Where’s Bill? All Over East Palo Alto
Where’s Bill? Follow PVF’s Executive Director, Bill Somerville, out of the office, for site visits and meetings with outstanding grassroots leaders.
East Palo Alto is a fascinating place with good people doing significant work and it is interesting to visit them. So, I took two women from the business world on a half day field trip to see the town and the positive things going on there.
The first stop was to meet with one of our Parent Involvement Workers placed at Cesar Chavez Middle School, to learn about the middle school from the inside out. We talked about why parents aren’t involved in their children’s education, and what it takes to get them involved. PVF has been funding parent involvement workers in the schools for 10 years.
Next, we visited a farm in the town that grows peppers – amazingly, this is a farm in the middle of town. Then, we drove around to see Cooley Landing, a historic facility that used to serve as a boat landing, and now is becoming a city park. East Palo Alto has few parks and the wetlands are a wonderful resource.
Next, we drove by maybe 10 different programs and I pointed them out and explained what their purposes are. We drove past a baseball park, a Boys and Girls Club, a private high school, a food program, a clinic, a boxing gym and a youth afterschool program.
Then, we went to meet with the principal of Cesar Chavez middle school, a very low income school with a high population of non-English speaking parents. Principal Amika Guillaume is an exceptional person, who is actively working to improve the school.
As it turns out, one of the visiting women works for a program that offers free and open digital textbooks to schools, and she offered her services to the principal. A wonderful discussion that culminated in an offer for students to have electronic reading pads with reading materials that are customized for each student’s level. The three Parent Involvement Workers were there as well and immediately began to plan how to make the new reading program work.
Next to the Senior Center to have lunch and visit with people. Then we walked to the YMCA gym next door to observe an outstanding facility which is underused. It is interesting to learn that the swimming pool is used very little year round.
At the end of the day, both of the visiting women made offers of time, ideas and resources – it was a day well spent.