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On Thursday, I watched as Miss Mona rolled out the coveted prize cart. I heard the pitter patter of students skipping in the hallway and saw heads peeking into the hallway to see if it was their turn to make a purchase at the cart. The prize cart. It's the reward at the end of a long week of working hard to complete homework and tutorials and reading and extra work. I watched as each student approached and grew wide eyed as they surveyed the loot. They held their fake dollars preciously as they contemplated carefully the sea of choices. Would it be Pokémon cards? Bouncy balls? invisible ink pens? Or the grand prizes of extravagant Lego sets, Squishmallows, blue tooth headphones?

I watched as Miss Mona coached, advised and also allowed them to make their own choices. I witnessed real life skills being taught and learned right before my eyes: saving today for something you really wanted in the future, counting and assessing value and percentages of what to spend and what to save, assessing the value of items that would last or be eaten and gone, the gratification of working hard for something and being rewarded and many more important life lessons.

Our academic program staff and classroom leaders have created a system that truly is teaching our students, discipling them in the most important lessons of life and equipping them with essential life skills: delayed gratification, integrity, work ethic, patience, perseverance, discernment, cost analysis, opportunity costs and much more.

I watched as the final student came. A second grade student, super cute, excited to spend her hard earned dollars. She looked at everything she could in the 60 seconds Miss Mona allows. And then she decided, "I'll take two Pokémon cards." She carefully picked a Cresselia and a Dialga. The money changed hands. Her smile followed as she clutched the treasure.

I leaned over and commented, "Oh wow, you got two legendaries. Good job.”

Miss Mona quickly realized that she had accidentally placed legendaries in the bag of basic pokemon.

"Umm.. oops" Miss Mona chuckled. "I guess you can keep the legendaries because I already sold them to you."

The student’s wide eyes turned and met mine, "They're for my brother."

I whispered, "God honored your decision to buy something for your brother. You could have chosen something for yourself, but because you sacrificed, God gave you something special, a gift you didn't purchase or deserve.”

Her smiled widened and she skipped away.

Truly, these leaders are not just loving students, not just affirming their value and worth, not just tutoring, not just helping, not just teaching life skills. They are changing lives. And they are creating opportunities for Christ’s love and truth to enter.

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“I sound like a kid, but recess and break time is one of my favorite parts of KidSmart. It’s the one time everyone is together: all of the students, classroom leaders and volunteers. I love hearing the students talk freely about their day at school, their interests, things they are excited about, and that they are looking forward to working with their tutor at KidSmart. Anything can be exciting at that age, and it brings me joy to hear about what they are learning, the simple moments where their minds are blown away by new and exciting information.”

Mona Tuitavake was first a summer intern at BCM and accepted the role of KidSmart Program Manager this August. Mona has a calm, peaceful spirit and is always in high demand during program hours, from 3-6pm every day after school. While Mona is the trusted leader of students and adults alike, she is collaborative in her approach and brings classroom leaders, volunteers, parents and teachers together to academically support our elementary students.

Mona grew up in East Palo Alto, attending Costaño, Chavez and Carlmont, and holds a degree in Urban Planning for Cal Poly Pomona. Family has always been central to Mona, and she loves that she can easily walk to a cousin’s home here in East Palo Alto and is surrounded by her extended family. If you ever visit her office, you’ll be encompassed by an oasis of green. Mona loves plants and has recently taken up gardening after many years of cultivating indoor plants. Mona also loves amusement parks; the Grizzly at Great America used to be her favorite, but now she enjoys letting her feet dangle on Flight Deck. You won’t ever find her on Drop Zone or sky diving, though.

“They are still young, but I want them to find value in their education,” said Mona. “Many students in the world don’t have the opportunities that they have. I hope that they find their niche, their interests, their passions. With our help and their motivation, they can explore and discover opportunities. When they find something they are interested in, you can see the light go on and they are eager to finish their homework or accomplish a task. We hope to create those moments where a door is opened for them.”

In these first three months, she has already seen growth in the students. In general, their grades and academic skills are improving, and they are also learning the expectations of the program. She also sees individual growth. “One of our students struggles to express and navigate emotions in healthy ways but this past week I saw significant growth. The student was having a difficult moment, so I went over to check in. Often, the difficult moment turns into a meltdown or tantrum, but this time the student was able to say that they were sad and frustrated because of a project they were working on. They were able to articulate the emotions they were feeling, explain why, and afterwards return to their peers. I have also seen this student have an improved attitude in the classroom.”

Mona sees God at work in the lives of the students as well as in her own life. “To me, the fact that BCM exists is evidence of God at work in the world. I feel God’s presence here in the building with us, in the way that we value and respect one another and love the students and families. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with these students, to provide guidance and support for them. I appreciate the wholistic approach, and I am assured knowing that our elementary students can go to SOL Kids, where they don’t just talk about school, but about life and God.”

