Fresno foundation gives $600,000 toward student achievement

The Fresno BeeJanuary 17, 2013 

The Fresno Regional Foundation on Thursday awarded five grants totaling $600,000 to Valley community groups to help poor students succeed in school.

One focus will be to ensure that the children can read by the third grade, because that's when they "transition from learning to read, to reading to learn," said Lori Clanton, the foundation's director of administration.

Reaching that pivotal point of knowing how to read and comprehend often determines how well children do in their remaining years of school, she said.

A foundation advisory committee identified the goal of awarding grants to programs that boost children's reading skills from infancy to third grade to prepare them for school and career success, said foundation CEO Dan DeSantis.

The grants, awarded at the Henry Madden Library at Fresno State, were funded through The James Irvine Foundation.

The recipients are Community Services Employment Training Inc., Boys & Girls Clubs of Fresno County, Reading and Beyond, Californians for Pesticide Reform and Woodlake Family Resource Center.

The grants are part of a larger initiative called The Fund for the San Joaquin Valley, which aims to build a $20 million endowment to address regional issues, DeSantis said.

The Irvine Foundation provided the seed money for the initial grants. The Fresno foundation's goal is to build the endowment over the next five years and eventually award $1 million in grants yearly from earned interest, DeSantis said.

That way, he said, endowment donations "will give and give and give forever."

One recipient -- Reading and Beyond, a nonprofit that provides a wide range of services to low-income families in Fresno and Madera counties -- will use its $150,000 grant to help children and families climb out of poverty, executive director Luis Santana said.

Santana expects to have success stories to share two years from now. "We are looking (forward) to two incredible years when we can tell you how many kids, how many families were impacted," he said while accepting the grant in a room full of Fresno foundation board members and community leaders.

DeSantis said investing in organizations that show results will encourage other donations that will meet the $20 million goal.

"The best way to raise money," he said, "is to give it away wisely."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386 or ejimenez@fresnobee.com.

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