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Molly, a rising senior at Menlo-Atherton High School, has always loved working with kids and it’s been a big part of her summer plans each year.  Back in January 2020, she was considering what to do this summer and was hoping to do international missions work, particularly someplace where she could work on her Spanish language skills.  As she was asking around at her church (Menlo Church), someone recommended she reach out to BCM.  Through Covid, God eliminated any opportunities to go abroad and Molly signed on to help with KidSmart Summer Bridge at BCM.  She was truly a Godsend and an answer to our prayers at BCM!

Molly felt very welcome her first week, but it was also a steep learning curve, as she was new to BCM, the schedule, the layout, the students and the staff.  Not to mention learning how to run in-person programs safely during a pandemic.  If you've ever met Molly, you’ll know she’s energetic and a go-getter.  She jumped right in with both feet, helping with core academics, serving snack and lunch, monitoring masks and teaching outstanding science workshops to our elementary students.

Molly is passionate about environmental science and sustainability, and teaching science workshops at BCM this summer gave her a first-time opportunity to integrate this passion with her love of working with youth.  She had the students learning about the human body and thermoreceptors as well as creating model oil spills with vegetable oil, water, clay and toy animals.  They had to figure out how to clean up the oil and learned that even the best solutions have consequences.  Molly was fascinated by how the students interacted with science – their opportunistic approach, their perspective on the content and their optimism further fueled her passions for both science and youth.

God was also at work in other ways.  One of the students was very closed off at the start of the program; he didn’t want to work and wished he was at home playing video games.  Through the positive and engaging approach of the staff and volunteers, this student opened up and became confident.  He began to show initiative in the classroom and chose to take responsibility for his own learning. “It was amazing to see this transformation happen in front of me.  I knew it had to be God at work,” Molly observed.

Another student entered the program having trouble making connections with others but by the end he was thriving.  Molly reflects, “There are so many negative aspects to the pandemic, but the individualized support and attention this student received as a result of smaller group size was just what he needed.  Because of the current restrictions, God put us in small, contained groups and I was able to see that you can make an impact no matter the situation.  When a leader takes the time to sit and listen deeply to a student, the student realizes that what they have to say is important, that they are important.  The transformation I saw in the lives of these students is significant.”

As Molly prepares to enter her senior year of high school in the midst of the pandemic, we trust God will continue to give her eyes to see Him at work and opportunities to use her positive, contagious energy to do good in the world around her.  We are grateful for her willingness to serve at BCM this summer despite Covid challenges, and for the important role she played in bringing hope and a future to our students.  

Photo credit: C Mitchel

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Tie dye day at Create

Claire’s parents were talking about college and life after college one day and Bayshore Christian Ministries came up, something she had never heard them mention before.  She learned that her dad had been part of the founding group (back in the 1980’s) and her mom had volunteered there a few years later.  As a recent high school graduate living in Southern California and preparing for college, Claire was contemplating what to do with her summer, thinking about the achievement gap and racial justice issues affecting the nation.  The next thing she knew, she overheard her mom on the phone talking with a BCM staff about the possibility of an internship.  Her mom turned to her and said, “Do you want to go to BCM this summer?”  “What? When?” Claire replied.  “Next week,” was the surprising answer.  A whirlwind of days later, Claire was in the family’s van on her way to East Palo Alto with her suitcase and her bike, ready for her first real job and her first experience living away from home.  

The beginning was awkward (it always is!): meeting new people, figuring out her role, navigating cultural differences and how to process them, and learning how to operate safely in-person during a pandemic.  Claire is courageous and persistent and by the end of the summer much had changed.  When BCM needed someone to step up and teach a classroom for the last two weeks of the program, Claire was ready and willing and enjoyed the opportunity to have her own classroom.  Claire values a wholistic approach to education, and in addition to the formal STEAM content, she added in spelling and geography.  Students who couldn’t identify a single state on a map could name more than a dozen, including capitals, after Claire’s mini lessons.  

Create Summer Staff

Another student was struggling

with spelling but was a quick learner.  After a few sessions on understanding spelling concepts and rules, Claire spied him spelling almost every word correctly when she looked over his shoulder at a project he was working on.  Claire also saw students opening up and gaining confidence; one student notably started out very shy but eventually become comfortable and would laugh, have fun and ask questions.  

Claire repeatedly saw God in several of the people he placed around her during her summer at BCM.  Waniya, the Create Program Manager and her supervisor, was always available, responsive, kind and gracious.  Having such a positive experience for a first job helped Claire feel hopeful about future job opportunities.  God also sent another co-worker, Angie, a second year Create veteran, who was welcoming, helpful and a fellow Pokemon Go player.  

Just a few days before Claire began her drive to East Palo Alto, BCM was still trusting God for a host family for Claire.  God didn’t just provide the basics, he provided abundantly.  Rajesh and Yasi were the perfect match and invited Claire into their home and their lives, including Indian food, Bollywood films and their work doing community organizing around racial justice.  And their dog, Kendi, who reveled in the extra attention from Claire. "They were a miracle, the absolute best hosts I could ask for," remarked Claire with genuine joy.

