What is the San Francisco Achievers program?
San Francisco Achievers is a youth development and scholarship program for African American young men in the San Francisco Unified School District. This nonprofit was established in 2008 and now has three parts. The High School Program operates a series of programs at lunch at five different partner high schools, open to any student that self identifies as an African American young man, with available one-on-one counseling. Participants also enjoy field trips to learn new skills and participate in team-building activities. The Leadership Academy is for young men in their senior year of high school. This program is designed to help students prepare for life after high school, with a focus on college. Leadership Academy includes opportunities for students to participate in college visits, worksite visits, and internship opportunities.
The College Program awards college scholarships to 25 African-American young men graduating from high school each year. Students accepted into four-year colleges receive $3000 per year toward academic expenses, while those accepted into two-year colleges receive $1500 per year. “We stay with our students through graduation,” says Duane Wilson, the Executive Director of San Francisco Achievers. The students are matched with mentors who provide them with support and guidance, and they receive ongoing programming and internship opportunities to help them make the most of their college experience.
Managing Scholarships and Teaching Financial Literacy
At first, scholarship recipients were given checks, but the program administrators wanted to make accessing scholarship funds more convenient for students while also helping them develop responsible budgeting habits. With Bento, the students can see how much money they have left in their scholarship account. This has been a great way to teach financial literacy. “We have an orientation for our scholarship students,” Wilson says. They learn how to use the Bento app to manage their funds. “For some of them, this is their very first card. It allows them to have the experience.”
Other Ways San Francisco Achievers Use Bento
The Bento card can be used in other ways to support student success. For example, students can receive a small gift from program partners for making the dean’s list in the form of funds to go out to dinner. A few scholars were across the country and studying abroad when pandemic evacuation orders were issued, and San Francisco Achievers was able to add funds to cover unexpected expenses involved in bringing them home safely.
The data collected in the Bento dashboard is not only helpful for evaluating student spending, but it is also useful for fundraising. Because San Francisco Achievers has verifiable data of how much students spend and where Wilson can go back to donors and ask for matching funds or discounts.
During this physical distancing, the San Francisco Achievers staff is holding one-on-one meetings and virtual check-ins with their high school and college students, while helping them get access to technology so that they can keep up with their studies. They are also organizing a digital version of their annual awards ceremony.
Support the San Francisco Achievers Program
If you want to support the San Francisco Achievers, Wilson would be happy to hear from you. In addition to cash donations, he is looking for people in San Francisco who have internship opportunities or who are interested in volunteering. Mentors do not have to be based in the San Francisco area. If you’re interested, you can sign up here.