USF’s Engage San Francisco Initiative Announces Recipients of First-Ever Grant Program

SAN FRANCISCO (October 16, 2014)

The Leo T. McCarthy Center at the University of San Francisco (USF) is proud to announce its first-ever Engage San Francisco grant recipients. Launched in Spring 2014, Engage San Francisco is a new university-wide initiative focused on the Western Addition neighborhood—working in partnership with organizations and residents to improve the support for underserved children, youth, and families living in the often-overlooked corners of the neighborhood. USF will honor the five recipients during an evening reception on Tuesday, October 21, from 6:00-7:30 pm at the African American Art and Cultural Complex, 762 Fulton Street, to celebrate the grantees and their commitment to community.

The Engage San Francisco initiative includes faculty, staff and students from all five colleges at USF, (School of Management, Nursing and Health Professions, Law, Education, and the College of Arts and Sciences), as well as the Division of Student Life. As part of Engage San Francisco, groups from USF partner with non-profits from the Western Addition to develop unique projects and community-based learning opportunities that support student learning and meet community-identified needs. Engage San Francisco’s goals and strategies are informed by the ongoing consideration of community assets and opportunities for partnerships. All grantees will share their outcomes at the completion of the projects.

Each grantee partnership has been selected for their exceptional work that seeks to support community-based efforts in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood. In addition to a $4,000 grant, each non-profit works closely with its USF team to bring their projects to life in the Western Addition.

The five inaugural grant recipients recognized by USF’s Engage San Francisco are:

  • Handful Players: Handful Players, committed to the development youth in San Francisco’s Western Addition through the vehicle of musical theater, will collaborate with USF’s Performing Arts & Social Justice (PASJ) program and Assistant Professor Christine Young to create an arts education internship and community service project for PASJ students with a theater concentration.
  • African American Shakespeare Company’s Shake-It-Up program: Shake-It-Up teaches literacy skills to students using theater games and drama techniques. Shake-It-Up will partner with a committee comprised of teaching artists, USF educators, youth representatives and service-learners to develop content and techniques to enhance life-long creativity and learning through the arts. The group will produce two new study guides for The Tempest and Xtigone (new adaptation based on Antigone), and will review and refresh the African American Shakespeare Company’s Cinderella study guide for K-5th grade.
  • Buchanan YMCA & San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD): This collaborative partnership, convened by USF Professor Betty Taylor, includes families and young people from the YMCA and SFUSD, community organizations, and USF School of Education faculty and students, to work together on a platform to facilitate community conversations and empowerment of those individuals and groups that are often perceived as marginalized in our society.
  • The Village Project: This partnership will assess the effectiveness of components of the Village Project, a decade long independent activity led by community activist Adrian Williams. The Village Project provides diverse activities and counseling for youth living in public housing in the Western Addition. Both USF Education Professor Terry Patterson and the Village Project’s Ms. Williams will participate in the design and implementation of a systematic assessment of the various activities to determine their differential effectiveness, with the goal of placing more resources into them, de-emphasizing those that are less effective, and developing new ones.
  • Church of St. John Coltrane: Located on Fillmore Street, The Saint John Coltrane Church is a part of the great African Orthodox Church (A.O.C.), founded in the U.S. in 1921. Working together, Dr. Pascal Bokar Thiam, a lecturer of music at USF, and Archbishop King of the Church of St. John Coltrane, have developed a program to bring young African American boys and girls of the Western Addition together to understand, appreciate, and reconnect with some of the cultural traits of West African Culture. This project’s goal is to strengthen their sense of identity in an American society that has removed them culturally from their historical cultural base and sacred traditions.

“It is exciting to see Engage San Francisco actually deliver,” said Sheryl Davis, founding director of the Western Addition’s Mo’ MAGIC and member of the McCarthy Center Board at USF. “So often people talk about partnerships, but never really develop them. Engage San Francisco is creating opportunities for the local nonprofits that know the needs first hand to connect with the resources to help positively affect lives from the ground up! It’s great to see the community actually be considered an authority and supported in their necessary work.”

The Western Addition and the University of San Francisco are deeply interconnected, not just geographically, but throughout history, explained Engage San Francisco Director Karin Cotterman. “As the City’s first university, USF is uniquely situated to address issues related to the poverty and inequality in the Western Addition,” said Cotterman. “This initiative draws upon USF’s history of community engagement and recognizes the powerful potential of working alongside our neighbors to achieve community-identified goals.”

Media interested in learning more about Engage San Francisco, or to request an interview, should contact Anne-Marie Devine Tasto, senior director of media relations, at (415) 422-2697 or

About the University of San Francisco

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