top of page

“My kids were shy and didn’t like to ask questions or interact with others. Now they like to socialize and have made more friends. They are more open, less shy. Which is good because they need to socialize. They are the future. They are the leaders,” says Hope Horizon East Palo Alto (EPA) parent, Lucia.

After-school and enrichment programs are sometimes thought of as a place where a student gets their homework done or learns something new in order to keep them busy while parents work. Often the idea of it seems bland, but to a community like East Palo Alto and parents like Lucia, Hope Horizon EPA represents much more.

Lucia is a mother of three and has been part of the East Palo Alto community for 13 years. Her family first started at Hope Horizon through Vacation Bible School about five years ago. At Vacation Bible School her children learned lessons about God and the Bible through interactive learning like games and singing.

“It was a wholesome experience. I got to see my kids be a part of something spiritual that also got them to be more social. The program would get together for dinner and I would see every one of my kids' peers congregate with each other.”

Lucia wanted to show her appreciation and give back, so she offered to help prepare dinner for the students in the program. “Everyone was accepting and welcoming, so I wanted to pay it forward by helping make dinner. I also saw the positive impact it had on my kids.” After a long day of arranging flowers, Lucia would cook dinner for the students at Hope Horizon; she would usually make rice or spaghetti, but the dish would depend on what was planned and how many people were expected to eat.

After her children participated in Vacation Bible School, she was looking for an after-school program. During the school year, Hope Horizon offers a variety of programs, including spiritual and academic enrichment programs. The academic programs cater to the students’ individual needs and offer supplemental instruction in writing, reading, math, and other subjects. Spiritual programs provide a safe space for students to learn about God and his love for them. All programs provide opportunities for the students to develop social-emotional skills through interactions and mentorship.

Lucia witnessed first-hand the impact the program had on her oldest child, as they moved up a whole letter grade. “They help the students a lot. Especially the volunteers, they help with reading and math. The volunteers have patience and help the students progress in their academics. They helped my oldest son; he had a C in math and then ended up with a B after some help from the volunteers. It is also a place where they explain what it is to be a good person and overall be nice to everyone.” She also saw how her children developed in the social-emotional aspects as well.

“I only finished middle school so I can only help my kids so much. It's also hard, it is stressful and difficult to be patient when trying to help your kid. Math is also different here than it was back home.”

Having a safe learning environment like Hope Horizon is a crucial piece of support as some parents in the community did not accomplish a high level of education, limiting the amount of help, experience, and guidance that the parent can provide to their student. According to the Census Bureau’s 2021 data, only 23.8 percent of the community have received their bachelor's degree or higher.

Programs like Hope Horizon EPA are driven to meet the needs of students in the community. Those three to four hours after school are filled with opportunities and open doors. In a community like East Palo Alto where a good portion of the parents work extensive hours or work multiple jobs to make ends meet, Hope Horizon East Palo Alto offers a safe space where parents like Lucia can trust their students to be in a safe learning environment where they are provided with lessons, tools, and positive guidance.

As summer and Camp Hope Horizon comes to an end, join us praying as our students as they prepare to transition to the school year:

Lord, we pray that our students made friendships and memories that they will carry with them after camp. We pray that the skills they gained would help them transition into the next school year well. We pray that their parents are able to see the ways their children have grown. We also ask, Lord, that you keep us all safe as we come together to celebrate the end of camp. We thank you for your blessings and for the opportunity to serve youth in in our community. Lord, we also ask you to look over our supporters as they partner in our efforts and mission. We are grateful for you love and provision. Amen.

43 views0 comments

It’s 2:30pm in the afternoon and Stephanie is moving around her classroom, wiping down tables, setting out student nametags, pencils, erasers, whiteboards, markers and other classroom supplies in preparation for her 1st-3rd grade students to arrive. The room is quiet and peaceful and so is Stephanie as she shares about how she came to be an elementary classroom leader at Hope Horizon East Palo Alto.

“I first heard about Hope Horizon on the EPA Neighbors Facebook page. I was excited to discover there was a faith-based program here in in my community and curious to know more because I had just been baptized. I was hopeful that it was a place where I could grow in the fruits of the spirit and decided to apply for a position in the fall since I was interested in working with kids and had done some volunteering before.”

Eight months later, Stephanie is wrapping up the academic year. She has worked hard to create a safe but structured classroom. “They’re young, so I remind them every day about our rules, that we don’t just follow them for ourselves, but for everyone. I greet them at the door each day and ask them to share one rule they would like to follow that day. It’s been a challenge for me to learn how to enforce the rules every day, but I’ve seen a shift over time. They’re still energetic, but less rowdy.”

