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By Katherine Ryzhaya
Twenty-fourth Street in Noe Valley is a place where new parents push their strollers, dot-com couples walk their tiny dogs, and shopkeepers display their lovely merchandise for the weekend foot traffic. Dining choices around here span the world. In life's hustle and bustle, you would never know we are here...but we are.
If you have ever walked past our house, you probably didn't give it a second thought. A private residence; an extension of St. Philip's School perhaps. But no, it is our home. And we would like to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood once again (the Voice first published an article in June 2006).
In residence on 24th Street, between Douglass and Diamond, are seven young scholars who, together, comprise the San Francisco chapter of Boys Hope Girls Hope (BHGH), a nonprofit that provides at-risk, yet academically capable, youth with a stable home, growth opportunities, positive parenting, and a high-quality education.
BHGH was founded on the belief that given better circumstances children with promise can reach their potential. Since 1991, the organization has been making a long-term commitment to fundamentally change children's environment from one that is destructive to one filled with opportunity and hope.
The record speaks for itself. 100 percent of BHGH's high school graduates have gone on to college. Scholars have attended Harvard Law School, New York University, Penn State, Air Force Academy, Boston College, Dartmouth, Georgetown, and West Point, among others. The children enrolled in BHGH's program are as diverse as their reasons for needing the services, but they all have one thing in common: They have demonstrated academic potential and expressed the desire to receive a quality education, but their family situation or community environment was not supporting their academic, social, emotional, or physical development.
At BHGH, scholars spend the school week with other kids, house parents, and college-age tutors, but can go home on weekends. Their parents can visit them, too. One would be surprised to learn that Darrell, a 13-year-old kid from the Tenderloin, has an affinity for Chinese history and Russian literature, and can probably tell you all you ever wanted to know (and all that you didn't) about the Mongol Empire. Oh, and he has a 3.5 GPA in one of the most challenging middle school programs in San Francisco. He is just one of many that BHGH won't let "fall through the cracks."
Naturally however, the BHGH scholars still experience lifestyle limitations as compared to their private-school peers. Since BHGH obviously cannot afford many "extras"--the organization is already providing housing, schooling, computers, medical benefits, etc.--it falls to compassionate individuals to further improve the scholars' circumstances. A recent fundraiser, hosted by the BHGH volunteers and held at Town Hall Restaurant, generated enough profit to set up an incentive-based learning system where if a scholar substantially increased his GPA, he "earned" the much-coveted iPod (yes, a "luxury" most Noe Valley kids take for granted).
So welcome us. Say hi if you see us on the street. And do take the opportunity to make an impact and directly benefit some very deserving kids. It's quite easy to support our community-based organization. In addition to cash donations, we always need school supplies and household items. We can always use volunteer tutors and mentors. You can take us to the movies or help us with internship opportunities and college applications.
Oh yes, and if you own a restaurant, you can always send some pizza our way. Pasta Pomodoro and La Ciccia already have!
For more information, please visit www.bhghsf.org.
Katherine Ryzhaya is a volunteer and associate board member of Boys Hope Girls Hope. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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