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.
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