Where’s Bill? Expanding Career Options at Sequoia Adult School

by: Bill Somerville, President & CEO

I recently visited the Sequoia Adult School Scholars (SASS) program, which provides financial assistance to ESL students in the Sequoia District Adult School in order to help them expand their career options. Philanthropic Ventures Foundation provided a $10,000 grant to support SASS’s scholarship program.

Bill at SASS

Recipients of scholarships from Sequoia Adult School Scholars meet with donor Bill Somerville. All of these students completed the ESL program at Sequoia Adult School and now attend Canada College.

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Where’s James? On Air with Former US Senator Bill Bradley

For 40 years, former US Senator Bill Bradley has traveled arJames and Bill Bradleyound the United States listening to the stories Americans tell about their lives.  He was always moved, so he created a show on SeriousXM Radio called “American Voices” where you can hear some of these stories.

James and Bill Bradley 2





I was honored to be invited onto his national show to talk about the work of PVF to address the growing inequality gap in the Bay Area.  Stay tuned for a link to the interview when it becomes available.  Thank you Senator Bradley for giving a voice to a defining issue of our age.


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PVF Designated Fund, Terry’s Kids, Helps Youth Showcase Their Musical Talents

Terry's Kids

Terry’s Kids founder, Terry Miller (right), poses with Monty and his new saxophone.

Terry’s Kids, one of PVF’s designated funds, provides music educational clinics, concerts, and studio and live performance projects for kids of all ages.

Recently, Terry’s Kids helped a bright 17-year-old named Monty obtain a playable saxophone. Monty comes from a tough home situation, and he works odd jobs while in school to support his family. Despite his situation, he held a 4.0 grade average and is now on scholarship to Columbia University starting this fall.

As a saxophone player, his instrument was essentially unplayable, but it was all he could afford. By gathering donations, Terry’s Kids was able to provide him with a new Selmer Mark VI Tenor Saxophone. Now a dedicated young musician has a great instrument to showcase his talent!


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Bay Area Inspire Awards: 2014 Grantees

This year, we launched a new community initiative with a simple aim: to inspire innovative ideas for improving social equality and provide the financial support to help make these ideas a reality. The donors of the initiative believe in the power of young people to ignite change, and they wanted to give them the chance to make an impact in our community.

This initiative, called the Bay Area Inspire Awards, provided one-time cash awards of up to $10,000 to young people, ages 18-30, living and working in San Francisco or Alameda County. More than 75 local young people applied to implement a variety of community-oriented projects, and six ideas were chosen to come to fruition. Here are the winning ideas that have inspired us, and hopefully inspire you too:

AJ PhotoAJ Almaguer
Project: Community-Built Haunted House
Location: Hayward, CA

AJ’s project will provide young people, ages 13-18, with hands-on STEM experience by engineering exhibits that will culminate in a haunted house event for the community.


Chen photoKori Chen
Project: Expanding Employment for the Formerly Incarcerated
Location: Oakland, CA

Kori will conduct a 40-hour employment training program for 4-6 formerly incarcerated Alameda County residents and will also conduct outreach to 25 San Quentin prisoners about potential  employment opportunities.


Paul Monge-Rodriguea PhotoPaul Monge-Rodriguez
Project: Focus Group Feasibility Study for SF Parent University Program
Location: San Francisco, CA

Using his award, Paul will conduct a feasibility study for a San Francisco Parent University. When implemented, the University will help caregivers become better-prepared advocates and partners in their  children’s education.


H. Murchison PhotoHolley Murchison
Project: Oratory Glory Youth Communication Workshops
Location: Oakland, CA

Holley will use the award to pilot a public speaking training program that will serve at-risk transitional age youth from select San Francisco and Alameda County schools. The program is designed to provide enrichment programs to help youth thrive as leaders.


Megan_Winkelman_PhotoMegan Winkelman
Project: Mental Health Services Maps
Location: Berkeley, CA

Megan will use her award to create online, mobile, and printed maps of Bay Area mental health services which include public transportation routes. These maps are designed to educate under-served populations that lack access to mental health.


Christian PhotoChristian Martinez
Project: Using Home Visits to Build Trusting Relationships Between Teachers, Students and Families
Location: Oakland, CA

Christian will use his award to organize teacher home visits to the families of 6th grade students at a middle school in Oakland as a way to build family-school trust and understanding.

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Circle of Collaboration

by: James Higa, Executive Director

In previous issues of  our ‘Progress’ newsletter, I discussed the growing Inequality Gap and how PVF wants to catalyze ‘Radical Collaboration’ to create solutions.  Today, I want to talk about how we have put that into action as is our wont to ‘do’, rather than ‘talk’.

PVF's Executive Director, James Higa (left), and Not for Sale's President, David Batstone (right), inspire some brainstorming at the Invention Circle.

PVF’s Executive Director, James Higa (left), and Not for Sale’s President, David Batstone (right), kick off the Invention Circle.

On June 6, jointly with our fantastic Invention Hub collaborators, Not For Sale & Just Business, we invited 50 of the Bay Area’s most creative and influential individuals that we know to gather together for an Invention Circle.  The Invention Circle is a gathering to bring radical collaborators together to help create solutions for those being left behind in our communities by the growing Inequality Gap.  This wasn’t about just brainstorming or convening. We promised to put into action, the idea that emerges out of the day, with a commitment to begin working on the project the Monday immediately following the event.

