, Rise Community School and New Highland Academy, where more than 85% of students qualify for the federal lunch subsidy.

Cowell began making place-based investments here in 2008 and has awarded more than 30 grants totaling $3M across the program areas to:

  • improve family economic stability through the Sparkpoint Center;
  • complete a park within the Lyon Creek Crossing affordable housing complex;
  • furnish and stock the new East Oakland Community Library;
  • improve teaching and learning at Rise and New Highland elementary schools, and Elmhurst Middle School;
  • nurture a new Family Resource Center (FRC) on the shared elementary school campus;
  • expand youth leadership programs at Castlemont High School;
  • expand a youth entrepreneurship program; and
  • provide employment opportunities for youth involved in the criminal justice system.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area Organization Project Description
Families & Communities Lincoln Child Center To strengthen the FRC on the New Highland Academy and Rise Community School shared campus.
Education Oakland Unified School District To improve leadership, culture and academic performance in the neighborhood elementary and middle schools.
Youth Development Oakland Kids First To launch and sustain youth peer academic mentoring and meaningful school engagement programs at Castlemont High School.
Leadership Development Oakland Kids First Support for staff professional development and organization capacity building in the areas of evaluation and information technology.

Mayfair, San Jose


The East San Jose neighborhood of Mayfair is defined by the enrollment zone of Cesar Chavez Elementary School where 82% of the 537 students are English Learners, 87% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and 67% of third graders score below grade-level proficiency in reading/English Language Arts.

Cesar Chavez, who founded the United Farm Workers Association, grew up and organized here when the area was agricultural and mostly comprised of orchards, farms and canneries.

Today Mayfair is an urban neighborhood of 10,000 residents, of which 70% are renters.  Poverty rates are high and educational attainment is low with only 6% of parents having attended college.

Cowell entered this community in 2012 and has awarded eight grants totaling $529,000 across the program areas.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area Organization Project Description
Families & Communities Somos Mayfair Operating support for the In Our Hands campaign, which is focused on increasing neighborhood children’s academic achievement.
Education Cesar Chavez Elementary School To employ a community liaison and engage parents in support of early literacy instruction.
Youth Development Reading Partners To launch a volunteer-driven literacy and enrichment program at Chavez Elementary School.



McKinleyville is an unincorporated town on the redwood coast with a population of 15,000 and growing.

It has the highest concentration of children in Humboldt County, and over half of local students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

The town supports small businesses and cottage industries such as sustainably-caught fish, feed and farm supplies, and hand-sewn textiles.

The largest employers are Humboldt State University, College of the Redwoods, and the County government, which is seated in the twin cities of Eureka and Arcata, ten miles south.

Since 2013 Cowell has awarded ten grants here totaling $726,000.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area Organization Project Description
Families & Communities McKinleyville Family Resource Center Operating support to enhance programming, strengthen infrastructure and plan a new integrated service center with the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services.
Education Northern Humboldt Union High School District To develop standards-aligned curriculum in collaboration with McKinleyville Union School District in order to enhance instruction and deepen students’ academic engagement.
Youth Development Boys & Girls Clubs of the Redwoods To support youth leadership engagement and develop collaboration with the McKinleyville Services District that will result in joint programming and operations at the new McKinleyville Teen Center.



The McPherson  neighborhood, near downtown Napa, is home to about 6,000 residents. Many adults hold multiple low-paying jobs within the agriculture, viniculture and tourism industries.  88% of the 650 students at McPherson Elementary School receive free or reduced-priced lunches and 68% are English Learners.

Beginning in 2006, Cowell made 30 place-based grants in McPherson, totaling $3.5M across the program areas.

Those grants helped to develop the McPherson Neighborhood Initiative, a collaboration among three core partners:  McPherson Elementary School; the Family Resource Center (FRC) on the school’s campus; and the Youth Leadership Academy.

In 2015, the Neighborhood Initiative was expanded to include students and families at Phillips Elementary School and Silverado Middle School, both located roughly three miles east of McPherson, along Napa’s urban periphery.  The scope and focus of Cowell grants likewise expanded.

Together, the Neighborhood Initiative partners are focused on achieving three common goals:

  • raise student academic expectations and outcomes;
  • maintain a diverse and intergenerational pipeline of leadership across the neighborhood;
  • increase parent and resident participation in civic engagement programs that impact the quality of life for neighborhood children.

To these ends, with Cowell support, the collaborative effort has resulted in:

  • sustained achievement gains at McPherson elementary school, especially in early literacy and among English learners.
  • greater parent involvement on the elementary school campus, and enhanced family connections to the local middle school;
  • increased high school graduation and high school exit exam passing rates among Latino youth;
  • development of a playground, park, community gardens, and other community improvement projects led by youth-adult teams.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area Organization Project Description
Families & Communities On the Move To sustain the Family Resource Center on the McPherson campus, and to establish an FRC on the campus of Phillips Elementary School.
Education Napa Valley Unified School District To align and enhance academic supports and eliminate opportunity gaps across elementary, middle and high schools.
Youth Development On the Move To sustain and expand youth leadership development and mentorship programs for elementary, middle and high school students.
Leadership Development On the Move To facilitate collaborative planning for the expansion of the Neighborhood Initiative.

Tahoe Truckee


Home to 30,000 permanent residents, the Tahoe Truckee region straddles Placer and Nevada County lines and stretches from the north side of Lake Tahoe across rugged alpine vistas to the Nevada border.

The local economy is based on seasonal tourism, so low-wage service jobs predominate and many working families live in sub-standard housing or overcrowded trailer parks.

Of the 4,000 students in local schools, 38% were classified as English Learners when they first enrolled and 45% percent qualify for the federal lunch subsidy.

Cowell has been investing here for 15 years, beginning in 2000 when we first made place-based grants in the unincorporated lakeside town of Kings Beach. In 2007, our approach broadened to include Truckee in response to the regional distribution of families living in poverty.

In total, Cowell has awarded more than 60 grants totaling nearly $7M across our program areas, helping to:

  • build a Boys and Girls Club in Kings Beach and launch an associated after-school program at Truckee Elementary School;
  • build 524 new units of affordable housing;
  • improve student achievement district-wide while reducing the achievement gap between English learners and other students;
  • create the North Tahoe Family Resource Center (FRC);
  • build and open Community House, which provides integrated services for families;
  • establish the Cowell Endowment for Strengthening Families at the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area Organization Project Description
Families & Communities Family Resource Center of Truckee Operating support to enhance programming and strengthen infrastructure.
Education Tahoe Truckee Unified School District To strengthen literacy development across the secondary curriculum through teacher professional development and coaching.
Youth Development Adventure Risk Challenge To sustain and strengthen outdoor education, literacy and leadership programs for primarily English Learner teens.
Leadership Development Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum d.b.a. The KidZone To strengthen fundraising capacity, financial management, planning and controls.
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