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  • 1663 Mission Street
  • San Francisco, CA 94103
  • 1997

Program Description

SMART Mission Statement

SMART provides highly motivated, financially-disadvantaged students with access to educational opportunities, personal experiences and social support services in order to foster academic excellence and community engagement.

SMART Description

Only 8% of low-income students earn a college degree. SMART closes the achievement gap by providing these students with access to private schools, and with intensive social, emotional and academic support from grades 5-12. 92% of SMART students attend college, forever altering the trajectory of their lives, and the lives of their families and communities.

History of SMART

SMART began operations in 1997 as a result of the harnessed passion and vision shared by three friends. Individually, they enjoy highly successful careers and attribute this success to the quality education and support system to which they had access. Upon achieving their professional goals, they committed themselves to giving back to the community and unanimously came to the decision to start an organization that provides access to education and opportunities for financially-disadvantaged students in San Francisco.

SMART Scholars are supported in an eight-year intensive program, that addresses their academic, social and emotional needs while transforming lives and developing our community's future leaders.

4th Grade: Recruitment

Our network of referral partners nominates potential SMART Scholars from under-resourced communities. Final candidates demonstrate strong academic potential, sincere motivation, and a family commitment to participate in an intensive eight-year college bound program.

5th Grade: Placement

SMART provides step-by-step independent school application and financial aid process guidance for families. We facilitate school placements, and advocate on behalf of parents through workshops and meetings.

Rising 5th & 6th Grades: Academic Summer Enrichment Program

Taught by certified teachers, SMART's Summer Program prepares students for the rigors of an independent school education, prevents and reduces the incidence of summer learning loss, and provides enriching activities to develop and strengthen the bonds of youth to their peers and communities.

6th - 8th Grades: Middle School Achievement Program (MAP)

MAP is a twice-weekly out-of-school-time program that bridges the gap many Scholars face in their new independent schools. SMART provides a parent education series, while Scholars benefit from one-on-one tutoring, mentors, and a curriculum designed to provide academic support and community building among SMART Scholars in the 5th - 8th grades.

8th - 12th Grades: College Access Program (CAP)

Scholars in the 8th - 12th grades have unique needs as they balance academic achievement while preparing for the next phase in their lives. CAP advances SMART Scholars toward high school graduation and a college education. SMART provides a parent education series, while Scholars benefit from workshops, leadership opportunities, individualized academic support, and community building components. Weekly programming supports our Scholars through career and college exploration and assists with the college and financial aid application processes, while emphasizing the importance of community engagement and self-advocacy.

SMART's College Access Program was formally created during the 2011-2012 school year, rising out of explicit need stated from SMART families to support their children with their goals to enroll in college. Research behind CAP is based on best practices from other college access programs both locally and nationally, from empirical and academic literature, as well as feedback from our key stakeholders (students, parents, school personnel and community members). CAP Scholars are expected to after-school programming weekly.

The five elements that comprise SMART's CAP and define our program activities are:

1) Workshop Series-The workshop series is grouped under specific themes and covers topics including college and career exploration (including college tours and career panels), community investment, study skills, education as a human right, financial literacy, and more

2) Leadership Ladder-SMART offers students opportunities to develop public speaking, organization, advocacy, perseverance, and self-empowerment skills

3) Individualized Academic Support- Class scheduling assistance; transcript review; professional tutoring in core subjects; communication with schools; family meetings; college counseling; and test preparation courses and practice tests (PSAT, SAT and ACT)

4) Parent Education Series- College Prep, Navigating School Systems, Academic Planning, Standardized Testing, and Financial Aid

5) Community Building and Social Support-SMART facilitates connections between Scholars, encouraging them to share triumphs and challenges and to keep each other focused on college attendance through social events, service learning opportunities, immersion and leadership trips, retreats, mentoring, and affinity groups.

Success Stories

Dennis, Class of 2012

Stuart Hall for Boys

Lick-Wilmerding High School

Southern California Institute of Architecture

"While Charlie Bucket only had one, I've already had three Golden Tickets in my life.

