A Day at Prince Hall Learning Center in the Western Addition

The Prince Hall Computer Learning Center (PHLC), an Engage San Francisco community partner in the heart of the Western Addition, is a year-round learning enrichment program that provides structure and support in the form of emotional and academic enrichment programs. Through after-school and summer programming, Prince Hall develops individualized support for children based on their academic needs and family situation. The small scale of this program (up to 20 children) allows for customized, personal interventions that are sustained and based on a strong groundwork of trust.


As one enters Prince Hall you are welcomed by Ms. Miram Desmukes, who has 18 years of experience directing the Prince Hall Learning Center. Along with Ms. Andi Horde, who has been an Associate Director with the program for 10 years, one immediately sees the center as an intuitive, loving environment that is labor intensive and intimate.

An initial question comes to mind:  What kind of methods of teaching do they use in their program? Ms. Andi explains as one of the children leaned on her and she kissed her on the head and said, “We are a nurturing education-based program, lots of hugs around here.” While Ms. Andi and Ms. Miriam are extremely humble in how they describe their work, it is clear that it takes extraordinary expertise and time to understand and relate to the kids on a level much deeper than hugs.

“There is a certain amount of respect that we try to embody so that they don’t feel that they need to act out. We respect them. They respect us. Everything is pretty much communal around here. The older children look out for the younger ones and give them pointers.”

Prince Hall is an active partner with several USF literacy projects including America Reads, the Masters in Teaching Reading/reading specialist program, and the Xochitl Book Project and as such, ties into the values USF holds close to heart:  education, social justice and leading to succeed. Collaboration with families is essential, especially to the Prince Hall Learning Center.

The Center is a program of Bethel AME Church and the Allen Community Development Corporation, which is the for-profit arm of AME Church along with the parishioners who support the program by purchasing snack items of need that are listed in the church newsletter. Ms. Miriam and  Ms. Andi also contribute snack items as well as learning aides such as  flashcards, vocabulary cards and books. They provide transportation to the after-school program from some of schools on a daily basis.

When asked what items they needed, they said, “state of the art equipment, like learning tools, some technology, standing desks, writing materials, educational supplies, equipment, toys, materials.” Given additional resources, they would formalize their teen group; facilitate more conversations and mentorship with the Center’s graduates who return home from college and meet up to discuss the transition to higher education, and build out their technology program. It is clear this program is rich with vision, inspiration, deep intergenerational relationships, and succeeding despite many unmet resource needs.

Prince Hall reflects the values and vision of USF and Engage San Francisco, which is why it is great partnership site for USF students to learn. In addition to the teaching the Center does with Western Addition children, they also offer a supportive learning environment for USF undergraduate and graduate students who work with them.

If you woud like to support Prince Hall Computer Learning Center, or USF’s partnerships with them, visit http://www.princehallclc.org/ to see how you can support them or contact Karin Cotterman, Director of Engage San Francisco, kmcotterman@usfca.edu.

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Alumnus Sees the Future of the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center



Jerry Trotter

Program Director, Booker T. Washington Community Service Center

Ayah Mouhktar, our Communications Assistant, interviewed Jerry Trotter at the construction site for the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center. Below is a reflection on her experience meeting Jerry, discussing the new facility and what it will mean for the families and children of San Francisco.

Putting on a hard hat and entering a construction site was not how I planned to spend my Thursday afternoon but what came out of it ended up being one of the most eye opening and inspirational experiences I have ever had.

Walking into what would soon become the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center left me with a sense of hope of a brighter future for the children and families of San Francisco.


Jerry Trotter, Program Director of the facility, is a University of San Francisco alumni (’02) and was recruited by the Multicultural Retention and Recruitment program, which traveled to high schools and recruited students to USF to continue their studies in social justice and the Jesuit mission.

“USF brought me to San Francisco and San Francisco brought me to Booker T. Washington” said Trotter when describing what gave him the drive to want to help the local community.

The new facility is being built at 800 Presidio Avenue and will be made up of 5 floors compiled of 49 housing units, an NBA regulation size gym, a mind/body health center, computer and career lab and a community garden on the roof. It began as an idea as a place for families in the community to convene and organize and is a realistic way to meet the needs for food, education and secure housing. Trotter cares for the children of San Francisco and wants one simple thing to come out of all the great work he does, “we want to have them stay and live in the city they grew up in”

San Francisco and USF in particular played a large role in Trotter’s work and his passion for social justice and the mentality of leading to succeed, and not just to seeing himself succeed alone but taking rising with the community as a whole. The hard work of Jerry Trotter is one that is admirable and inspirational not for just the common citizen but especially USF students who look to actually change the world from here- less than a mile away from the center of campus.

