East Bay high school senior drawing strength from her family

My name is Camila and I was born in Oakland, California. I currently live with my mother, older sister, and younger brother in San Leandro, California. As a family, we have been through many challenges. However, that has made us stronger and closer to each other. My family supports me and my passions for art, education, and social justice. My mother is always curious about my art projects and often asks where I get my inspiration from. Moreover, she and my sister motivate me to try my hardest in school and be an advocate for the Latino community.

Camila (left) with her sister, brother, and mother

Camila (left) with her sister, brother, and mother

My family is always interested in the activities I am participating in during school and everything I am learning. An example of their support in my activities would be during my sophomore year when I signed up to be a part of my high school's swim team. I was very nervous and did not know what to expect from such a new experience. It was the first time I became a part of an athletic team, but my family always went to my swim meets and cheered me especially when I was scared or nervous. They support me by encouraging me to give my best and to be resilient no matter the challenges I may face. The fact that they believe in me and are there for me has helped me so much in my growth as a whole.

Camila's mother and grandmother

Camila's mother and grandmother

I also really look up to my grandmother in Chile. She raised eight children with her husband and lived during a dark and dangerous time in Chile. When I am able to visit her, she always reminds me about staying in school and how much education will help me through life. My grandmother did not have the opportunity to go to college, but she is a very educated and poised woman. She sincerely believes that education is the pathway to a more just and equal society.

I have always loved art, science, and history. In school, I have taken those classes every year. Moreover, I have challenged myself in those subjects by taking Advanced Placement United States, Advance Placement Art, Honors Biology, and Honors Chemistry. I like these subjects because they allow me to wonder, question, and not be afraid to take on a challenge. I like to say that my mind works with curiosity and creativity, and I feel that these subjects allow me to think critically and allow space to grow.

I aspire to travel as much as I can. I have always want to go to Japan, France, Seychelles, and Bora Bora. I have only been to Chile and Costa RIca, but those trips have pushed me to pursue my dream to travel around the world and expand my perspective.

As a high school senior, I have come so far and going to college is definitely a goal of mine. I have already been accepted to many small liberal arts colleges throughout the country. I would like to study neuroscience or law. This is because I have always been interested in studying the brain and the nervous system. Moreover, my younger brother has autism, and that has taught me a lot about how people develop and grow with or without disabilities. Regarding my interest in law, in my community there is a lack of opportunities and significant injustice. I want to be able to give back to my community and support low-income families just like my own. I am currently waiting on responses from more colleges I have applied to, and I am researching for scholarships that will me pursue the goal of attending college. In all, I feel excited for the opportunity to attend college and to be able to expand my horizon towards the future.

Thank you so much for helping me make this all possible!


Posted on March 13, 2017 .

Art & Carlyse Ciocca - The rewards of 20 years giving

Our participation in the BASIC Fund is one of the best investments our family foundation has made in our 20 year history. It is also the most rewarding!

We believe there is nothing we can do that is more important for the long term benefit of our society than helping young kids receive a sound education. The BASIC Fund does exactly that in a highly efficient and effective way.  By offering scholarships to proven private and parochial it allows families in areas with marginal public schools the opportunity to improve the quality of their children’s education. The record speaks for itself with over 20,000 BASIC Fund scholarships granted to Bay Area kids who would have otherwise had no alternative than a failing inner city public school where there odds of going on high school and college would have been drastically reduced.

There is nothing more rewarding and inspiring than to visit any one of the 260 BASIC Fund schools here in the Bay Area and observe them in action. In our visits we were inspired by the incredible dedication of the teachers and by seeing the fruits of their labor in the smiling faces and optimistic attitudes of the students. Every young Bay Area kid deserves a chance to get a good education. We look forward to the day when BASIC Fund is in position to satisfy every family’s desire for a better education. Our Bay Area kids deserve nothing less.   

Carlyse and Art Ciocca

Posted on February 16, 2017 .

BASIC Grad writes to us from Harvard

After my graduation from high school, I spent time reflecting on how I’ve gotten to where I am currently in my life and what my future holds. I am attending Harvard University, where I hope to study Economics. My family and I are very close, and I am grateful that I can always rely on them. Having their support and their help by taking me to and from my extracurricular activities has allowed me to participate in numerous enriching opportunities within my community, while still thriving in a rigorous academic environment.