But really, there is something I can be thankful for every single day. My parents have valued education above all else, not having a chance to receive a proper one themselves. My father told me that my life was in my hands and I should make the best of it. He didn't have to say this to me very often. I learned. I wanted to learn and I wanted to succeed. Actually, I wanted to become an architect. I was a firefighter for Halloween in kindergarten, but what I really wanted to be, was an architect and that, unfortunately, wasn't as easy to convey.

Why architecture? It begins with a "Single Resident Occupancy" or SRO. I grew up in one of these buildings with my family after moving to the United States when I was 2. Maximum living occupancy? 1. My family? 4. Maximum occupancy - obviously breached. I slept in the closet, which was big enough to fit a twin sized mattress. The experience of spending my first 11 years in a home with a 200 square foot total was, needless to say, unsatisfying and suffocating. I just wanted to change my surroundings. I wanted the power to change my world.

Architecture was my way to reshape my world and leave something behind. Since kindergarten, I drew houses and plans because it was only on paper that I could create my own adequate spaces. Unlike many, I discovered architecture before art. I had always believed in function over form until later in life, when I learned that architecture could also be art. The possibilities that lay before me all I had to do was imagine them and draw. That was the first step in realizing my dreams. I kept drawing in my youth unsure of how to become an architect. My first Golden Ticket came in the form of SMART. To be an architect, I had to get a proper education. I had to get the BEST education. SMART offered me a placement into a private school that was the best fit for me, and supported me through their tutoring, mentoring, and after-school programs. I wanted it and I went for it.

From 6th - 8th grade, I attended Stuart Hall for Boys. Stuart Hall gave me a top notch education and provided me individualized attention from teachers who became more like mentors to me. They taught me how math can be relevant to architecture by providing a high school level geometry class during their own time, an hour before regular school even started. After school, I attended SMART several times a week where I was surrounded by other students like me, who also wanted to succeed. They were motivated, creative and the supportive environment at SMART pushed me to be the best that I could be. To me, SMART still feels like a 2nd home, a safe and encouraging environment where I learned that a great education was not a far-reaching goal, reserved only for my well-to-do peers.

When it was time to apply to high schools, SMART came to the rescue again. SMART encouraged me to apply to a prestigious national scholarship called the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship. This highly competitive program accepts 15 students out of literally thousands of applicants from all over the country, and offers them a full tuition scholarship to their high school of their choice. I had one particular high school in mind. Jokes about the name aside, Lick-Wimerding was a private school that offered an Architectural Design Course. I told my parents and the staff at SMART, "I have to go there!" But the SMART Scholarship ended in 8th grade, and I knew that my parents would not be able to afford a private high school education on their own. My second Golden Ticket came in a form of two letters, one from Lick accepting me to their school and the second from Caroline D. Bradley that I was awarded their four year scholarship. I know that this opportunity would not have been possible without the hard work and support of my parents, Stuart Hall, and the SMART community.

I speak to you now, a college bound senior. I have been accepted to CalPoly at San Luis Obispo and Pomona, the University of Southern California, Pratt Institute and Northeastern University. My third Golden Ticket was my acceptance to the school I will be attending next year, The Southern California Institute of Architecture. The five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree that I can pursue, thanks to a massive merit scholarship, will allow me to become a licensed architect, and send me on my way to reshape not only my world, but the world around me.

SMART provided a foundation for me that has been invaluable. I hope to give back to SMART for all they've done for me, perhaps I can design their new building to accommodate SMART's own dream to serve more students and give other kids, like me, an opportunity to grab their own Golden Tickets.

Thank you SMART for allowing me to see that my dream was, and is, really possible."

