Grant money loss slims down SAFE

Beatrice Bugos, Editor-in-Chief

The $250,000 grant from the 21st Century ASSETs Program will no longer fund the next five years of the SAFE Program, which offered afternoon tutorials and enrichment activities to Sequoia for the past 10 years. The Sequoia High School Education Foundation (SHSEF) is now funding the four essential SAFE programs: the Learning Center, math tutorial, Power & Speed (open gym) and Driver’s Ed. at a cost of $50,000.

“[Finding out about the loss of the grant] was a little heartbreaking because hundreds of Sequoia kids really need [SAFE]and yet we lost all of that funding,” SHSEF President Jennifer Webb said.

The cut this year has included the tutorials for subjects other than math, a culinary arts class, as well as a few other programs, have been cut.

“For a lot of [the students], it was a way to socialize with their little group of friends or meet other students,” said Claudia Rendon, the Health Aid and former SAFE culinary class advisor.

The SAFE, Sequoia After-school Focused Enrichment Program is an enrichment program to give students opportunities for academic support, to learn new skills and to have fun. For those who are on free or reduced lunch, SAFE funded before and after school food.

The original grant was intended as seed money to kick-start the program that would later be funded by the school or community.

“The criteria for getting the grant is generally [based on] the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch,” Webb said. “Just over half of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, but this year the schools that received the grant have over 70 percent [of their students in this category].”

Sequoia was told at the beginning of the summer that they did not receive the grant.

“I was relieved that we had managed to scrape enough money so the timing was just right,” Webb said. “If it was two years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to save the day.”

The SHSEF efforts to fundraise increase every year as the donation pool grows.

“Our biggest knob we are turning is the business sponsorship program because, in addition to those organizations providing money, they’re providing internships, scholarships and shadowing programs,” Webb said.

Despite the funding efforts of the SHSEF, there is not enough money for afterschool meals that at Sequoia. Instead, students are picked up on James St at either 3:50 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. on a bus funded by the Sequoia Union High School District to go to the Redwood City Boys and Girls Club.

“We give free food every day. Our chef makes an amazing meal every day at six o’clock for all the students. It’s always a full meal with salad and fresh fruit,” said Boys and Girls Club academic advisor and tutor Natalia Bautista.

“We lost that funding and that was a big blow… but we’re bouncing back in a positive way,” Administrative Vice Principal Gary Gooch said. “There are a lot of people coming out of the woodwork to help secure funding or to apply for grants. When you’re in a tough spot, it’s when you really realize the strength of your community.”