And then there’s the KidSmart store on Thursdays. Mona loves feeling like a small business owner, pushing around her cart filled with toys and treats. The students earn money for their accomplishments, like finishing their homework, reading or doing math flashcards. Some of the students spend their money right away, while others save up for weeks for that perfect toy.

“I’m looking forward to KidSmart in 2022, to build on the foundation we are laying now. Every student deserves and needs one-on-one support. Many students have a hard time working independently and need someone to help them focus. I would love to have volunteers available who can read aloud with students, review their work or provide guidance when they are struggling with a concept. We have an amazing group of volunteers and I pray that God continues to send more caring adults.”

Join with Mona in praying for God to provide for the needs of each of our students, that they would be able to step into their futures with joy and confidence.

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Enjoy the complete version of our press release, which you can also find versions of on the following outlets: Patch, Palo Alto Weekly and EPA Today (coming soon).


East Palo Alto Councilmember Antonio López

Calls BCM’s Field of Hope an “Oasis” and Example of the City’s Resilience

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov. 12, 2021 — Following the unveiling of its Field of Hope, Bayshore Christian Ministries (BCM), a non-profit anchor in the East-of-Bayshore community for 37 years, received a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate celebrating its renovated outdoor space. The history of the field’s renovation includes such important names as basketball star Jeremy Lin, David Muffly, now the head arborist for the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, and the Palo Alto non-profit Canopy.

Antonio López, an East Palo Alto Councilmember who attended BCM’s Field of Hope Expo on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, described the impact this outdoor space will have on the community in a presentation to over 230 guests. “BCM’s Field of Hope is an example of East Palo Alto’s resilience. It’s an oasis,” said Lopez. “The beauty of this outdoor space offers hope and inspiration to the community. As someone who grew up here and has seen the city transform, my heart warms knowing that this space is going to inspire countless students who are coming to these facilities. Here they will be mentored, inspired and empowered.”


BCM has called East Palo Alto home since 1984, and, for 21 of those years, the field next to its headquarters at 1001 Beech St. has been part of its mission to equip east-of-Bayshore youth to grow spiritually, gain life skills and develop as leaders so that they have hope and a future.

“BCM has served as a pillar of the community,” continued López. “For over 30 years, they’ve changed the lives of children who’ve come through their doors, as well as their families, providing a safe refuge for education to those who otherwise might lack it. They’ve invested so much in the future of East Palo Alto.”

In 2000, when BCM opened the doors of its then new facility, the field next to the building had fresh grass and was widely enjoyed by students. When Rolando Zeledon, BCM’s executive director from 2008-2020, joined BCM in 2006, he recalls the green grass. However, a series of setbacks impacted the health of the field.

First, was drought. During the three years from 2007–2009, California experienced the 12th worst drought period in the state's history. It was so bad that for the first time a statewide emergency proclamation was issued. BCM had to conserve water, in solidarity with its neighbors; thus the once green grass began to fade.

Ironically, at the very same time, we were all hit with the Great Recession (December 2007-June 2009). Things got very tight financially at BCM as they did most everywhere. Up until that point, BCM had gardeners keeping the field in reasonably good shape. But, when hard decisions had to be made, the external gardening support was eliminated. Zeledon recalls that the leadership team had to do the best with what they had at the time.

Weekend Volunteer Projects

While 2007-2009 brought many discouragements, encouragement came from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC – renamed Menlo Church in 2015). MPPC encouraged BCM to launch a form of volunteer project that is now a cornerstone of BCM’s connection to local church partners – weekend work projects. Over time, many projects were done both by MPPC and others. Notably, during one of MPPC’s Compassion Weekends, a team of MPPC members renovated the edge of BCM’s property into a citrus orchard with dwarf citrus trees, donating both the trees and their time. This effort was led by David Muffly, a Stanford graduate who had an insatiable desire to plant trees in East Palo Alto and the hills around Stanford. He became so successful as an arborist that he was selected as the head arborist for the Apple headquarters in Cupertino where he was responsible for choosing 9,000 trees to create an urban oasis.

Enter Palo Alto Non-Profit Canopy

In 2018, BCM began sharing space at its headquarters with Oxford Day Academy (ODA), a charter high school, for daytime classes. As part of the agreement, ODA hoped that its project-based approach to learning might offer unique opportunities for high school students to partner with BCM. That came to fruition as the vision for the renovation of the Field of Hope formed.

Through ODA, BCM met Canopy, a Palo Alto non-profit whose mission is to grow an urban tree canopy in Midpeninsula communities for the benefit of all. With the motto “Canopy plants and cares for trees where people need them the most,” BCM’s now time-worn field was the perfect project. It didn’t hurt that BCM already had a Canopy connection through David Muffly’s orchard planting some 10 years earlier.

Canopy responded to BCM’s request for help to revitalize its field by applying for funding from the Kaiser Permanente CAMPOS grant which, at that time, provided resources to engage community in the use of shared public spaces outdoors. Kaiser awarded the grant to Canopy and monies were received in early 2019. This led to collaborative efforts between 1) BCM, 2) ODA students, 3) Canopy and its Teen Urban Foresters (TUFs) high school program, and 4) PlaceWorks -- a planning and urban design firm specializing in community engagement.