Best Practices Library

In Our Library

Bachel, Beverly K., What do you Really want? Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., 2001

Bronson, Po & Ashley Merryman. Nurture Shock. New York: Hachette Book Group. 2009

"Building Power, Sharpening Minds!" The Political Education Workshop Manual, 2nd Edition. School of Unity & Liberation ( SOUL). 2007

Chappelle, Sharon & Lisa Bigman. Diversity in Action: Using Adventure Activities to Explore Issues of Diversity with Middle School and High School Age Youth. Project Adventure, Inc., 1998.

Covey, Sean. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. New York: Fireside. 1998

Covey, Sean. The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make. New York: Fireside. 2006

Delisle, Deb & Jim Delisle. Growing Good Kids: 28 Activities to Enhance Self-Awareness, Compassion, and Leadership. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing. 1996

Frender, Gloria. Learning to Learn, Strengthening Study Skills and Brain Power. Revised Edition. Nashville: Incentive Publications, Inc. 2010

Inclusion Tool Kit: Every Child Belongs. San Francisco: Special Needs Inclusion Project, Support for Families of Children with Disabilities. 2009

Jackson, Tom. Activities That Teach and More Activities That Teach. Cedar City: Red Rock Publishing, 1993.

Jones, Alanna. 104 Activities that Build: Self-Esteem, Teamwork, Communication, Anger Management, Self-Discovery, and Coping Skills. Lusby: Rec Room Publishing Inc., 1998.

Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2nd Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2011

Leslie, Roger. Success Express for Teens: 50 Activities that will Change Your Life. Houston: Bayou Publishing, 2004

Lewis, Barbara. What Do You Stand For? For Teens: A Guide to Building Character. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 2005.

MacGregor, Mariam G. Everyday Leadership: Attitudes and Actions for Respect and Success. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 2007

MacGregor, Mariam G. Teambuilding with Teens: Activities for Leadership, Decision Making & Group Success. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing. 2008

Mannix, Darlene. Life Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs. Second Edition. San Francisco: Joseey-Bass. 2009

Mannix, Darlene. Social Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs. Second Edition. San Francisco: Joseey-Bass. 2009

Peterson, Jean Sunde. The Essential Guide to Talking with Teens: Ready to Use Discussions for School and Youth Groups. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing. 2007

Singleton, Glenn E. & Curtis Linton. Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press. 2006

Step by Step: College Awareness and Planning for Families, Counselors and Communities. National Association for College Admission Counseling, Inc. and Center for Student Opportunity. 2012.

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity. Basic Books. 2003.

Wenglinsky, Harold. "Are Private High Schools Better Academically Than Public High Schools?" Washington DC: Center on Education Policy. 2007.

The World As It Could Be: Where There's a Will There's a Way. San Francisco: REX Foundation. 2007

A Young Woman's Survival Guide, Second Edition. San Francisco: Health Initiatives for Youth. 2003

"Youth Empowerment Manual: An approach to youth empowerment in the classroom." REAL (Revitalizing Education and Learning), c/o Community Educational Services. July 2004 Contributors: Asha Mehta, Alicia Yang, Candice Wicks, Shannon Williams, & Lora Collier.

Other Recommended Readings

Ayers, W., Quinn, T. and Stovall, D. (2008). Handbook of Social Justice in Education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Banks, James A. et al. Diversity Within Unity. Center for Multicultural Education, Seattle: University of Washington, 2001.

Benveniste, Luisa and Martin Carnoy. All Else Equal:Are Public and Private Schools Different? Routledge. 2003

Cary, Lorene. Black Ice. Vintage. 1992 "Cary, a black woman, recounts her challenging years as a student & teacher at an elite prep school."

Chavez, Rudolfo. Speaking the Unpleasant: The Politics of (Non)Engagement in the Multicultural Education Terrain. SUNY Series, the social context of education. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

Cole, Robert W. Educating Everbody's Children: Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners. Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1995.

Delpit, Lisa. Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: The New Press, 1995.

Delpit, Lisa. The Skin That We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom. New York: The New Press, 2000.

