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East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy
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What's New at EPAPA
January 2013: EPAPA Students Meet Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Spanish Teacher Greta Betteo and After School Program and Family/College Programs Director Laura Martinez (who also happens to serve on the East Palo Alto City Council) brought a group of our young women to meet Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the Fox Theater in Redwood City. Each girl got to take home a signed copy of the Justice's new book, My Beloved World. The students had their books personally signed by the Justice! Students also had a chance to chat with our Congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, who serves California's 18th District.

It was so inspirational to be there. She’s a role model to me because she’s overcome so many challenges. I believe that I can do anything.
   --Bianca Rodriguez, Class of 2013
EPAPA students with Justice Sotomayor

EPAPA students Congresswoman Eshoo

The experience was supported by two of our local community partners. Facebook provided 100 tickets for local youth to meet the Justice, including copies of her book. Foundation for a College Education, a fellow member of East Palo Alto College Access Network, gave ten tickets to Phoenix Academy so that we could provide this unforgettable experience for our students.



January 2013: Middle School Students Visit Google

On Thursday, January 24, EPACS and Phoenix Academy students were among the approximately 40 students and educators from East Palo Alto public schools who participated at the Google campus in a private tour and design workshop specially tailored to promote their interest in STEM education. “Learning how to design is a great first step to igniting curiosity and energy around problem solving -- and the technologies required to build those solutions,” said Suz Burroughs, a member of our Advisory Board and the Google Global Innovation Programs team who spearheaded the day. The trip represented a partnership effort between Google, EPACS, Phoenix Academy and the Ravenswood Education Foundation (REF).

The campus tour gave students a taste of some of the unique features of Google's workplace, from cafes where employees from different departments can mingle to ping pong tables and soccer fields to keep Googlers (Google employees) healthy and energized. A team of Google leaders shared their educational backgrounds with the students. The Google leaders then coached student groups through a customized workshop, using sticky pads, white boards, and Legos to explore ideas for building community in their schools and neighborhoods. The workshop introduced the students to the design thinking approach from the d.school at Stanford University and widely used at Google and other innovative Silicon Valley companies.

The day at Google also served the spirit of community building by bringing together students and educators from charter and non-charter public schools within the Ravenswood City School District (RCSD), promoting collaboration that remains rare between charter and non-charter schools in our national school system. “Bringing together students from five schools to collaborate in support of their community was quite inspiring. It was great to see how the ideas flowed once students realized everyone around the table was equally committed to their city,” said Robert Pronovost, STEM Coordinator for RCSD’s non-charter schools, three of which were represented by students at the Google workshop.

“We’ve appreciated Google’s connections to our community on multiple levels, and today’s tour and workshop has really highlighted new possibilities for connection between educators and students in our community,” said Mike Berman, our Director of Development and Community Partnerships. Many thanks to Suz and the team at Google for an unforgettable experience!


EPACS Participates in New Blended Learning Pilot Program
6th Grade Collaboration with CFY includes computers at home

EPACS 6th graders were selected to do a blended learning pilot conducted with CFY, a national nonprofit which helps students, teachers and parents use computers to improve educational outcomes. “Blended learning” refers to the personalized learning experience that is created through the integration of technology into curriculum and instruction. “EPACS is already a leading school in terms of innovation,” says Grainger Marburg, CFY’s Bay Area Executive Director. “We are excited to work with them because we think our blended learning model can help take their instruction to the next level.”

In January, the 6th grade families attended a workshop on digital learning activities and every family received a computer to take home. Parent Rocio Tapia said, “Now I’m going to be able to help Miguel with homework. I’ve struggled in the past and had to get the older kids to help. Now I can help him”. The 6th grade teachers are working with a CFY coach to differentiate their math instruction and leverage the online tools in the classroom and on students’ home computers. Teacher Lily Diamond reflected, “I will have more opportunity to differentiate my lessons, pull small groups together, and have the kids be more engaged”. Former EPACS math teacher and instructional coach Marie White is in charge of the content on the CFY online platform, Power My Learning. The CFY coach will also work with the 7th grade teachers next year to continue to maximize the students’ learning environment.


September 2012: Aspire Awarded $27.8 Million Grant from US Department of Education
US Department of Education Teacher Incentive Fund

Aspire Public Schools was selected as one of the few school systems across the country to receive a major federal grant to help develop our teacher development, evaluation and compensation system. Learn more about our leading work with The College Ready Promise.