Furthermore, I am grateful to The BASIC Fund’s support throughout my years in middle school. When my mother’s health prevented her from working, we didn’t have to choose between paying for my education or my tuition because we had The BASIC Fund’s support. It enabled me to attend The Berkeley School; a school of my choice that provided me with a close-knit community of truly caring individuals. With The BASIC Fund’s help, my middle school’s community helped me grow both as a student and a person in the process of preparing me for high school. Between making lifelong friends, diving deep into hands-on learning, and forming close connections with my teachers, I still cherish my memories of middle school.

Looking forward, I’m excited to pick from thousands of courses that align with my interests and explore future career prospects. I hope to use my studies in Economics to pursue a career in Business. I also hope to continue my love for the study of foreign languages, a flame lit by middle school Spanish class, by continuing to improve my Spanish language skills and my knowledge of the culture of Spanish speaking peoples.

The process of applying to colleges was similar to that of private middle and high school applications, but with many more and greatly varying choices in schools. The most similar aspect of all three application processes was looking for a school that was the best overall fit for me. In this process, I was fortunate to have yielded 16 acceptances and ultimately found that Harvard is the school that best fits me.

I can’t thank The BASIC Fund enough for helping to open doors to opportunity in my life. I am very grateful to have been a recipient in middle school and I’m also glad that The BASIC Fund has continued to do its wonderful work for those to whom I have passed on its information.


Posted on December 21, 2016 .

Ben Bisconti - Breaking the cycle of poverty

My background has given me some perspective on the value of education and tremendous appreciation for the importance of providing children access to quality teachers and safe learning environments. I grew up in a family of seven children. My father was a night custodian at our local city hall and my mother was busy full-time raising kids and maintaining the household. Education was not a focal point in my family or my community. My high school had a 40% drop out rate and fewer than 10% of graduates went to a four-year college. Of my six siblings, three did not finish high school and only two went to college.  I was fortunate to be one of the two. To say education changed my life is an understatement. The path my younger brother and I chose not only directly changed our own lives, it dramatically reshaped the course of future generations. We both took the first step in breaking the cycle, at least for our own families.

Bisconti Family 1.jpg

The educational system in the US has material challenges and, unfortunately, most are not being adequately addressed. To put it simply, we have a massive supply/demand imbalance when it comes to education—generally speaking, there is far more demand for quality educational services than there is supply.  The BASIC Fund stands out as an organization finding ways to address this imbalance and provide thousands of families access to quality educational opportunities. The model has found quirky inefficiencies in the supply/demand imbalance—places in the system where excess demand is otherwise unable to find available supply. The BASIC Fund not only efficiently matches this demand with supply, but provides the necessary funds to make it work for both the family and the school. The result is that thousands of families are able to begin bridging the gap in educational inequality that low-income families often face. This work has tremendous value to our families, our communities and our country.

My wife and I have been fortunate in many ways over the years and we have felt a real duty to support organizations that make a difference. There is no greater cause than improving a child’s access to an educational experience that will change their life. For me, that happened in college. For BASIC Fund students, it can happen at a much earlier age and have a much more profound impact on their lives. This is not about just helping these students test better or stay in school longer—it is about giving them the opportunity to set ambitious goals for themselves and providing the tools to achieve those goals. The end-game is not simply to graduate from high school (though that is important!), the end-game is to put these children in a position to define their own success and to be empowered to pursue it. For my wife and me, this is a noble cause, and it is why we are enthusiastic supporters of the BASIC Fund.

Posted on November 18, 2016 .

Granada Islamic School: A Full Circle Experience

My name is Chafik Ziadeh and I am the Business Development Coordinator for the Granada Islamic School (GIS) in Santa Clara, California. At our school, we instill core concepts that are akin to the founding principles of many other religious schools: Strong moral values, service to our community, and excellence in all that we do. In a time and season where the Muslim culture is often stigmatized, we strive to provide a safe learning environment for our students. The prejudice that adult Muslims face on the streets is concerning enough, but new studies are focusing on how the political climate is affecting student safety in schools. Unfortunately, physical manifestations of our religion can be used to label and even bully students. We provide not only academic excellence, but a haven for our community.

