I wouldn’t have made it through school without them:The Betty Shabazz Family Resource Center at City College of San Francisco

POOR correspondent - Posted on 23 June 2010

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

"I wouldn’t have made through College without them", When I told my good friend Martina that I was writing a story on the Betty Shabazz Family Resource Center at City College of San Francisco she revealed a little known fact to me about her educational background, " I was barely making it financially with my two kids and then trying to go school on top of that, there would have been no way without their great program" My friend is now a graduate student at Howard University and there is no stopping her. I was thrilled to hear her experience but the disturbing part of it is how close low-income single parents teeter on the edge of survival and how important places like the Family Resource Center really are….

"Do you have Calworks?"

"I already told you I can’t qualify for Calworks….but I am very low-income, I am working poor and I am trying to go school to improve my situation isn’t there some support you can give me?.."

"Well , then there’s nothing we can do for you…"

Martina’s revelation brought me back to a horrible conversation I had in December of Last year. I had been told that " nothing we can do for you" line far too many times in my homeless, poverty stricken life but somehow this time it cut even deeper. The bearer of that disaffected news was an Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) "advocate" at City College of San Francisco who seemed to have a case of job burnout. The "help" I was asking for was a referral for a child care subsidy, a center or something to help pay for the exhorbitant costs of child care if I wanted to go to school. But in the end the lack of help and flagrant disinterest I got from (EOPS) was just one of many "no’s" that I and countless other low-income mothers and fathers receive daily when we try to get any kind of support and in particular when we seek affordable child care

Currently the rate of most child care providers is running at approximately $10-12 per hour. If you are only earning $12-15.00 per hour that is over 90% of your salary, and for middle income folks its hovering at %75. The other sad fact is single mothers and fathers are not rewarded by this society to care for their own children, i.e., parenting, even in the supposed modern, conscious and aware 21st century is still not viewed as a valid form of "work" even though those of us doing that parenting know its one of the hardest jobs you will ever do. Welfare dictates that single parents get a job, any job as soon as their baby reaches 8 months old

And to further that inane logic, if you are on Calworks, the system (i.e. welfare) values child care "work" at below minimum wage, i.e, the going rate they pay for child care is $4.50 per hour under two which drops to $4.00 once children reach the grand old age of two. And of course this whole situation is so shameful when you compare it to countries like Canada, France, Germany and many parts of Europe which provides free, yes I said free, child care for all parents.

So with my head hanging very low and barely able to muster up a goodbye me and my stroller bound son stumbled out of the EOPS bungalow onto the CCSF campus. With tired feet I pushed the stroller outside into the bright, cool January sun. We climbed slowly up a hill to a hidden elevator in the back of the building and began the ascendance up to the Student Union plaza. As the creaking metal doors of the elevator opened, the corner of my eyes caught the faster than light movement of several baby legs through a floor to ceiling glass wall in front of me.

I shook my head thinking my mind was playing tricks on me, but then when I looked back someone was waving at us through the glass. "Tiny, how are ya doin?" It was the singsong voice of my companera, Tracy Faulkner, former welfare mom, fellow activist and tireless advocate for the rights of poor single parents

Within seconds I had poured my dilemma out to her. "Well, Tiny it looks like you came to the right place do you know about the PEP project?"


"The Parent Education Project (PEP) is a project of The Betty Shabazz Family Resource Center that provides parents with 9 hours of free child care per week and in exchange we only ask the parents to volunteer 2 hours of their time per week." Tracy who is the executive director of the Center went on to tell me that although there was a waiting list I had a chance of getting in for the upcoming semester.

"Oh my god, that would make school possible….Thank-you wonderful people"

That was over five months ago and since then, thanks to the innovative service provision of the Family Resource Center I have been able to pursue a formal education. The center includes a family friendly computer lab, and the amazing PEP project that allows working poor parents like myself to get free child care while we are in school.

"I wouldn’t have made it through school without this place" I spoke to Liz, another one of the staff about her experience. Liz, who like most of the multi-cultural women and men who work at the center began as a low-income mother on Calworks trying to pursue an education when she enrolled in the program.

"Dr. Betty Shabazz was herself a low-income single mother who with help from the community was able to raise her children and pursue an education and now has a Ph.d We are trying to be ‘the community’ for the parents who come to our center" In a recent conversation I had with Tracy about the Center’s current financial needs she described the reason for the Centers’ namesake.

"Due to current budget cuts we are barely surviving and we need to raise funds just to provide our kids with snacks and pay for printer cartridges so the students can print out their papers for school in our computer lab" Tracy went on to explain that there is a huge demand for the Center to be open in the summer because otherwise parents can’t attend summer school at City College. I heartily agreed knowing that my now-frolicking 19 month old son in the next room will not only miss this great place but I won’t be able to afford to send him anywhere else which means I won’t be able to go to school.

As I left the Center that day the words of all the mothers and fathers I spoke to floated through my mind with one line being a constant, "I wouldn’t have made it through school without their support" which is why its up to the community to make sure that support is always there….

The Family Resource Center is having a fundraiser on Wednesday, april 20th at 6:00 pm at Sadies’ Flying Elephant at 491 Potrero Av ( at Mariposa) in SF ($10 donation at the door or whatever you can pay- 21 and over) For more information you can call the Betty Shabazz Family Resource Center at (415) 239-3109 or if you miss the fundraiser you can send them a donation in the form of a check or money order made payable to Student Parents United and send it to The Family Resource Center 50 Phelan Avenue Box # SU205 San Francisco Ca 94112.


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