August 2012: New Environmental Science Class
Development Funding Supports Addition of New Course

Last year, Phoenix Academy science teacher Sara Heaps saw a gap in our program. “I realized that we needed to push our students to take more rigorous courses, and we also only offered our students three years of science instruction.” She proposed adding Environmental Science because the content is current and engaging. “I was excited about the idea from the start,” says Principal Tom Madson. “My concern, though, was that we didn’t have the funding. That’s why having a development office is so important for us – rather than think about what to cut, we were able to ask ‘what do our kids need to be prepared for college success?’”

Sara based the class loosely on the AP Environmental Science curriculum. Through the course, students explore current environmental issues such as population growth and effects, pollution and waste reduction, energy policies and resource use and planning. The class has college-level reading, analytical writing and problem-solving. It is a chance for the Phoenix students to engage in high level academics and get a feel for what college will really be like. Sara said, “I see students approaching current day issues in a highly academic manner. Even though some have skill gaps they are able to approach high level problem solving tasks.”

The students have clearly responded with enthusiasm to the new opportunities. Given the choice to take Environmental Science or other elective courses, all of our seniors chose to take the more challenging science class. “I knew that it would prepare me for college,” notes Flavio ’13. “What I didn’t expect was that it would inspire my passion to study the environment. Now I want to attend Sonoma State to study environmental law to become a lawyer that defends the environment.”

June 2012: Farewell, Class of 2012!
EPAPA Class of 2012

Congratulations to our latest group of EPAPA graduates! Like their predecessors, ALL of our graduating seniors were accepted to four-year universities. Great work, and remember to stay in touch! Check out some beautiful photos of the day here. (Thanks to Heidi Cregge Cabra for the photos).



December 2011: Congratulations, Mayor Martinez!!
Laura Martinez

We are so proud that our very own Laura Martinez, our after school program director, has been elected the mayor of East Palo Alto! Laura is in her third year of her term on the City Council. She previously served as Vice Mayor. For more information, check out the story in the San Jose Mercury News.



October 15, 2011: EPAPA Ribbon-cutting Ceremony and Community Planting

Saturday, October 15, 2011, was a beautiful day, and it wasn't just the weather. Students, staff, families and community members came together to dedicate our new campus. After the ribbon was cut, almost 200 volunteers remained to plant trees throughout the site. In addition to the ribbon-cutting and planting, the day included a small ceremony to honor the Nakagawa family, previous owners of our site.

Many, many thanks to the supporters and community partners who made this day possible. It's impossible to list all of the people who work with us to challenge and support our students on their way to College for Certain, but we have listed a few that played an integral role here. And a final huge thank you to Canopy, who donated all of the trees and coordinated an inspiring volunteer work day. Here are some photos from the day.

EPAPA Ribbon-cutting - Oct 15, 2011


August 2011: Our New Home, 1039 Garden Street

In August 2011 we moved into our beautiful new location on Garden Street, just around the corner from EPACS. Our campus is bustling with 300+ students in grades 7 through 12, and growing...we're very grateful to the many organizations and individuals who made our new home a reality, especially the Sequoia Union High School District and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. Check our long journey to this fantastic new facility below:

EPAPA Facility Journey


March 1, 2011: Groundbreaking Ceremony for Our New Home!
On March 1, 2011 we broke ground at 1039 Garden Street, the permanent home for our secondary school. Many of our community partners joined us to celebrate this momentous occasion in our school community's history. So many individuals and organizations have contributed to help make this dream a reality, but we would be remiss if we didn't express our gratitude for the support of Sequoia Union High School District, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, our local funders and Advisory Board, Pacific Charter School Development, the City of East Palo Alto (the council and staff), and the tireless staff at Aspire's home office. Most of all, we'd like to thank our students and families, for their fortitude and vision.

Be a permanent part of our school's history.
» Click here to donate a brick


June 2010: EPAPA Graduates its First Class!
On June 19, 2010, our founding class exchanged acceptances letters to four-year colleges for high school diplomas. This first graduation ceremony represents years of hard work and perseverance on the part of the families, students and staff at EPAPA, but everyone recognizes that there is much more work to be done to realize our dreams of college success. Nevertheless, this was a historic celebration that marked an important milestone in the lives of our students, their families, and the community of East Palo Alto. We would like to send a special thank you to the Four Seasons Hotel for their gracious hospitality in hosting our first graduation ceremony — it was appropriate to host this momentous event in such a classy locale. Check out some pictures from the event.