GIS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). We bolster a strong academic program that uses the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and math. Additionally, we bring the teachings and traditions of Islam to life for our students. And beyond serving as an academic institution, GIS works to cultivate a sense of identity for young Muslim-Americans.

Established in 1988 with 25 students, today we serve over 500 K-8th graders. We have recently opened a high school program and, though our community continues to grow, we still hold true to our original mission: “To provide quality academic and Islamic education in a community that nurtures a strong Muslim identity, fosters brotherhood, and strengthens moral character.”

I started attending GIS in 1999. I was a third grader and admittedly, originally wasn’t a fan of being away from my public school friends or the intimate nature of being in a smaller school with uniforms and rigorous academic standards. But as an adult I’ve come to realize what a privilege it was to be here. Having a space where the symbols of Islam – dress, names, prayer, home language – are embraced instead of being met with suspicion or xenophobia is something I wish for all young Muslim-Americans, and has given me deep meaning in my own life.

Cultural identity is as important as education. We express our utmost gratitude to our friends and supporters at the BASIC Fund for understanding this, and for being key contributors in support of our students. By continuing their mission of providing opportunities for all families, we can continue to bring unity and success to our community.

On behalf of the GIS Community,

Chafik Ziadeh

Business Development Coordinator

Granada Islamic School, Santa Clara, CA

Posted on October 6, 2016 .

A Grandmother's Pride

Dear BASIC Fund

Sophie and her teacher

Sophie and her teacher

I wanted to convey our deep gratitude to your organization for making my granddaughter’s education at St. Basil School possible. Sophie is thriving there, and developing a great joy in learning everything from math to science, especially excelling in Language Arts. She is friendly, self-assured, generous, and will likely contribute meaningfully to our community--she does already!

Sophie came to live with me when she was less than a year old. My eldest daughter, Sophie’s mother, has struggled for many years with addiction and homelessness. When Sophie was born I would go to see them at the motel they were living in, and I’d see Sophie sitting out on the balcony with her feet hanging over the edge and her hands holding the bars. I wanted something better for my granddaughter, so I convinced my daughter to let me have legal guardianship. 

When Sophie was old enough I enrolled her into Head Start, and she loved it. She decided one day that she was going to write a book about the teachers there, she narrated and I wrote it all down, and then she drew all the pictures for it. The Head Start program published it in their newsletter with her picture, it was wonderful. I then decided I’d like to enroll her at St. Basil School where I had sent both my daughters many years earlier, it was home for our family. I found out about The BASIC Fund through St. Basil, I asked if there were any scholarships available because I knew making the tuition would be a challenge. I had to come out of retirement to make ends meet, so I now work a few shifts at Target, but it’s worth every penny and then some. 


The BASIC Fund is the difference between her going to St. Basil and not, and it’s significant. Sophie is now a 4th grader, she likes sports and is very active. She loves to read, there are books everywhere. Whenever she goes to the library they have a room there where they sell books for a quarter and fifty cents, and she’s always buying more books. She is meeting with the principal soon to talk about starting a book club for interested students in 3rd to 5th grades. The last few years her grade didn’t have a basketball coach, so she talked her uncle into coaching, and this year he’s going to also coach the baseball team. You have no idea how persuasive this girl can be!

I told Sophie I was sending a letter to you and she asked what the scholarship meant. I told her that you were investing in her to become a leader. She said to tell you that you had made a good bet on her. She’s already planning on college, but she’s not sure what she wants to do yet. She’s very good at math, and she likes computers a lot. She wants to go to coding camp this summer with one of her friends, so I need to check in to that. They’ve already built a website at school in class, and she’s always the one to help me with my smart phone.

The women in my family have a tendency to live a long time, so I’m hoping to be around for a while longer. We already have a plan in place with my younger daughter, Sophie’s auntie, and we don’t hesitate to talk about what might happen when I die. Sophie bought me a bracelet last year, I wear it all the time, she says ‘when you die then I’m going to have it, and then when I get old I’m going to give it to my daughter.’ I love that.

Thank you for your participation in her continued successes. Yes, I am a proud grandmother, but Sophie really is special.


