S.F. youth center may close

Mission facility that provides education for at-risk kids besieged by funding shortfall

Rosa Negrete says her life will get much harder if the Mission Education Projects Inc. closes its doors because it cannot close a funding gap.

The mother of two teenagers has been taking her children for free after-school tutoring at the popular center in the Mission for the last four years. But the center, which has been providing education for about 100 at-risk children and their parents for the last 33 years, is on the verge of closing its doors because of a budget shortfall.

“I don’t want it to be closed and that’s my biggest concern,” Negrete said. “It’s hard and one thing is I have to find a good program for [my children] so they could feel the same as here.”

The center, in the heart of the Mission at 3049 24th St., has been providing free education for mostly at-risk youths, but also to many of their parents who do not speak English.

The center has been slowly losing funding and this year lost a $12,500 grant from the Mayor’s Office of Community Development because of a reorganization in how the department distributes its funding, according to Executive Director Jene Rita Alviar. The Mayor’s Office of Community Development said all grant money for youth services was transferred to the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families earlier this year. The center has provided free services, including adult cooking lessons, on a $79,000 budget that has been dependent primarily on grants.

Alviar said many staff members are only clocking half their hours in an attempt to close the shortfall and keep the doors open.

“I looked at my own family and I feel that all these kids if they have support they can come up and blossom,” she said. “All they need is to have someone work with them and not watch the clock.”

Alviar said there is no hard date for when the center needs the money to stay open because they already are behind on rent payments and their PG&E bill.

When word of the community center’s financial woes leaked out to residents and neighbors they responded by trying to fill the gap themselves. Parents began donating money, and the owner of Medjool restaurant in the Mission offered to host a fundraiser for the center this week and match any donations collected.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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