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Catalyst for College


May, 2011



"Aspire Inspire Expect" is our informal motto as we move into our fourth year of summer programs - our life of supporting and accelerating more first generation students on the college path.  Special kudos and thanks go to Julie Cates, Director of Programs, and Carlos Jimenez, Program Manager, who have been busily working with partners to plan, recruit students, hire teachers, hire college Teaching Assistants (TAs), and plan for curricula and assessment. 


We're pleased to have Rick Alves, an experienced school administrator, return as the summer Director of our Math Acceleration Program (MAP) and very excited to also have Dino Certa, former Principal of Overfelt High, take over as Director of our Catalyst program. Overall, we will have over 60 teachers and 60 TAs in our summer programs, and will serve more than 1800 students from underrepresented backgrounds in the summer of 2011. We are especially pleased to see that many teachers and TAs are returning from last year's program, giving us added momentum.


ALearn is very proud and grateful to add some new donors: the Knight Foundation, 100 Women's Foundation and the Los Altos Community Foundation.  Welcome, and thank you! In the past two months, we have also received renewed support from the Reddere Foundation, TOSA Foundation, Applied Materials, Juniper Networks Foundation, and the Glikbarg Foundation. Thank you, your support is deeply appreciated.  We truly couldn't be doing this work without you!


Warmest Regards,

Kathryn Hanson

Founder & CEO


Math Acceleration Program UpdateArticle Title

Nancy Johnson

Silicon Valley's most successful summer math program will help middle school students conquer math phobia and get on the path to college when it launches its 4th year in June.  The "Stepping Up to Algebra/Math Acceleration Program (SUTA/MAP)," offered by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, ALearn and Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, is a critical summer support program for Santa Clara County schools that are struggling with fewer resources due to the elimination of virtually all summer school programs.


ALearn and Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) will serve 1500 students in 11 school districts, including new-comers Gilroy Unified School District and Santa Clara Unified School District. These students will undergo four weeks of intensive pre-Algebra and Algebra instruction.


Rick Alves has returned this year as the Program Director for the SUTA/MAP program.  Rick brings 30 years of education experience to the program, having been a teacher, assistant principal and assistant superintendent of human resources.

Catalyst to High School Program Update


Students - scd

This summer's ALearn's Catalyst to High School program will serve 300 incoming high school students at four sites:  Overfelt High School, Yerba Buena High School, Woodside High School and Mountain View-Los Altos High School District.


To lead and manage the SUTA/MAP and Catalyst Programs, ALearn has put in place an able staff of Directors, Coordinators, Teachers, and Teaching Assistants. As mentioned above, Dino Certa with over 25 years of experience as an educator, teacher and high school principal has joined ALearn as the Catalyst to High School Program Director.

Zoomz Update icle Title
The Knight Foundation recently awarded ALearn a first-time grant of $15,000 to fund a strategic marketing plan for Zoomz, our social networking site for first-generation students (

Thanks to the generosity of the Knight Foundation, ALearn will be able to explore different strategies to continue to improve our Zoomz program. Our goal is that more students will be able to benefit from this exciting and innovative networking site.


Meet Pardis Koshravi, a first-generation student at UC Berkeley who is a College Mentor on Zoomz. Pardis periodically blogs about her experience in college and is available to connect with other students who will be the first in their family to pursue a higher education.


Check out her blog about advice to cope with stress during final exams!

Fundraising Update


ALearn would like to thank the Knight Foundation for their recent grant of $15,000 in order to fund our Zoomz social networking website. 

 Knight Foundation logo

They are a national foundation with local roots.  The Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. They focus on projects that promote informed, engaged communities and lead to transformational change and believe that information is a core community need.  They want to ensure that all citizens get the information they need to thrive in a democracy and act in their own best interest.  We could not continue with our goal of improving our Zoomz website without the support of the Knight Foundation. 



We at ALearn are extremely grateful to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for providing the second grant of $100,000 to support our MAP program in 2011.


The Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) provides visionary community leadership by identifying emerging challenges in our region. They address those challenges through their grant-making programs, their research and ability to bring together diverse groups of problem-solvers. The SVCF builds and energizes a community of philanthropists who strengthen the common good. Their leadership is rooted in their strong point of view on social equality as well as their collaborative relationships with nonprofit groups and institutions advancing the best ideas.  As of 2010, they had $1.8 billion under management and had awarded $197 million in grants to the community.


The MAP program would not be able to serve as many students as it does without the generosity of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. On behalf of the 1200 students who will participate in this program over the summer, we would like to thank the SVCF for their support.  

ALearn Spring Reception

Fundraiser - Kathryn and Geshkes

On April 7th, over 70 ALearn supporters and board and staff members enjoyed a wonderful evening of delicious food and great conversation at the beautiful home of board member Nan Geschke and her husband Chuck. 