Toni Hughes



Posted on August 26, 2016 .

Summer Inspiration

Summer is in full swing!  We've had the privilege of attending dozens of 8th grade graduations for BASIC Fund students around the Bay Area, and even hosting a special celebration for the 8th grade graduates of our San Francisco schools.  These transitions are a point at which we can reflect on the incredible obstacles our families have overcome- and the tremendous opportunity that lies ahead for our students as they enter high school.  

We were honored to have Craig Johnson, BASIC Fund Board Member and member of the Golden State Warriors ownership group, speak to our eighth grade graduates and their families on June 1, when we held our eighth Grade Graduation Ceremony at the Boys and Girls Club Don Fisher Clubhouse.  Craig inspired our graduates with a few words about the energy and excitement surrounding the Warriors, as well the many life lessons their success may illuminate for each of the students in their own lives; the most important one being the opportunity just ahead for them in high school.

While Craig’s championship ring circulated the room during his remarks, he shared the following; "Steph Curry told me that his father said to follow his passion, but that education is most important.  It gives you options.  The more options you have, the more possibilities in front of you.  Five years ago you may have liked one thing, and who knows what you will like five years from now, but a strong educational foundation will give you the best chance to pursue it." 

Craig suggested that as these graduates enter high school, if they see someone sitting by themselves, to approach them and create a relationship.  "Life is not about the stuff. It's about the people you interact with." He said the most important relationships students may build in addition to great friendships can be with their teachers. “Teachers are there to teach, and students who express great interest in learning are a teachers dream student."

In closing before Craig spoke with parents and students, as well posing for a few photos, he talked about a path to success; “There is a lot of fear when you are young about what others think of you. What really makes the difference is what you think about yourself."  In case of the Warriors; “They do well as a team with a simple goal of trying to improve every day.  It's day to day- trying to do the right thing, and with great effort."

And with that he closed with; "Your opportunity is endless. So many kids don't have this same opportunity. Make the most of it, good luck".

As we reflect on Craig's inspiring words over the summer months, we are also processing applications for our 2016 class of BASIC Fund scholars.  We are connecting with donors like Ben De Somma, who are sponsoring students for this fall.  Finally, we are strengthening partnerships, like the one with Wells Fargo, all of which you can read more about in our blog.

Rachel Elginsmith
Executive Director

Posted on July 20, 2016 .

Partnering with Wells Fargo to bring financial education to our families

The BASIC Fund's mission is to help families access schools that are the best match for their children. But in addition to providing scholarships to help bridge the gap for these families, we also provide access to important partners who provide support services to BASIC Fund families.  

On April 28, we partnered with a team of financial advisers from Wells Fargo.  The team, led by Joe Schock, facilitated an evening financial literacy seminars for the parents of St. James school in San Francisco. Sister Mary Susanna Vasquez, Principal at St. James, wrote to us the next day, "We were so pleased with the turnout, and with the ease of presenting in both Spanish and English! The parents were very happy to hear the information that was given." 

The team from Wells Fargo discussed a variety of topics relating to financial literacy and helped parents develop a plan for their own families.  The presentation began with instructions on how to evaluate their current state of financial health by creating a personal balance sheet.  It identified common pitfalls like overuse of credit, "keeping up with the Jones's", and spending cash instead of saving.  

The discussion then turned to goal setting.  Parents were asked to identify simple goals for one year and five years from today. The worksheets provided helped map out spending plans, and even helped create monthly budgets. 

At the conclusion of the seminar, the parents asked that St. James and The BASIC Fund consider working with the Wells Fargo team on a financial seminar targeted towards their middle school aged children, in order to start these students off on the right foot when it comes to financial literacy. 

"On behalf of the Wells Fargo team of volunteers, thanks for the opportunity to spend time with the St. James families. It was a rewarding experience for all!" Schock wrote to us in the week following the event. The BASIC Fund is incredibly grateful to the team from Wells Fargo for their time and dedication to helping this population gain better control of their financial well being. We look forward to working with Wells Fargo and facilitating more financial literacy seminars with parents and students at our schools this coming school year.

Posted on July 13, 2016 .

