Local woman beats the odds

May 23, 2008 7:36:20 PM PDT
A young woman who lived in one of San Francisco's roughest neighborhoods, is graduating from college this year, thanks to an after school center that is now celebrating its 15th anniversary.

"I knew I wanted to be a social worker. You have to go to school, you have to get your education in order to be what you want to be and that was my goal," said college graduate Aisha Robinson.

Robinson, now 22, accomplished her goal. She just graduated from St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina and is proud to be a role model for her 11-year-old brother, Ivan. But, it wasn't easy.

She spent most of her young life in San Francisco's economically depressed Tenderloin District. They call it the "TL" Her mom, Sharon Bonnett, was a single mother. They were homeless and lived in shelters.

Aisha's mother was struggling with her own personal issues.

"Aisha was 7, she was 7 when I went to jai. Drug activity, I was using and selling drugs. and just being bad," said Bonnett.

Sharon's sister and mother helped care for Aisha during that time and heard about the tenderloin after school program. They took Aisha there to spend her afternoons.

"What was that like for you? To go to the After School?" asked ABC7's Cheryl Jennings.

"Exciting. Going on the computer, play games, it was good, it was good," said Robinson.

It was good for Sharon too, that's why her life began to change in the "TL" once she was out of jail.

"When I got out, I got connected. You know they helped me, they helped me so much," said Bonnett.

The tenderloin After School Center put Sharon in touch with TNDC, its parent organization, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation.

"They have the social services. Excellent social services," said Bonnett.

TNDC is a non-profit organization that provides housing and free social services for 2,500 extremely low income people, in 25 different buildings in San Francisco. They even deliver food, including fresh fruit and bread to the tenants.

Sharon met Yvette Robinson, the director of Tenant Services, while picking Aisha up at the after school center.

"She said, Sharon, where you, where are you going? When she said that, I just started busting out crying and I said I have no place to go. She said come in my office and she just helped me with everything. Social services, doctor's appointments, medicine," said Bonnett.

Sharon got a job working for TNDC while her children attended the after school program.

The Tenderloin After School Program has helped hundreds of kids over the last 15 years and saved thousands of lives, by raising entire families out of homelessness and poverty.

"As far as participants, they just come in, they fill out an application and the program is free. We provide a lot of homework assistance; we do lots of recreation that's sports, games of all sorts. We do computers with them. With the older kids, we do some job assistance," said Program manager Laura Choe.

The center also takes its high school kids on college tours.

"We take them to a different city every year. So far, we've done New York, Washington, D.C. Atlanta, Chicago New Orleans, Los Angeles, san Diego and Philadelphia," said Choe.

Choe is the program manager at the Tenderloin After School Center, and has been here for nine years.

Aisha was the first child she met when she started. Laura joined Aisha's family at her graduation. The help Aisha received because of the after school program and TNDC, influenced her decision to become a social worker.

"It was just a huge impact. Getting food vouchers, school supplies, fast pass, different services, different programs, you know they helped my family with. I just always knew that's what I want to be because it made me feel so good inside. I want to make people feel how I felt, because I think, like where I would have been without their help," said Robinson.

"Are there limits to what you can do?" asked ABC7's Cheryl Jennings.

"No, because I plan on getting my doctorate in counseling," said Robinson.

"So we can call you doctor?" asked ABC7's Cheryl Jennings.

"Dr. Robinson, yes," said Robinson.


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