Last spring, Kim Miyoshi, Executive Director of Oakland Kids First (OKF), received an intriguing email out of the blue from Stanford Professor Bruce Sievers. He was writing, much to Miyoshi’s surprise, to invite OKF staff to submit a grant proposal to a group of undergraduates. Thanks to a generous donation of $100,000 from the Once Upon a Time Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas, these students had been entrusted with a rare degree of philanthropic responsibility: they would allocate real money to nonprofits in their local community. One of their priorities was to fund an exemplary organization that was supporting education in the Bay Area, and praise for OKF surfaced repeatedly in their research.
Ina Bendich, OKF’s Associate Director, describes the Stanford students she interacted with as “superstars” and their grantmaking process as “thoroughly professional.” “The two students who visited our organization were incredibly well-prepared and asked terrific, probing questions that showcased their knowledge of their program area,” says Bendich. “Both were thoughtful, engaged, and genuinely interested in our work.” When one of the visiting students contacted Miyoshi to award OKF a grant of $25,000—the maximum amount possible for a single organization—the staff members were elated. “We were surprised and thrilled to the point of jumping up and down!” Bendich says.
Last June, amid the hubbub of the awards ceremony, OKF staff members were faced with yet another surprise. As the team mingled with other grantees, exchanged congratulations, and posed for pictures, they spotted a Stanford student approaching them with outstretched arms. “I graduated from Skyline!" The girl exclaimed. “I’m from Oakland!” She went on to explain that while she was not on the team that selected OKF, she had been rooting for them all along and was delighted when they received the full award. Kim Miyoshi inquired about the student’s summer plans, and after a brief chat, she invited the student to intern with OKF on the spot.
OKF will use the funds to train 50 junior and senior peer mentors at two new schools.