Grant Blazes New Trail for Middle School Students

From Gateways, September 2017

Last November, in response to a Parks Conservancy survey seeking feedback for a website re-design, the Conservancy received this message: “Looking to find a way to support Urban Trailblazers financially. What could the group do with $10,000?”

That short query began a six-month conversation with Charles Babcock, who recently became the treasurer of a new foundation, the Inner Sunset Community Advocates (ISCA). He wrote: “My wife works for the San Francisco Unified School District, [she] has been a mentor to one of the students in the Urban Trailblazers program and thinks very highly of it, and I believe now is a critical time to reach out to underserved youth and train them for future leadership.”

Urban Trailblazers is a youth leadership program especially designed for middle school age youth.

Urban Trailblazers (UTB) is a program of the Crissy Field Center, an urban environmental education center that is a partnership of the Parks Conservancy, National Park Service, and Presidio Trust. Launched in 2004, UTB is a service-learning paid internship program engaging middle school students for seven weeks each summer, themed around “Healthy You, Healthy Community.” The program has served 630 middle school students—and is poised to expand its reach and impact.

“The fact that a little-known program could help turn a child’s life around was something I had been looking for as a member of ISCA,” Charles explains. “And this grant would establish a pipeline that transforms 10 middle schoolers a year, from one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, into Urban Trailblazers.”

This spring, Charles and ISCA board member Kathy Kramer met with the Urban Trailblazers team and had the opportunity to learn about the program and where it hopes to grow in future years. The ISCA Board was inspired to grant their first multi-year grant, supporting the Urban Trailblazers for three years, at $25,000 per year.

This generous $75,000 gift will allow UTB to expand its programming to include a year-round, after-school component at MLK Middle School. Sam Tran, manager of the UTB program, said that it is his dream to reach every student at MLK.

“With this generous donation we are able to outreach and connect to more middle school students within the southeast side of San Francisco,” Sam says. “I want to thank everyone at the ISCA for believing in our work and our vision to make sure that every participant will have the chance to become RICH leaders—Respectable, [Models of] Integrity, Courageous, and Humble—within their school, community, and themselves.”

To support Center programs like Urban Trailblazers, contact Traci Eckels at or (415) 561-3035.

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