These 50 people included high tech executives, athletes & team owners, journalists, film makers, venture capitalists, grassroots community organizers, chefs, real estate developers, lawyers, SF City officials, and more. Collectively, this Invention Circle group:

  • has founded more than 50 companies
  • is on the board of directors or advisers for more than 90 businesses or nonprofits
  • has more than 30 patents
  • and has had 1,000+ articles published and produced 5 films
PVF's President, Bill Somerville collaborates with the "risk takers" group at the Invention Circle.

PVF’s President, Bill Somerville (center), collaborates with the “risk takers” group at the Invention Circle.

The day was full of design thinking at its best as we split up into groups to refine and hone our brainstorms.  My strongest impression of the day is a room alive with bursts of energy and post-it note ideas covering every bit of free space.  After presentations by our six groups, the idea we decided to implement (pitched by PVF’s own summer intern, Sadia Saifuddin!), was to launch a co-packing company.  A contract packing company, or co-packer, is a company that packages products and foods for their clients.  In our case the clients will be the emerging maker, craft, food, and artisanal companies of San Francisco.  The employees will be those in our communities left behind by the Inequality Gap who will now have an opportunity for dignified work in a company they can be a part of from its launch and creation.  This winning idea was introduced to the world at a San Francisco Giants game the next day in a home plate ceremony.  We are already gathering funders and looking at spaces to house this company.

The fruits of radical collaboration, an idea of this ambition and imagination, are extraordinary.  But so is the way that this vision came about in a circle of collaboration, bringing together people and ideas that wouldn’t otherwise intersect.  At PVF, we believe our activist mission is to actively create the future of philanthropy by taking risks and trying out new grant making approaches.  We continually look for people and projects performing ground breaking work in our communities.  The Invention Circle is just such an approach.

Stay tuned to this space.

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Where’s James? Getting Amped Up About Starbucks’ Approach to Corporate Philanthropy

I sat down recently with Howard Schultz, Chairman, President and CEO of Starbucks,Starbucks to talk about the fracturing of the American Dream. Nearly half of Americans who begin college don’t finish.  Much of this is the result of escalating costs and life/work balance.

70% of Starbucks’ US employees are students or aspiring students, and Starbucks is stepping up to the plate to help them get a degree through the College Achievement Plan.

What a shining example of what bold and ‘think different’ corporate philanthropy can be.


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PVF Invests in After School Fun

by: Aly Quiroz-Perez, Clerical Assistant

Every student needs to have a fun way to unwind after a long day at school. Some students go straight home and relax by watching television or going online. Others prefer to do something more active and engaging like dance or skateboarding. Whatever the activity, students want and need something fun to do after school where they can socialize and develop a skill or talent in a safe space.

To meet this need, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation offers an After School Program Grant to encourage teachers to create and lead activities for students. Teachers can receive grants of up to $2,500 to cover the costs of equipment, teacher time, and refreshments.

Funding is available during the school year for schools serving 6th-12th grade students in the Alum Rock, East Side Union High, Franklin-McKinley, Oakland, and Redwood City schools districts. PVF’s After School Program Grant has already had positive impacts on schools around the Bay Area and the Peninsula. Take a look at what recipients have said about PVF’s program:

DSC_0393 “I want to thank you on behalf of the students and the school for supporting our after school ‘Comet Kickbox Club.’ With this year’s money we were able to buy and replace some pads, buy shirts for everyone involved, and buy a great sound system that has garnered even more attention for the club…the sheer volume has attracted more students to our club because they heard the music playing after school.” – Jeremy Bruce, PE Teacher and Comet Kickbox Club Advisor, James Lick High School, Alum Rock

“Thank you for supporting our afterschool robotics team project. Due to your generous donation, we were able to provide the opportunity of an afterschool 6th-8th grade robotics team for girls. The grant allowed the team of 8 students to meet twice weekly for 1.5 hours. They worked under the tutelage of a credentialed teacher, whose stipend was paid by the grant. The students were very Robotics Clubenthusiastic to learn and experiment with robotics. We were especially excited that our team this year was comprised of girls. It was our goal to empower more girls to become involved in the robotics programs moving forward.” – Kelly Greenfield, Assistant Principal, North Star Academy, Redwood City

“Thank you for your generous donation to the 5th Element Hip-Hop Club and After School Program at Oakland High School this year. Your donation has helped over thirty students who share a love for hip-hop choreography, break dancing, and rap music. With the donation, weDancers 1 have been able to purchase costumes for the dancers’ performance, buy equipment for the recording studio, and put on a studio dedication event where students performed and received a T-shirt that is a representation of all the other after school clubs.” – Aya Allen, Hip-Hop club co-sponsor, Oakland High School

“Thank you so much for the financial support that you have given us for our school newspaper. ‘The Observer’ allows the school to feel a sense of community, and it teaches the students who are involved so much – they learn about teamwork, deadlines, and their own strengths and weaknesses. I cannot thank you enough for your help and support throughout the years!” – Teresa Heger, English Teacher, James Lick High School, Alum Rock

“The financial support of the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation afterschool grant made it possible for us to print our first issue of the Castle Crier to much rejoicing. Students grinned as they passed the paper out to afternoon classes, and many students across campus dropped everything and read. Reaction to the first issue was overwhelmingly positive – sparking discussion and interest in journalism from students of all grades.” – Marguerite Sheffer, AP English Language/Castle Crier Adviser, Castlemont High School, Oakland

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