Grantee Community Profiles

As of January 1, 2020, Cowell was making or considering place-based grants in the following communities: Calistoga; East Madera; El Verano (Sonoma); Mayfair (San Jose); McKinleyville; Napa; Sanger; Southside Richmond; and Tahoe Truckee. We also are active in the North State Region comprising Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity counties. The profiles below provide illustrative examples of these communities and the work of our grantees.

Calistoga

(Image from Tripsavvy)

The presence of thermal hot springs made Calistoga, located in northern Napa County, a popular tourist destination long before the region developed into the wine mecca it is today. With a population near 6,000, much of Calistoga’s workforce is employed seasonally in viniculture and hospitality. Nearly half of local families earn less than $50,000 per year and more than 75% of local students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. More than 70% of incoming kindergarten students are English Learners.

Between 2002 and 2005, Cowell awarded seven place-based grants in Calistoga, highlighted by a capital grant for a modular building to house a family resource center on the campus of Calistoga Elementary School.  Inspired by the progress of the family resource center and its emerging partnership with Calistoga Joint Unified School District and other agencies in a Community Schools Initiative, Cowell re-engaged in Calistoga in 2015. Through 2019, our investment comprised 21 grants totaling $1.8 million for the Community Schools Initiative; to build a Boys & Girls Clubhouse; and to strengthen academic and social-support programs for students at local schools.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area

Organization

Project Description

Education

Calistoga Joint Unified School District

To improve learning conditions and instructional quality in neighborhood public schools.

Families & Communities

UpValley Family Centers

To sustain, extend and evaluate the Calistoga Community Schools Initiative.

Youth Development

Aim High

To launch a summer academic enrichment program for middle school-aged youth.

El Verano, Sonoma

(Image from sonomanews.com)

The neighborhood of El Verano has a population of nearly 5,000 residents and lies within “the Springs,” an unincorporated area adjacent to the town of Sonoma. Most adult residents labor in the vineyards, ranches, hotels, and restaurants of the Sonoma Valley’s wine and tourist industries. El Verano is an unplanned neighborhood of curling streets that follow a meandering creek. Many houses were originally built as weekend cabins. At the center of the community sits El Verano Elementary School, where 82% of 420 students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, 79% are Latino, and 67% are English Learners. All those figures are the highest in Sonoma. From 2014 through 2019, Cowell’s investment in El Verano comprised 22 grants totaling $1.7 million. These grants were primarily dedicated to the planning and start-up of a family resource center on the El Verano Elementary campus and toward an overhaul of the school’s literacy programs.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area

Organization

Project Description

Education

El Verano Elementary School

To advance a teacher-led school restructuring process and improve student achievement in reading and writing.

Families & Communities

La Luz Center

To sustain the El Verano Family Resource Center.

Youth Development

El Verano Elementary School

To sustain the Valley Vibes Orchestra program.

Mayfair, San Jose

Mayfair-Profile

Cesar Chavez, who founded the United Farm Workers Association, came of age in the East San Jose community of Mayfair when the area was known for orchards and canneries.  Today, Mayfair is a vibrant urban neighborhood of 10,000 residents that stands at a complex and uneasy intersection. Poverty is endemic to the community and educational attainment is low, with fewer than one in 10 adults having attended college. Yet, residents uphold strong traditions of mutual support, civic advocacy and cultural celebration. At the same time, as housing costs escalate and new infrastructure links San Jose’s neighborhoods to the city center as never before, East San Jose is again a community in transition.

From 2012 through 2019, Cowell’s investment in Mayfair comprised 34 grants totaling $2.7 million. Our support has principally sustained two inter-connected enterprises:

  • The In Our Hands initiative of Somos Mayfair seeks to activate residents as leaders and align effort around the singular goal of ensuring that all neighborhood children arrive at school ready to learn and achieve basic literacy by the end of third grade. The initiative has trained and supported more than 200 resident promotores who have engaged more than 6,000 of their neighbors in programs focused on health, education and economic advancement.
  • The Si Se Puede collaborative links and aligns the efforts of four community-based agencies who work with families and youth to ensure access to basic needs such as food, housing and transportation, to foster cultural expression and exchange, and to engage residents in creating safety, opportunity and recognition.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area

Organization

Project Description

Families & Communities

Grail Family Services

To start-up a pre-school and early education training site in East San Jose.

Families & Communities

Somos Mayfair

To enhance the In Our Hands initiative and related efforts to improve early learning outcomes for children.

Youth Development

Reading Partners

To provide one-to-one literacy support for students at Mayfair neighborhood elementary schools in San Jose.

Youth Development

School of Arts and Culture

To sustain arts education programs serving youth in the Mayfair neighborhood, and to enhance the impact of the Development Pathway Model.

McKinleyville

McKinleyville-Profile

McKinleyville is among the largest unincorporated towns in California, 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. Located just south of the Redwood State and National Parks, the town supports small retail and resource-based enterprises and serves as a “bedroom community” to the twin cities of Eureka and Arcata, where major employers Humboldt State University and Humboldt County government are located.

