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Tech Icon to the Education Rescue



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    WASHINGTON - JULY 23: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates attends a press conference announcing his foundation's support (with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) for a global new anti-smoking initiative July 23, 2008 in New York City. Gates and Bloomberg announced their combined contribution of half a billion dollars to combat global smoking. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Bill Gates

    It’s no secret these are lean times for education. In fact, last year San Francisco City College held a garage sale to try and save some 300 classes from the chopping block. The sale saved two. With California’s shrinking budget for education, schools have increasingly stuck out their hand to private foundations and donors. In San Francisco’s case, the hand struck gold.

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation picked San Francisco as one of four U.S. cities to receive a $3 million dollar education grant. The money will go toward increasing the transition for public school students heading to San Francisco City College. Education leaders say it will help stem dropout rates citywide.  

     “There is a tremendous problem with the dropout rate,” said City College Chancellor Don Griffin. “And when you get 35, 40 percent of students dropping out of high school, it’s a big, big problem.”

    The money will fund new systems for collecting data, coordinating student outreach, and syncing up classes between San Francisco Unified and the college. For example, Griffin said counselors and teachers from public schools would meet with their college counterparts to make sure the classes match up.   

     “We want to double the number of graduates who go to college in ten years,” said deputy San Francisco Unified superintendent Richard Carranza, “…not to only double the amount of graduates who go to college but graduate from college.”

    Student Tabari Austin was happy to hear about the funding. The 20-year-old student is taking part in the city’s Gateway Program which helps students simultaneously achieve a high school diploma and an AA degree. Education leaders said the program is an example of the types of programs San Francisco could achieve with the new funding.

    “I was just feeling like feeling there was no teachers who could help me,” said Austin of his rocky high school career. “I just felt like I knew everything and didn’t need any help from anybody else.”

    But Austin said that since accepting help, he’s earning As and B's. He figured schools and students are alike in that respect: sometimes they just need a helping hand.