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2010 Top-Rated Nonprofit

SMART

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Adult & Child Matching Programs, Children & Youth, Education, Scholarships, Scholarships & Student Financial Aid

Mission: Founded in 1997, SMART's mission is to provide motivated, financially-disadvantaged students with access to educational opportunities, personal experiences and family support services that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

Results: Over 94% of college-aged SMART alumni have enrolled in college; nationally, less than 10% of low-income students who graduate high school pursue higher education. For the past 4 years, 100% of our graduating 8th graders have been accepted into a charter or private high school, enabling them to continue learning at an advanced level. In 2013, 100% of our graduating seniors have been accepted to and enrolled in a 4-year college!

Target demographics: motivated, low-income students and families

Direct beneficiaries per year: 16 Fifth Graders in our Placement Services; 55 sixth through eighth grade Scholars

Geographic areas served: San Francisco

Programs: Placement and advocacy into one of our 21 partner private schools. SMART recruits motivated, low-income students and support families through the complicated school and financial aid application process to ensure the best fit of the school for the individual student. Middle School Achievement Program (MAP) provides academic, social and emotional support for 5th - 8th grade students attending one of our partner schools. Scholars are provided with 2x a week after-school program (with transportation provided), one-on-one match with volunteer tutors and mentors, and individualized academic support plans. Students then transition into our newly developed College Access Program (CAP) from 9th-12th grades, which provides access and support to ensure 100% of our high school seniors apply and enroll in a 4-year college. We also offer Family Education Series and Academic Summer Enrichment Programs.

Community Stories

16 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is my second year being at tutor at SMART and it is by far my favorite time of the week. The staff at SMART are so dedicated and organized that tutoring is a breeze and so rewarding. I feel adequately trained and prepared to help my student succeed. Of course my student is wonderful, as are all the kids at SMART, and I really feel like I'm making an impact in her life. Not only do I love tutoring at SMART simply to help a child succeed but I've made great friends with the other tutors. SMART is a great place to volunteer and I can't speak highly enough of it.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

SMART makes an impact in very tangible and powerful ways. Children who enter the SMART program are virtually assured of attending a college-track high school and have a very high probability of attending college. SMART attracts not just the brightest students, but most importantly those with the motivation to improve their lives and become productive members of society. SMART is their guide, mentor, and tutor on this exciting but challenging journey.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

The SMART community has offered and brought me many opportunities for which I'm truly grateful for. In fifth grade, the SMART program presented me with a scholarship for a private middle school that my family couldn't afford and, knowing that this was a rare and incredible opportunity, my parents and I accepted the offer. After graduating middle school, SMART continued to help me by connecting me to another great program called A Better Chance which allowed me to continue my education in a private high school. It was thanks to the initial help of SMART that I was able to attend such fine and impressive schools and be the person I am today. Being with other students of different cultural backgrounds yet similar financial difficulties was not only comforting but also served to show me SMART's determination in providing young ambitious children with good education. Their mission is inspiring and encouraging, their work altruistic and generous. The staff is considerate, approachable, dedicated, and supportive. Being able to return to SMART and contribute my thoughts through the Alumni Advisory Board gives me a chance to show my appreciation for this program. In the future, I hope to continue to find more ways to give back to the SMART community for everything it has done (and continues to do) for not only myself but other students.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I believe SMART led me onto a path to success. I was accepted into the program in the 5th grade and I had no clue how much the program would change my future. I received a full scholarship to a private school that I would never have even considered. I owe my academic success to the SMART program. I have met friends from the program that I continue to keep close relationships with. The program showed me that if I tried I could acheive my goals. I now attend a private high school with a large sum of financial aid. I would not be here today without the help of the SMART program. The staff while I was attending the SMART program helped me greatly. I had a tutor who helped me with my homework and a mentor who helped me relieve stress and act as a big brother. Nonoko was my favorite staff member. She was there throughout my whole middle school education. I looked up to her. She was constantly there to support me and to give me a smile whenever I needed one. There are way too many memories to recall here but to sum it all up; it was a life-changing experience and I loved it.

Client Served

Rating: 5

What do I think of when I think of the SMART program? The word life-changing will come up without thought. SMART had changed my life since I was fortunate enough to be admitted as a member of SMART when I was in 5th grade. Not only did SMART provide financial assistance in middle school, they also provided me with academic assistance. I had a tutor and mentor during my three years at SMART and we formed a friendship the continued even today! The staff is also amazing and they were great during the stressful high school application process. I think I wouldn't have gotten in to San Francisco University High School if it wasn't for their support throughout middle school. After graduating middle school, SMART continued to support me by paving ways to other programs including College Track and Summer Search. As a senior in high school, SMART continues to support me by helping me out with the college application process. I am now part of the SMART Alumni Advisory board because I hope to use my experiences to make the program even better! I want to thank SMART for all of the things they have done for me and my family. Thank You SMART!

