After 10 years with the Davis Bridge Educational Foundation, founder and longtime executive director Janet Boulware is moving on. But the tutoring program will continue under the auspices of the Davis school district.
“I started Davis Bridge while my sons were growing up because I noticed there were Latino children in our school district who didn’t have backpacks, and often didn’t have a snack, and seemed to not be turning in their homework,” Boulware said.
She realized she was seeing the oft-discussed achievement gap, and volunteered as a reading tutor at Pioneer Elementary, then became a paraeducator working with students to improve their reading skills.
“I started running little reading clubs at the Royal Oak trailer park in the summer, and I got to know the families, and got to see the challenges that low-income children in Davis were facing,” Boulware said. “That inspired me to learn Spanish, and go back to school and get a degree in Chicano studies.
“And as I learned about education and culture, I wanted to design an after-school program. I had met so many first-generation Chicano students at UC Davis, and when I asked them ‘How did you get this far?’ they told me they had a lot of help in terms of after-school tutoring and mentoring.
“So I thought it would be great if I could connect UC Davis students who had a similar life experience and similar background with elementary and junior high students in Davis.”
Boulware laid the groundwork for Davis Bridge in 2003, and started matching tutors and kids in 2004.
The program grew over the succeeding years, and now serves upwards of 500 pupils.
“And this year, the kids who were our first-year students when we started Davis Bridge are graduating from high school,” she said. “Some of them are going on to four-year colleges in the fall, the majority are going to community colleges. It is really a joy for me to see that our kids who have been in the program since they were second-graders are graduating. And the support that Bridge has offered has helped increase the graduation rate — we’re one piece in that, along with their teachers and their families.”
Boulware — who was honored with the city’s A.G. Brinley Award this year for her work with Davis Bridge — said she decided several months ago that this is a good time for her to turn over the reins.
“We have two excellent staff people that could take over, and the grant support from UC Davis is solid,” Boulware said. “So it was a good time for me to transfer out — everything is running very well.”
Davis Bridge will phase out as a nonprofit group, and the Davis school district will pick up the tutoring efforts.
Boulware will turn things over to Julie Ramirez and Liza Lopez. Ramirez grew up in the Monterey County community of Soledad, graduating from high school in 2006. She came to UCD to pursue a degree in sociology and Chicano studies and became a tutor for Davis Bridge through a work-study program.
After graduating, Ramirez worked for a time on the staff of an Assembly member in Sacramento, but returned to Davis Bridge when a staff position opened up. She’s now the Bridge coordinator at Montgomery Elementary School.
“I’m very excited,” Ramirez said. “Janet has said many times that Bridge isn’t ending, it’s just a new chapter in the book. I’m looking forward to what is to come.”
Lopez grew up in the Tracy/Patterson area in San Joaquin County, and came to UCD as the first member of her family to attend college. She pursued a double major in Chicano studies and Spanish, with a minor in education. Lopez served as a Bridge tutor during her four years as an undergrad, and will be coordinating Bridge efforts at Harper Junior High.
“My parents work in a tomato packing house; they instilled the importance of education in me,” she said. “My father finished the second grade in Mexico; my mother went to school in California but struggled as an English learner. My parents couldn’t help me very much with homework when I was a student.
“I look at the kids in Davis Bridge and I see myself and my own situation,” Lopez said.
Boulware will be moving into a new phase: “I’m finishing my master’s degree in community development, I’ve been accepted in a doctoral program studying resource centers at schools, and the impact that they make, especially for low-income Latino families. I’ve seen the transformation at Montgomery Elementary since the resource center at the school opened. Such positive things have happened here.”
The resource center — now known as the Center for Families — will continue to provide services to families that have children who get tutoring through Davis Bridge.
“I see the value; low-income families need stability so their children come to school ready to learn,” Boulware said. “And the center is a place where people start to feel a part of the school community, and become empowered to join the PTA. That’s what my thesis is on — what empowers mothers to take the next step.”
Boulware said she wanted to thank Montgomery Principal Sally Plicka and Harper Principal Zena Ingles: “Their support has meant everything to the success of the Bridge program.”
Boulware also extended thanks to past and present Davis Bridge board members: Liz Allen, Luis Miguel, Ronna Reed, Sheila Evens, Rosie Vidales, Grisdelda Castro, Artie Lawyer, Francie Lawyer, John Lescroart, Lisa Sawyer, Liz Malinoff, Lisa Yamauchi, Michael O’Brien, Nancy Peterson, Karin Nieves, Lisceth Cruz, Tim Lien, Chris Bruno and Karen Leaf.
“Over the past 10 years, they have supported Davis Bridge with time, effort and money — we would not be running today without their effort,” Boulware said.
“And I’ve really appreciated our partnership with the school district. I’m looking forward to them really stepping up and continuing to serve Bridge families.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.