Once the students come into the room, the space is filled with energy, laughter and conversation. Stephanie helps the students get settled in their seats and instructs them to get out their homework. Some get right to work while others delay. Stephanie and the volunteers in her classroom are constantly encouraging the students in their work. “We’re right here and we can help explain it to you. We can work on it together.” Stephanie and the volunteers walk around the classroom, checking in on students to see who needs help with their homework. They also spend time reading one-on-one or working with the students in other academic areas.

“Three of the students in my classroom weren’t able to read on their own when they first joined. We’ve spent a lot of time reading one-on-one and working on sight words. Sometimes students feel shy or worried about making a mistake, but we remind them that it’s okay, we can help you sound it out, we are here to help you learn. Now all three of those students are able to read 3-4 small books by themselves! It is my hope that soon they will be reading at grade level, but seeing them read independently makes me so proud of their hard work.”

There are also other moments where students are able to persevere and gain confidence in the classroom. One day a student was working on a project where she had to make a pair of glasses. It wasn’t going well; her frustration built and she sat under her table. “I offered to help her fix the project, but she was too overwhelmed in that moment, so I had another staff member come talk with her.” After some space and a chat, she was ready to adjust her attitude and try again. “She apologized to me and let me help her with the project. She left that day happy, her project complete and wearing the glasses she had made.”

Stephanie has seen God at work in her own life, too.

“I've grown a lot in the fruits of the spirit, especially patience. I pray before coming to work and ask God for patience, for his love to radiate through me. I do my best to understand the students and put myself in their shoes. When I’m stressed, I pray because God is the only one who can truly help. In my walk with God, I make mistakes and fail, and sometimes I feel like God’s mercies have ended. But I know that Scripture tells us that his mercies are new every morning. I think about this when I care for the students, that every day is a new day to restart with them, to make sure they know they can fix their mistakes, that they have chances. God has been merciful with me like I choose to be merciful to them.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

We thank God for Stephanie and her steadfast love for the students in her classroom, for the ways she is the light of Christ to our students each day. We pray Stephanie would continue to experience God in mighty ways as she seeks him and strives to grow in the fruits of the spirit.

Photo Credit: Katie Lin

65 views0 comments
“I was feeling blah about faith and engagement with community. I wanted to invigorate that part of my faith and my relationship with God. I needed more than just work and family. Volunteering at Hope Horizon EPA has helped and I feel more life now.”

LaRena had been aware of Hope Horizon EPA for a while and was exploring ways to get connected. She was previously a middle school teacher before entering the field of professional development for teachers. She still loves students, especially middle school, and wanted an opportunity to be back with them again. Becoming a tutor seemed like a place she could quickly and easily jump in so she gave it a try.

As a tutor, she generally starts their session with some chit chat: how’s it going, how was your day, what’s going on at school, how about your family and friends, what homework do you have? “We go over what homework she has, we talk through each class, what she's working on, did she turn in last week’s assignment? Besides homework, we sometimes work on writing but mostly math. We take turns making problems for one another based on what they’re studying in class, and my student likes to make really hard problems for me to solve.”

"I’ve seen the student I tutor grow in courage and in confidence; she’s more willing to share her work, especially writing. We had fun with one particular writing prompt, where she could write about anyone. At first she was having trouble coming up with an idea, and we started talking about her brother. We ended up writing about him, how he does things like wear the same clothes all the time. We really got into it, even if it was a bit about all the things that frustrate her about her brother. It was fun to see her engaged with the writing project.”

Even though LaRena always envisioned volunteering in person, she started out as a virtual tutor because it was practical with her already juggling two young kids and a career. It was a way to see how it would fit with her schedule. The transition to in person tutoring started with a complaint from her student, “I look at screens all day. I’m tired of looking at the screen.” While it may have just been a ploy to get out of tutoring that day, LaRena said she could come in person, which wasn’t the expected response.

"It was an opportunity to show that it matters enough to show up. It was working out schedule wise and I knew I could carve out the space. I have really enjoyed being in person. She can’t hide her work, and it’s easier to flex when she doesn’t have homework. It also makes it easier to connect. I’m there to help with school, but I also value being present and building a relationship. Showing up and being consistent matters a lot and I hope that we are able to keep building our relationship. I’ve seen growth in her confidence, in her ability to be reflective, to ask the question ‘who am I,’ to navigate the journey of being a middle school student.”

We thank God for tutors like LaRena and many others who provide academic support and so much more to students in our programs. We pray that God would continue to bring life and hope to both our students and volunteers through their time together at Hope Horizon EPA.

91 views0 comments
bottom of page