Board Member

Rating: 5

The organization's mission, its success over many years, the students and the incredible impact SMART has had in their lives and their families' lives are absolutely amazing. The fact that so many of the students and their families return as alumni to volunteer and even serve on the Board is a tremendous validation of the value and impact SMART has had and continues to have on our community. The staff and volunteers are passionate, dedicated and truly inspirational people who have prepared SMART to serve the students and their families for many years to come.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Working with The SMART Program and their students, has been a transformational experience for both myself and my school community. Everytime a SMART student enrolls in our school, we we know we are adding a layer of depth and complexity to our student body that makes us all a little more enriched. Students coming from SMART have a vision and when they show others how hard they work to achieve their goals, we are inspired to do our best as well. SMART handles all the loose ends that can happen in the day-in and day-out of a middle school student's harried existence. This academic tutoring and social support is crucial to each student's success. From the time parents visit the school for a tour, through the admission process, the years they are enrolled and even through high school years, students can rely on SMART to be there for them. You need this continuity to create a successful educational support program.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The staff are amazing and kindhearted people that really try to help change lives for underprivileged students who just need a little more attention and resources to really reach their full potential. They work directly with the students and parents to get to know them on a personal level, to meet their needs and help them reach their goals of academic success. As a former SMART student, I look back now and realize how blessed I was to have gotten the education that I got from SMART. I would have been another average student without the push that SMART gave me to strive toward better myself and trying new things. I got involved in theater and student government, established amazing relationships with my teachers, and got the preparation I needed in order to get into the college that was right for me. Now I'm an active member on the Alumni Advisory Board, trying to come up with ways to make SMART an even better program for the new generation of kids.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

SMART is a wonderful organization that awards high-achieving students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds the opportunity to attend excellent San Francisco private schools. The program then supports the student all the way through their journey with the help of mentors and tutors. Personally, I’m just entering my second year as a volunteer tutor with SMART and couldn’t be more excited about the coming school year. SMART does a wonderful job pairing volunteers with their student based on a number of criteria from academic needs to temperament. Having established a great relationship with my “tutee” last school year, I look forward to being more and more successful as we both grow individually and together. Great volunteer experience! Great program!

Client Served

Rating: 5

SMART is a really great help to those who love school and want to excel. As a student at SMART, I got to experience both a public elementary school and then the wonders of a private middle school. This change was drastic, but SMART was there to help in every way possible. They really connected with my family and were there for assistance. I was able to further my academic skills and talents in my middle school, and got all the support they could offer. I am always proud to tell my friends that I attended The SMART Program, and what it's about because without them, I would be in an entirely different place. As a junior in high school I did 70 hours of volunteer work at SMART to give back to the place that gave my peers and I so much. After my volunteer work, I got my first paid internship there which was also a great pleasure and experience. I am so happy that I got to give back to my community in some way. Now I am a senior in high school and I am continuously helping SMART out by being on the Alumni Advisory Board. They are a GREAT program, and the staff have such big hearts which makes the program all the more inviting.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Seeing first hand the impact which this program has had on many, many students over the last 15 years is truly inspirational. Every motivated child deserves access to the best education available, and SMART delivers this, along with a wide array of support services to help these students excel. SMART has helped many students become the first in their families to attend college (over 90% of our students go on to college!!!).

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was teamed up with a student for a year and a half, before seeing him finish the program right before entering high school. During this time, I worked closely with the student, always trying to engage him in his academic endeavors as well as offer my personal insight during his awkward transition into becoming a young adolescent (something I can cringe about when I look back at myself when I was his age). Given that SMART students come from inner-city backgrounds, with not many financial or emotional resources, I thought it would be easy to immediately connect with the student as I came from a similar background. This was far from the case. I painstakingly learned that I had to earn his trust before he would really hear me out. Through this process of setting boundaries, building trust, and establishing rapport, I only hope that my student got just as much out of our experiences together as I did.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

SMART is a fantastic program. I'm beginning my fourth year tutoring with them. The basic concept is that they identify underprivileged elementary school students that could benefit from better academic service, give them full scholarships to excellent private middle schools, and then support the hell out of them with tutoring, mentoring, and enrichment programs so that they'll actually succeed. Tutors and mentors are paired one-on-one with the same student so they have a chance to truly develop trusting relationship. I just finished three years with the same student and am embarking on another round with my second student. The students are inspiring. The staff is great. Tangible progress is made. Overall, it's difficult for me to imagine a more rewarding volunteering experience.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The SMART program offered me a path of success at a very young age. Coming from a low-income family and growing up in the Mission district of San Francisco, I was aware of the limits my future held in higher education. Once accepted, not only was I to attend a private middle school, I was also given a tutor and a mentor as a part of their after-school program. I was given all the tools to succeed and I knew I had to take advantage of every opportunity they threw my way. I am now a junior at UC Berkeley and I can still go back and receive support from the staff. My way of giving back to the program that gave me so much, is by being a part of the Alumni Advisory Board. The board meets once a month and discusses ways to improve the program.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

The SMART program has constantly helped me when I was a middle schools student both financially, academically, and emotionally. The program provided me with an opportunity to go to an amazing school where I learned, for example, to be an independent female in today's society. The SMART program helped me with my transition from my public elementary school to a new private school because there was an after-school program with many volunteer tutors who care. In addition, whenever I felt horrible or overwhelmed with things in my life, SMART was always there ready to listen. I still even stay in contact with my friends from SMART since the community is so welcoming.

4

Board Member

Rating: 5

Watching a new student from a disadvantaged background access the resources and personal attention of a private school inspires me as an educator. SMART students often become the first member of their family to attend college, thus breaking the cycle of poverty in their families. SMART students also enhance life in private schools by bringing a hunger for knowledge, an appreciation for learning and new perspectives into their new schools. It can be easy to be cynical about non-profit work and feel that no real differences are made, but SMART students grow and achieve in real and tangible ways that will positively affect their families for generations. SMART is a small non-profit and and has to rely on a lean staff and budget, but is making huge differences in the lives of its students and the schools they serve.