As Claire prepares for college, the impact of Covid looms large.  She had plans to transfer and study abroad but now faces uncertainty about this possibility in addition to increased costs (and debt).  As she prepares to navigate an unknown future, she is grateful for the confidence she gained at BCM, living away from home and working her first job.  Who knows what the future holds, but Summer 2021 at BCM?  Possibly!

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by Tiffany Teng

Sitting down over Zoom with Rolando Zeledόn, former Executive Director (ED) of Bayshore Christian Ministries, feels more like hearing about a tech startup than a nonprofit reaching its third decade - in a good way. In a 45 minute recap of 15 years, I’ve heard about their robotics team, aiming for “step function” growth instead of incremental growth, and that the kids are learning design thinking principles! I sat down with Rolando to reflect on his time leading BCM and what’s in store next.

Before I dive in, I want to say that it wasn’t inevitable that BCM - or Rolando! - would be here, thriving together.

2008: BCM Staff, including Rolando and Tiffany

In 2007, I joined the staff of BCM as Executive Assistant to the ED at the time, founder Andrew Hartwell. Within a few months of my joining the team, Andrew announced he’d be stepping down and the search would begin for a new ED. I remember the anxiety at the time, preparing for such a major leadership transition, and knowing the reality that most nonprofits don’t survive their founder leaving. The year 2008 also brought the financial crisis, which was a fundraising crisis for nonprofits. Those were tough years where making payroll each month for the staff of 20+ was a matter of faith, not certainty.

For Rolando, how did an engineer, with 2.5 degrees from Stanford (BS, MS and part of a PhD!), end up leading an organization focused on transforming youth? (A problem any parent can attest is the most complex, least straightforward and most unscalable challenge an engineer can tackle.) I’m not sure anyone can know exactly where or when divine intervention begins or ends (and some would argue, it has neither; it simply is.) but Rolando points to four years earlier, at his 10 year reunion at Stanford, when he got involved with a community technology nonprofit, PluggedIn, which connected him to Andrew, who convinced him to join as Director of Operations. This was also around the same time as Rolando’s personal decision to rededicate his life to Christ.

2013: BCM's EPA Chica Squad

In some ways, that’s the same thread among all the stories of the staff, parents, kids, and volunteers who are part of the BCM family: that someone invited them to come and that God showed up in their life when they went to BCM.

In 2008, the Board and management team was at a strategic crossroads with three paths: shut down, be absorbed/merge with a larger organization, or keep moving forward. Reflecting on the 12 years since, what God, Rolando, and the BCM team have accomplished is staggering. BCM has served as a convener in the community, of churches across denominations, nonprofits with specific focus areas, and community and business partners, to face the challenges of gentrification, decreased funding for the arts/education, and housing instability. BCM has stayed true to its mission, “equipping east-of-Bayshore youth to grow spiritually, gain life skills and develop as leaders so that they have hope and a future,” while inspiring a new generation of BCM leaders and constantly adapting to the evolving needs of the kids and youth.

2016: BCM's Robot Spartans win two Judges' Awards

I asked Rolando how he saw God show up both personally and professionally in the last fifteen years at BCM and his answer illuminates both who he is and who God is. Rolando describes seeing God at work in the littlest things to the biggest challenges; from seeing a child’s face light up for the first time because they’re learning to read to financial provision month after month for the staff’s salaries and the students’ programs. (I’ll let you decide which is the greater challenge!)

Rolando describes BCM as “the full gospel” and to use more technology terms, “pull instead of push”, which together, tell a story of how people encounter God not through abstract theology being preached at them, but through their human needs for connection, safety and growth being met first by other intentional, proactive humans who also happen to know and follow a loving God who cares about justice and equity.

2020: Praying at VBS during Covid

Listening to Rolando, I’m struck by two things: first, many of us in the professional world would love to have the congruence Rolando describes: serving and leading as Executive Director for BCM sits at the center of his passions for God, for technology and for educating young people. Each individually can transform a life; the trinity of all three is uniquely powerful. Second, Rolando’s trio of passions has shaped BCM as much as it has shaped him. Having been at BCM in 2008 and marveling at what it is now, I see the imprint of an engineer who loves technology and understands that technology fluency is just as important a life skill as literacy for future leaders.

As BCM enters its 37th year of operation, the staff and the future ED face new challenges: a

pandemic that is fundamentally changing both education and how we interact as human beings, a rapidly gentrifying community with shrinking socio-economic diversity, and technology continuing to transform everything we know. Yet, listening to Rolando & reflecting on the last 15 years with him, I am reminded of what is constant: God provides - decade after decade - both the creative, talented people and the resources to help BCM and its youth flourish.

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