March 2010: 100% of EPAPA Seniors Are Accepted to Four-Year Schools
In a community where more than half the young people don't graduate from high school and less than ten percent possess a college degree, the founding class at East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy has done what some said was impossible. Some of our students were told, "you're not going to make it" by adults in their lives who didn't believe that they could graduate, let alone attend a four-year school. Once again our students have proved their doubters—and sometimes even themselves—wrong. We appreciate that members of the local media were willing to highlight the positive accomplishments of our students: please check out the articles written about our seniors in the Palo Alto Weekly and San Jose Mercury News.

Seniors Create College-Bound Video for College Summit
As part of a national contest organized by educational partner College Summit, our seniors created a video to highlight the importance of going to college at East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy. The EPAPA video, which was written, directed and edited entirely by students, was selected as one of the finalists in the competition. Congratulations again, EPAPA! You can check out the video, as well as many others, on our school's YouTube Channel: youtube.com/epapapictures.



Dreams Become Reality: EPAPA Seniors are Accepted to College!
As of Thanksgiving, eight of our seniors have received acceptance letters from CSU East Bay (and one from Cal State LA). Clearly we're not at the "finish line" yet -- these are conditional acceptance letters, and our students still have lots of work to do. But we're thrilled that their hard work and perseverence is beginning to pay off! And we're excited for many more of those letters to come in! Congralations EPAPA seniors!

Our First Acceptance!
Carla Hernandez was admitted to Cal State LA! Congratulations, Carla! We're sure there are many more acceptances on the way.

100% of EPAPA Seniors Apply to College
As of mid-November, all of the members of the class of 2010 have submitted at least four college applications. We've started with the California State Universities and will be moving on to the University of California system, as well as a variety of public and private schools throughout the state and the country. Click on any of the pictures below to see our students submitting their first college applications -- college success is one step closer!



Pancake Breakfast a Smashing Success
On Saturday, October 24, EPACS and EPAPA hosted our 9th Annual Pancake Breakfast. Hundreds of students, staff, families and community members gathered to celebrate our school's success and to acknowledge the volunteers who have contributed so much to our community. The event couldn't have happened without the help of the Silicon Valley Chapter of ARMA International, our event co-host. And we'd also like to express our heartfelt thanks to the Four Seasons Hotel, Hobee's Restaurant, Safeway, Starbucks, and EPACS and EPAPA families for donating food and beverages for the event. Thanks to everyone for making the event such a fantastic success! Check out some of the pictures from a fantastic morning.




Other News and Events
  • Our founding class will graduate this June! Stay tuned for details about the festivities.
  • We are proud to partner with College Summit to support our students in their drive for college success. Five of our students participated in College Summit's Peer Leader training this summer at University of California-Merced. These students are taking a leadership role in building a college-going culture at EPAPA and teaching our students and families about the application process.
  • Senior Carla Hernandez was commended by East Palo Alto's Chief of Police for her leadership and character. Carla is an Explorer with the EPA Police Department and was honored as one of EPAPA's Students of the Month for August. Congratulations on your well-deserved recognition, Carla!


  • Dean of Students Tim Burke was honored by his alma mater, Boston College, as the Young Alum of the Year for his work with our students at EPAPA. We appreciate all Tim does for the students, families and staff at EPAPA, and we're proud that he received this well-deserved recognition.
  • Senior Eden Diaz returned from a summer at University of Wisconsin in their Math and Engineering Summer Institute. Eden had a fabulous time and has his sights set on being a freshman in Madison at this time next year.
  • In June, our students completed their first Exhibitions of Learning. These interdisciplinary culminating projects challenged our students to tackle real-world problems and present their findings to a panel of experts. Most of our students worked to develop solutions to issues faced by our own community -- our juniors explored the field of epidemiology and East Palo Alto's readiness to respond to an outbreak, and our sophomores researched the national drop-out crisis. Beyond crafting 12-20 page research papers and delivering presentations of their own, the sophomores hosted a panel discussion of local education leaders. Watch this impressive and important community discussion on our YouTube channel: youtube.com/epapapictures, and click here to download the San Jose Mercury News article written about the event.
  • Last August, goal posts were donated to EPACS to be used on the back field. This has been a very exciting development for our students, who now have a way to play soccer during recess and PE! As the year continues, we would like to work on getting funding to install irrigation, so that the field can be made safer for athletics during and after school. If you are interested in helping us raise funds to develop the back field, please be in touch with Mike Berman, our Director of Development.
  • Our own PE teacher, Stephen Ashford, spreads the word about education with a new music video about staying in school, produced with local bay area rap artists and Transvideo Studios.