Many fine fruits came from this rich collaboration. During Phase I, PlaceWorks trained a team of ODA students who, as part of their high school coursework, lead a design charrette, an intense period of design and planning activity. The students solicited feedback via surveys amongst their school and BCM constituents and presented findings to ODA in May 2019.

Then, a team of Canopy TUFs (some of whom were also ODA students) took over, holding a live dream building and ideation session at BCM’s summer showcase in August 2019. BCM, its students and families, and ODA representative participated in the conversation. The back-and-forth conversation continued until all parties had settled not only on the ideal features that should be included in the Field of Hope, but also the location of each feature.

By early Fall 2019, PlaceWorks had create an agreed-upon conceptual design for the Field of Hope:

“The Field of Hope is a beautiful culmination of vision and action,” said Latrice Bennett, ODA Head of School. “At ODA, we believe in cultivating agency with intentionality, always encouraging students to find ways to make an impact in their community. We thank BCM for respecting their collaboration with our students by seeing this project through to completion; it is essential for our youth to witness their dreams materialize in such purposeful ways.”

Prepping for Trees

Once the Field of Hope design phase was completed, it was time for the work to begin. BCM began to brainstorm with Canopy’s program manager about trees. Selecting trees and greenery that would be planted around the edges of the Field of Hope and in front of BCM’s building was a delightful process.

However, much field preparation work was required before the tree planting could begin. Not only had the field become extremely uneven due to gophers and a lack of greenery, but there were also drainage issues. During this phase, BCM discovered the source of a long-mysterious leak in the irrigation system that was creating large water bills even after sprinklers were turned off. Deep in the center of the field, the leak was finally located and tapped off.

Excellent survey work and field preparation was completed by Girvin Peters Landscape. The field had to be graded, irrigation established, and the walking path installed with metal edging and a rock surface. Girvin’s relationship with Canopy made the project run smoothly and reach completion at a great price point.

Tree Planting Day

Finally, the big day arrived -- Nov. 16, 2019. With the help of over 100 volunteers and Canopy staff and TUFs, 32 trees and 125 plants became part of the Field of Hope. It was a joyous experience to take shovel to dirt and work together to plant large trees, transforming the flat barren space into something that began to look like the Field of Hope. Now it was time to begin installing the envisioned field features.

Jeremy Lin and BCM’s Basketball Court

Basketball superstar, Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American professional basketball player who got his start in Palo Alto, played a major role in the installation of BCM’s basketball half court. Because of its ongoing support of BCM, the Jeremy Lin Foundation was able to fund most of the cost of the court. Foundation staff were present for the ribbon cutting on Saturday, March 20, 2021. And, Jeremy Lin himself, who was playing basketball away from the Bay Area at that time, sent a video to BCM youth to express his support.

“Hopefully you are enjoying the newly renovated court,” said Lin in the video. “To me, the court, sports and basketball are about unifying people. We come together, we do amazing things. We get to play ball, exercise, and enjoy each other’s company. I hope that the court is a source of unification and that you continue to pursue your dreams and enjoy working out and enjoy exercising every day. I will continually be rooting for you guys, BCM youth. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

Only a month later, on April 23, 2021, Lin was able to come to BCM in person to play ball and capture the flag with students and encourage a healthy lifestyle. He shared words of wisdom with the students about how to combat hate with love and even signed basketballs that students took home as a keepsake.

BCM hoped that the Basketball Court Ribbon Cutting ceremony would be an impactful launch for a fundraising effort to complete the field’s renovation. To that end, a video was produced featuring the Jeremy Lin Foundation and the story behind the field. The fundraising effort was a great success! Over $110,000 was raised by the summer of 2021. The field could be completed.

Funds Raised to complete the Field of Hope Renovation

BCM Executive Director, Tiffany Hong, described each component that has since been completed on the Field of Hope. “The basketball court and soccer field will teach Godly lessons of courage and team -- how to persevere and celebrate,” said Hong. “The firepit will give deep, intimate moments of sharing, worship and fellowship. The picnic area will allow families and community to gather to support, love and experience joy. The barbeque area will be where we commune and break bread. And finally, the garden will be the parallel of our lives and hope – as we nurture and care for seedlings, they will grow and become the beautiful creations God intended.”

About Bayshore Christian Ministries

Bayshore Christian Ministries (BCM), a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 1984 and located in East Palo Alto, Calif., equips the youth of East Palo Alto and the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park to grow spiritually, gain life skills and develop as leaders so they have hope and a future. BCM offers after-school, evening, and summer programs, using a relational, wholistic and collaborative approach to empower the next generation of community leaders. Our vision is that our alumni are active in their faith, possess hope, purpose and marketable skills and give back to their communities. To learn more, visit

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