From 2013 through 2019, Cowell’s investment here comprised 33 grants totaling $2.7 million for initiatives that are helping leaders in this historically disjointed community respond to long-obscured needs, generate pathways to opportunity, and foster civic cohesion.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area

Organization

Project Description

Education

Northern Humboldt Union High School District

To sustain and extend a collaborative improvement project among McKinleyville schools.

Education

Save the Redwoods League

To engage middle and high school students in Humboldt County in field-based forest science education and to develop curriculum for the elementary grades.

Families & Communities

McKinleyville Family Resource Center

To sustain the McKinleyville Family Resource Center while preparing to move to a new facility.

Families & Communities

McKinleyville Family Resource Center

To purchase furniture for the opening of The Center at McKinleyville, a family-strengthening collaborative of six public and private agencies.

Youth Development

Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods

To expand participation in programs of the McKinleyville Teen Center and to develop local financial support and strengthen the operating capacity of the Club.

Napa

McPherson-profile

As the largest city in a region world-famous for its wines, Napa exemplifies the beauty, abundance and disparity of California. Many adult residents hold multiple, low-paying jobs in viniculture, hospitality and related sectors.

From 2006 to 2015, Cowell made 30 place-based grants in the McPherson  neighborhood, near downtown Napa. At that time, close to 90% of the 650 students at McPherson Elementary School were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches and more than 65% were classified as English Learners.

Grants helped to develop the Neighborhood Initiative, spearheaded by On the Move, a local nonprofit, in collaboration with school and school district leaders.  Together, the Neighborhood Initiative partners are committed to lift expectations and increase equity of opportunity for students in neighborhood schools, to improve quality of life for families, youth and children, and to open a diverse, inter-generational pipeline to civic engagement and organizational leadership.

Since 2015, the Neighborhood Initiative has expanded to students and families at five neighborhood schools where working-class, mainly Latino families are concentrated. It now encompasses three family resource centers, in-school and after-school youth leadership programs, and academic support programs that link and align the efforts of elementary, middle and high schools. The scope and focus of Cowell grants also has expanded; through 2019, our investment comprised 55 grants totaling $6 million.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area

Organization

Project Description

Education

Napa Valley Unified School District

To align and enhance academic support for Latino students.

Families & Communities

On the Move

To build-out Neighborhood Initiative programs at Shearer Elementary and McPherson Elementary schools, and to expand the On the Verge state-wide leadership development initiative.

Families & Communities

On the Move

To continue family strengthening and youth programs in Napa.

Youth Development

Aim High

To sustain summer learning programs in Napa.

North State Region

(Image from davestravelcorner.com)

The North State Region consists of the nine counties in Northern California that bisect or are located directly east of Interstate-5. Glenn, Butte, and Plumas form the southern border of this region, which also comprises Tehama, Trinity, Shasta and Lassen to the north, and Siskiyou and Modoc at the border with Oregon.  The total combined population in the region as of the 2017 census projection was 611,086. Chico in Butte County and Redding in Shasta County are the two cities in the region, each with just over 90,000 residents. Red Bluff, the third-largest town, has fewer than 15,000 residents. Beyond these population centers, people are disbursed across the region in rural and often isolated towns.

18.5% of families in the North State Region live below the federal poverty level, and many more struggle in isolation to make ends meet. The median household income of those living in the North State Region is $44,834. In Butte County, the region’s most populous, 57% of students qualify for free or reduced- priced school meals and 27% lived in households described as “food insecure.”

Children across the North State Region also have high rates of trauma exposure, which is correlated with negative physical and mental health outcomes. After the deadly Camp Fire ravaged the communities of Paradise and Magalia in 2018 and displaced 50,000 people, the trauma exposure and the need for services is even more acute. In 2019, Cowell began making grants to support and leverage regional collabrations as a strategy to meet the needs of local communities throughout the North State. Initial investments, totaling $410,000, support planning of the Center for Learning and Resilience in Chico, a multi-service center for young children and their families; and programs for novice teachers through the Alliance for Teacher Excellence at the Tehama County Department of Education.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area

Organization

Project Description

Families & Communities

Butte County Office of Education

For the Center for Learning and Resilience.

Education

Alliance for Teacher Excellence

To scale-up a teacher induction and professional development program in partnership with New Teacher Center.

Sanger

(Image from The Fresno Bee)

The town of Sanger, otherwise known as “the Nation’s Christmas Tree City,” is located near the edge of the San Joaquin Valley, 13 miles east of Fresno, close to the foothills below Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Its population of 25,000 comprises mainly Latinos (85%) and Whites (13%). Agriculture drives the local economy, providing seasonal field work and blue-collar jobs in packing and processing plants. However, Sanger is also a burgeoning bedroom community for commuters to Fresno. In the schools, however, 73% of students qualify for free and reduced-price meals. 38% began school as English Learners (ELs).

