The Elsie Allen High School Foundation is receiving a boost from the longstanding Finley Foundation for a second year in a row.
The Santa Rosa charity last year gave the school foundation a $250,000 grant, the first grant awarded to the nonprofit since its inception in 2011. Now, Finley is pledging to match money the foundation raises up to $250,000, the school foundation announced Friday.
The grant will help it set up a $1 million endowment fund, ensuring the nonprofit can provide students in the school’s college pathway program scholarships for decades to come, said Manny Baldenegro Jr., the newly hired executive director. Many Elsie Allen students are Latino and come from low-income families who have never been to college, he said.
“It’s beyond huge,” he said about the financial support and the impact on students. “It will allow us to grow this program.”
La Tortilla Factory co-founder Willie Tamayo helped launch the school foundation with other business leaders six years ago to support students enrolled in the program, known as Compact for Success, a partnership involving the high school, nearby Lawrence Cook Middle School and Sonoma State University.
“We have bright kids that may not have the support at home,” Elsie Allen principal Mary Gail Stablein said. “To be able to have the Santa Rosa business community open their hearts and support our kids is unbelievable, and our kids feel that.”
The college pathway program starts in seventh grade. Cook students are introduced to the high school and university, and once at Elsie, they take part in workshops on how to get into college and succeed. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and complete the so-called “A through G” classes — courses required to be eligible to apply to most colleges — to meet the program’s criteria and be guaranteed a spot at SSU.
Baldenegro said the foundation this year awarded $2,000 scholarships to 13 students — the first cohort to graduate from Elsie and enroll this fall at SSU. All but one were Latino students. The foundation also awarded $1,000 each to three students attending Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
Thirteen additional students received $750 each to attend Santa Rosa Junior College, Baldenegro said. Since its inception, the nonprofit has awarded more than 200 scholarships.
Stablein said the foundation is breaking barriers for all kinds of students, including those who don’t necessarily want to go to college but would like to pursue careers after high school. The nonprofit provided financial support to 19 Elsie Allen students taking part in a certified nursing assistant program this summer at Santa Rosa Junior College.
The foundation and the program it supports through its fundraising can alter the lives of her students, as well as their families, Stablein said. Students encourage younger siblings to pursue college and careers, she said.
“We’re not just changing one generation,” she said. “We’re changing many.”
You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @eloisanews.