The program included introductory remarks made by ALearn's founder and CEO, Kathryn Hanson. Then Michael Moul, Director of our summer program at MVLA, led his students, Milena Lacayo, Paola Cervantes and Glenda Vargas in a Q/A session. Glenda spoke about how the Catalyst Bridge program "helped my self esteem, confidence and social interactions." Paola mentioned that the Catalyst program gave her a special boost before her freshman year, so that "when I got to high school I knew what to do and how to study."  The students all expressed a desire to attend four year colleges and felt that they were helped greatly in achieving this goal by their summer in the Catalyst program. Glenda dreams of going to Stanford, and Paola noted proudly that she'll be the first in her family to go to college." See Milena's article on the sidebar to find out what she gained from the program.


ALearn fundraiser - 3 students 

The evening was capped off with remarks made by ALearn Board of Directors President Diane Frankle who emphasized the necessity of financial support in order to continue with our programs.


We would like to like to thank Nan and Chuck Geschke for their hospitality and generosity in hosting this very successful event

New Website Launch


ALearn is proud to launch its new website, www.alearn.orgWith a new a new look and fresh feel, we hope that the following stories and successes come to life:

  • See what makes our Math Acceleration Program special in our Catalyst to College video
  • Learn more about the successes of our programs:
  • See how our donor support has grown:
  • Follow us on Facebook at our new fan page,

We hope you enjoy our new website,

In This Issue
Math Acceleration Program Update
Catalyst to High School Program Update
Zoomz Update
Fundraising Update
Spring Reception
New Website Launch
Student Success Story
Student Appreciation Event

"An English Teacher in the Making"

Student Success Story
Milena head shot

Milena Lacayo is a very engaging and creative junior at Los Altos High School who developed leadership, problem solving and math skills while attending ALearn's Catalyst to High School program two years ago. These skills increased her confidence and enabled a much easier transition from 8th grade to freshman year. It also pushed her into taking AP courses during her sophomore year and ignited her passion for creative writing and the desire to become an English teacher.


According to Milena "I learned a lot about problem solving skills by participating in both the rocket launching and egg dropping challenges. We had to carefully choose the appropriate materials to use in order to launch a rocket 50' and in the egg challenge, we had figure out how to protect an egg from breaking as it dropped from a certain height. Of course, having a dozen cookies at stake also helped!"


The students were also introduced to Socratic seminars where they sat in a circle and made up questions about such books as Fahrenheit 451. Milena says "I would have been knocked off my feet in high school if I hadn't been introduced to this methodology during the summer." Milena's math skills also improved. She failed her first test, but when she was given the option to be moved to Algebra or to stay in Geometry and do her best, she elected to stay in Geometry and her math skills went up.


Milena plans to attend USF and become an English teacher. The Catalyst program factored into her decision to be an English teacher by encouraging her creative writing skills which led her to the realization that she was "legitimately good" at writing. Just recently, Milena won her second consecutive award at a school sponsored Poetry Slam Competition, topping last year's Honorable Mention with this year's award for Best Overall Poem and Performance. We commend Milena and wish her continued success!

Student Appreciation


A Superintendent does not get to mingle with his students very often. Which is why when we asked how our MAP students at the Berryessa School District are doing in 7th grade, Superintendent Marc Liebman

commented that he would personally look into it.  He proudly came back to us and announced that he wanted to host a celebration party for the

students who had received As.  


Appreciation Event



We were so pleased to hear that 20% of our MAP students were

getting As in addition to being in more rigorous Pre-Algebra classes.  What fun we had during a March afternoon in March to join the students and talk about the MAP program and how they felt about math.


Marc asked "What do you like about math now?"  "Fractions" was cited as a favorite activity.  "The interactivity" cited another referring to working in small groups and sharing approaches to problem solving. The students talked about their college campus visit.  "What would you tell a funder of the program?"  "I would thank them for the money,

tell them how much I learned and how more successful I am today". When asked if the program was a success, they all raised their hands!


Some parents arrived to pick up their students. They approached us to share their views of the summer program.  "Abbey arrived in the US six years ago and did not speak English.  We are so proud that she worked hard and went to your summer math program.  She is now doing great in math.  Thank you for the summer math program; Abbey really enjoyed it."  

MAP College Teaching Assistant Recruitment 

Aubrie and Ketasha


Carlos Jimenez has led the recruitment/hiring for the College Program Coordinators and college student teaching assistants. We are quite pleased with our efforts, for we have hired 50 students from schools such as Santa Clara University, San Jose State University, UC Santa Cruz, Dartmouth University, Cal Poly, Stanford, Indiana University, Wesleyan University, and UC Berkeley. From those students, 34% are bilingual, 45% are interested in becoming teachers, and 52% are studying for technology, science, and math careers. Our three coordinators have experience working in organizations such as Cal-SOAP, Migrant Education Program, and GetSET. What a great team!

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