From 2007 through 2019, Cowell’s investment in Sanger comprised 44 grants totaling $5.3 million. Grants helped Sanger Unified School District (SUSD) become one of the highest-performing, high-poverty districts in California. Other highlights include the development of the Sanger Family Resource Center, which provides services and programs at multiple locations in the community.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area

Organization

Project Description

Education

Kings River Conservancy

To sustain and further develop outdoor education and stewardship programs for students in Sanger schools.

Education

Sanger Unified School District

To sustain leadership and teacher development, extend instructional reforms and deepen student academic engagement.

Families & Communities

Comprehensive Youth Services of Fresno, Inc.

To sustain and grow the Sanger Family Resource Center.

Southside Richmond

(Image from Pogo Park)

In late 2017, Cowell awarded a first set of place-based grants in Richmond, in Contra Costa County.  Of Richmond’s total population of about 110,000 roughly 30,000 reside in the area known locally as Southside, lying between the city’s downtown corridor and the 80/580 freeways. The neighborhood is served by seven public elementary schools and a middle school that feed into John F. Kennedy High School, and collectively the schools and their attendance areas are described as “the Kennedy family.”  In these schools more than 90% of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals and about 40% were classified as English Learners at some time during their schooling.

During the war years of the 1940s, thousands of workers migrated to Richmond to work in the Kaiser Shipyards. Richmond remains an industrial city owing to the presence of Chevron refineries and research facilities on its west shore, near the San Rafael Bridge. But the city’s downtown declined after 1976, a period of suburban-style development to its north and east. The older neighborhood of Southside became a pocket of entrenched poverty.

Nonetheless, the community is proud, enterprising and philanthropic, and the Kennedy family of schools is a focus of initiative within West Contra Costa Unified School District, among resident leaders, and for many deep-rooted community organizations. Through 2019, Cowell’s investment in Southside Richmond comprised 24 grants totaling $2 million to support these efforts.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area

Organization

Project Description

Education

GO Public Schools

To facilitate productive engagement among families and residents, community-based organizations, and educators to improve outcomes in the Kennedy family of schools serving Southside Richmond.

Education

West Contra Costa Unified School District

To improve mathematics education in the Kennedy family of schools.

Families and Communities

Building Blocks for Kids

To evaluate and adapt the Sanctuary program to help parents and caregivers build resilience.

Leadership Development

RYSE Center

To support a leadership retreat for RYSE staff.

Youth Development

10,000 Degrees

To provide college-access support to students in Southside Richmond.

Youth Development

RYSE Center

To build school-based systems of support and healing for youth of color in Southside Richmond.

Youth Development

East Bay Center for the Performing Arts

To sustain, expand, and enhance arts education in Southside Richmond.

Youth Development

Mindful Life Project

To expand programs and deepened engagement in Southside Richmond Schools.

Youth Development

Radical Monarchs

To launch a new local troop to educate and empower girls of color to become change agents in their community.

Tahoe Truckee

truckee-profile

The Tahoe Truckee region runs north from Lake Tahoe, in Placer County, over a mountain pass to the town of Truckee in Nevada County, and is home to 30,000 year-round residents. The local economy is driven by seasonal tourism, so low-wage service jobs predominate. Vacation homes ring the lake, while nearby trailer parks and converted summer cottages are crowded with working families, of whom many are first and second-generation Mexican-Americans. At Truckee Elementary School, 55% of students are Latino, 40% are English Learners (ELs), and 55% qualify for the federal lunch subsidy.

Cowell’s engagement here began in 2000 with some of our earliest place-based grants in the unincorporated lakeside town of Kings Beach. Over seven years, Cowell made 30 grants in Kings Beach. Major results included start-up of the North Tahoe Family Resource Center, construction of a Boys and Girls Club adjacent to Kings Beach Elementary School, and production of affordable multi-family housing comprising 524 units.

In 2007, Cowell expanded our definition of the community in order to address the widening distribution of families living in poverty throughout the region. Through 2019, 103 grants totaling $8.9 million established an Endowment for Strengthening Families at the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation and helped to: grow wellness and enrichment programs for middle and high school-aged youth; enact systemic improvements in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District; and support the merger of four existing family resource centers into Sierra Community House, a regional family-strengthening organization.

In 2018, our engagement in Tahoe Truckee entered its “sunset” period.

Recent Grants Include:

Program Area

Organization

Project Description

Education

Tahoe Truckee Unified School District

To organize a system for literacy development from pre-school to high school.

Families & Communities

Sierra Community House

For operating support of a newly-merged family strengthening organization serving the Tahoe Truckee region.

Youth Development

Adventure Risk Challenge

To launch enhanced school-year youth programs in Tahoe Truckee, develop increased local financial support and strengthen operating capacity.

Youth Development

Aim High

To sustain summer learning programs in Tahoe Truckee and Napa.

Youth Development

Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe

To expand and sustain afterschool youth development programs in Truckee.

Youth Development

Tahoe Truckee Unified School District

To improve and expand a peer mentoring program for high school freshmen.