Henderson, Anne and Dr. Karen Mapp - A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement. Austin: National Center for Family and Community, Connections with Schools, 2002

Howard, Gary R. James A. Banks, and Sonia Nieto. We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools. Teachers College Press. 2006

Kane, Pearl Rock & Alfonso J. Orsini. The Colors of Excellence: Hiring and Keeping Teachers of Color in Independent Schools. New York: Teachers College Press, 2003.

Karr-Morse, R. and Wiley, M. S. (1998). Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence. New York, NY: Atlantic Monthly Press.

Kivel, Paul. Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice. Pennsylvania: New Society Publishers, 1996.

Kozol, J. Savage Inequalities. New York, NY: Harper Collins. 1992

Kozol, J. The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. New York NY: Three Rivers Press. 2005

Lindsey, Randall B., Nuri Kikanza Robins and Raymond D. Terrell. Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders.

Lucas, T. and Villegas, T. (2002). Educating Culturally Responsive Teachers: A Coherent Approach. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Mandel, Richard, and Richard L. Mandel. "The Tangled Trinity: Value Tensions that Tie Independent School Leaders in Knots." Taken from his presentation at the 2001 ISACS Annual Conference.

McIntyre, Alice. Making Meaning of Whiteness: Exploring Racial Identity with White Teachers. SUNY series, the social context of education. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996. UTSA

McLaughlin, Terence. The Contemporary Catholic School: Context, Identity And Diversity. Routledge Paperback. 1996.

Payne, R. (2005). A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Highlands, TX: Aha! Process, Inc.

Payne, R., Shenk, D. and Conrad, J. (2009). Research-Based Strategies for Narrowing the Achievement Gap for Under-Resourced Students. Highlands, TX: Aha! Process, Inc.

Scherff, L. and Spector, K. (2011). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Clashes and Confrontations. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education.

Slaughter, Diana T. & Deborah Johnson. Visible Now: Blacks in Private Schools (Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies). Praeger. 1998.

Toldson, I. A. Breaking Barriers: Plotting the Path to Academic Success for School-age African-American Males. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. 2008. (part 1) (part 2)

Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive Schooling: U.S. Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Film and Media

Prep School Negro

Waiting for Superman

Community Mapping: High School Teachers Map Their Students' Neighborhoods. SFUSD Spotlight News. October 2012.

This American Life - Back to School Episode

Changing Education Paradigms Talk by Sir Ken Robinson, RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.)

Organizations & Conferences: The Future Leaders Institute, Level Playing Field Institute, National Center on Time and Learning, National Partnership for Educational Access, National Association of Independent Schools, People of Color Conference, People of Color in Independent Schools, Prep for Prep, Private Schools with a Public Purpose, Teachers 4 Social Justice, Teaching with a Cultural Eye Institute, White Priviledge Conference, and Wingspan Partnerships

Services Provided

  • Academic enrichment/tutoring/study skills
  • Career exploration and counseling/internships
  • College admissions guidance and counseling
  • College fairs/campus visits
  • College transition and retention support
  • Community service/service hours
  • Financial aid advising/FAFSA completion
  • Leadership development
  • Mentoring
  • Other
  • Parent/family services
  • SAT/ACT and other test preparation
  • Science, tech, engineering, & math (STEM)


Race & Ethnicity

  • White: 1%
  • Asian or Pacific Islander: 37%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 40%
  • Other: 12%
  • African American: 15%

Education Level and
Number of Students

  • High School: 69
  • Middle School: 67
  • Elementary School: 87
  • Post-secondary: 0
  • Non-traditional: 0

Populations Served

  • Academically At-risk
  • Academically High-performing


  • More than 75%

Colleges Attended
by Alumni

  • Allegheny College
  • Andrews University
  • Azusa Pacific University
  • California State University-East Bay
  • Duke University
  • George Washington University
  • Harvard College
  • Howard University
  • Occidental College
  • Pitzer College
  • San Francisco State University
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Tulane University of Louisiana
  • University of Puget Sound
  • University of Southern California
  • Virginia State University
  • Wesleyan University
  • Yale University

Matriculation & Completion

  • 4-yr College Matriculation: 100%