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St. Francis Youth Club partners with Catholic Charities in East Palo Alto

September 17, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

One of the area’s most successful youth programs, St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club in East Palo Alto, began a partnership with Catholic Charities this summer designed to provide a stable future for the club.

The administrative change will give the club, located on the grounds of St. Francis of Assisi parish, continuity going into the future at the same time it offers Catholic Charities “a toe in the water” in East Palo Alto, the poorest town in Silicon Valley, said pastor Father Lawrence Goode. It will be Catholic Charities first youth program in San Mateo County, he said.

The youth club offers after school homework help and a place to be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the school year, an all-day summer academic enrichment and fun activities, and a Saturday program for high school students to learn about college opportunities.

Most the East Palo Alto children who frequent the club live in houses with four and five families residing at one address to save on rent or help with mortgage payments, Father Goode said. The St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club is a “lifeline,” offering academic support with homework, snacks, and recreation in a safe place, said Courtney Johnson Clendinen, division director of family services and CYO athletics for Catholic Charities.

“A lot of these kids, their parents don’t speak English or don’t have the education to help them with their homework,” said Clendinen,

Father Goode, who in May had his tenure indefinitely renewed at the parish, was instrumental in founding the club more than 10 years ago. Father Goode is heading into his 13th year as pastor at the church.

“We were thinking in terms of, I’m not going to be here forever although I keep telling them I have no plan to go anywhere,” said Father Goode. “The idea was to have continuity and make sure there was something here for the years to come.”

For Catholic Charities, which has focused on San Francisco and Marin County for youth programs, although it has an immigration outreach in San Mateo, this is an opportunity to bring more services to mostly poor families of East Palo Alto. Clendinen said Catholic Charities can offer help for undocumented people who want to attain legal immigration status and it also offers counseling. It has an immigration office in San Mateo.

Big Silicon Valley companies which have interest in helping the community thrive might be sources for grants and other help, she said.

Mary Sol Alvarado, executive director of the club, says Catholic Charities administrative support is already evident. For her children, the Catholic Charites affiliation will mean another opportunity, too, she said. They will be eligible to go to CYO sleepover summer camp in Occidental next summer.

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