Why I Give: Investing in our Future

I grew up the son of a dentist and an elementary school teacher.  I never lacked for health, nutrition, education or shelter and was provided the opportunity to attend two of the best secondary and tertiary educational institutions in America.   However just one generation before me, my father’s family lacked access to all but the most pedestrian level of those essential building blocks.  Despite their circumstances, my grandparents’ minimum wages were able to secure a quality parochial K-12 education for my father, in no small part due to external financial support, in his case from the local archdiocese.  That education was sufficient to catapult him into the state university system and subsequently into dental school.  My brothers and I and our children have reaped the benefits of what my grandparents and father had sown.   Needless to say education, and in particular, access to education is very important to my family.

Ben visits St. John Catholic School in Glen Park

Ben visits St. John Catholic School in Glen Park

However, circumstances in America’s educational system have changed significantly over the past 70 years.  Nowadays two parents earning only minimum wages would be achieving a small feat to simply cover nutrition and shelter, let alone health and education.  Public schools’ ability to educate differs widely based mostly on their catchment’s property tax bases.  Local and regional religious institutions no longer have the resources they used to for primary education efforts.  Increasingly (and sadly), access to quality educational resources is largely determined by economic resources rather than raw abilities or work ethic.   To me, this is not a healthy trend for our country’s long-term future.

My colleague Byron Gill initially suggested I review the BASIC Fund as charity worth supporting.   Scanning over the content on its website, I was immediately predisposed to contributing to the BASIC Fund.   Speaking at length to Rachel Elginsmith further confirmed the BASIC Fund’s vision and its ability to execute.   But it was my tour of the St. John School in southern San Francisco which included a lively conversation with the principal Sister Shirley Garbaldi that really brought home the BASIC Fund’s proposition in a living, three-dimensional way.  I very gladly made a multi-year commitment to the Fund within seconds of finishing my tour.

I believe making quality K-8 education available to a group of bright, eager children who are striving to improve themselves is one of the best investments we can make as a society.   So I salute all of you who have made it possible for the BASIC Fund to undertake this critical function.   While I recognize that the BASIC Fund still has unsatisfied demand here in the Bay Area, I am hopeful that one day its model can be “exported” to other communities around the country.   In the meantime, I’ll do my best to support the BASIC Fund as best I can.

Ben De Somma

Posted on July 13, 2016 .

A Message from a New BASIC Fund Mom: Dedication and Sacrifice

Thank you so much BASIC Fund for helping support my two girls in their transition to private schooling. I feel this has helped them both in a major way. Kawai Nalani on the right will be attending private school in order to prevent her from making the wrong choices by hanging with the wrong crowd. She will be in a positive environment where bullying is not allowed and everything is monitored. Kamealoha Nohealani on the left will be able to gain more help with her academics as she is currently in a school where it is a 1:40 ratio. One teacher for 40 children is way too much and my daughter is falling behind. We are forever grateful for what you are able to help us financially.

Kawai (11) plans on becoming a singer, and is hoping to attend the Oakland Performing Arts School in the next 2 years. She is currently enrolled at the Academy of Hawaiian Arts to learn the art of hula. Her back up plan is to become a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines and travel the world!

Kamea (9) plans on making it to the Olympics. She is currently in track and field for Full Stride Track Club. She holds the 3rd in Region of the Western Conference for shot put. Her back up plan is to become a Veterinarian.

To be entirely honest, I can’t afford to have either of them in private school. But I am making the sacrifice financially to give them a better education and environment to be in while I am out working 70 plus hours to provide just a regular life for them (that alone Is hard). But with the talent these girls have I want them to be able to progress and have the most opportunity possible. I want them in a safe environment where they are getting the best education possible.

Times are different today from when we all went to school. Kids now have too much access to adult things, sites, media, etc. I know that they will be safer than in the public schooling and have more attention to help them in their struggling areas of education. I was a single mother of 3 kids, in college with 18 units and working 60- 70 hours on my own.  I never thought I would be putting any of my kids in private school because it is way too expensive, however worth the sacrifice. Sure some bills won’t get paid some times and I’ll have to play catch up in order to pay their tuition every month. With the scholarship you have helped me cut my monthly payment almost in half. I am forever grateful that your organization is helping me make this happen.

Thank you so much!

Lori Yamamoto 

Posted on July 12, 2016 .