Trump Exposes America’s Value


Amir Abner

M.A. Urban Affairs ’17

Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. President-Elect Trump has spewed racism, sexism and xenophobic ideals since his campaign started and it carried him all the way to victory. As soon as it was announced that he would win the bid to be the next President over Hillary Clinton, you could hear a collective gasp from the city of San Francisco and while many were shocked a man with his rhetoric and past could become the face of this country, I was not.

San Francisco and other cities in the Bay Area are really no different in their approach compared to southern cities and their residents that are constantly looked down on. The city still clings on the reputation built in the 1960’s and 70’s as this utopian place of solidarity and free thoughts. The “progressive” San Francisco is all but gone, not that it ever really existed (check out Urban Renewal in the Fillmore) but whatever you pretended it to be, it has been displaced. When was the last time residents of San Francisco looked themselves in the mirror and checked their own racist views and actions? You would think the unjust killings of civilians by police officers would do it… right?

Most people in San Francisco can ignore the issues that are faced by many people when it doesn’t directly impact their lives, in fact it actually helps their quality of life. The $5 coffee shops, that displace the corner store, can be seen as a cool hip place to meet friends and get work done, but what about the family of the person displaced? Look at the Mission District today, some will argue that communities naturally change over time, but being in the Mission makes me feel like I’m living during the apartheid in South Africa. Every corner you can see the historical importance of the Latino community with murals and cuisine but the high rents of residential spaces attract rich white transplants from other cities. The new residents walk around looking down on long time residents and it’s a bit sickening. The same can be said about the Fillmore district and Western Addition, but most of the black owned businesses in that neighborhood were displaced during the 1960’s and 70’s, so it’s a bit harder to find the history there. The destruction and mistreatment of people of color is constant so when a friend asked me “aren’t you afraid of Trump because he’s racist?” my answer is simply, no.

The racism in this country is very real, but we pretend to ignore it whenever we can. I am still not over how the government treated the people of New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. If you think we’ve moved passed that, you are sadly mistaken. Every month there is a public lynching in the form of police executions taking place. I watched historically black communities become displaced over the last few years, a few examples are, Harlem, North Philadelphia and Oakland. The education systems in urban areas are crumbling and I watched how state officials dis-invest in HBCU’s. During this same time mass incarnation is still an issue and I watch people rejoice over the changing marijuana laws that will enrich thousands of white owned corporations. Even with these new state laws, federal law still classifies marijuana as illegal so if you’re black please be aware of this because we will continue to profiled while driving and stopped and frisked for the color of our skin. Last time I checked the water in Flint is still toxic and the Chicago police department continue to hold civilians illegally for years. Whenever there seems to be a pinch of black progress in America, ignorant white rage rises up in an attempt to reverse it (read White Rage written by Carol Anderson). The sentiment for most Americans is, in order to have winners we must have losers. If President Obama symbolized progressed in the eyes of millions of black folks, it must have meant the decline in the eyes of millions of white folks. Donald Trump’s rise should have been expected. If it took for a monster for America to address its racist nature then so be it.

When the hypertension dies down, will those who oppose him and his views still be on the front-line fighting for fairness? Or will they become reclusive due to his ignorance having no major direct impact on their lives as they were led to believe he would? Americas oldest tradition is racism and it will carry on with the electing of Donald Trump unless the people from the hardest hit communities come together rise up.

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Bringing Home into School


Ofelia Bello

     Masters of Arts in Urban Affairs ’17

Contrary to what I thought growing up, one of the biggest struggles in graduate school – and there are many – is not the rigorous coursework as much as it is the pressure that comes along with being a first-generation student. That pressure manifests in different ways on a daily basis. However, being a first-generation student also means I get to draw from an inexhaustible source of knowledge, strength, and wisdom every day.

Throughout my educational career, my parents have expressed to me, at various points, feeling guilty and frustrated about not being able to help me with my academics through school. Before migrating to the Bay Area my mother was never allowed to go to school in Mexico and my father only attended up until elementary. Although I could have never articulated this as a young girl, I know now that my parents came to a country where it was engrained in them that the knowledge and wisdom they have is not valuable – because they certainly do not lack it. As a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs Candidate, I feel more confident now than ever asserting the fact that my parents are by far the best teachers I’ve ever had. They thoroughly excelled at humanizing me before I ever stepped foot in a classroom. I cared about the world before I knew what the world was – before I knew what my place in the world might be.

A couple weeks ago in my seminar Urban Education Reform, my professor Dr. Dave Donahue posed a question that has stuck with me since. He asked, “Why is it that we often talk about bringing school into the home, but we don’t necessarily talk about bringing home into the school?” There it was! The question I always had but didn’t know I had. Every college course I’ve taken has, in one way or another, reaffirmed values that my parents practiced in our home and in our community. Urban Education Reform has provided space for me where I can explicitly interrogate why we place value on certain kinds of knowledge over others and what that means for improving our education system. Given that schools are a critical part of both the physical and social fabric that makes up our cities, I think my professor’s inquiry beckons the follow up question: why can’t we bring the home out into the city?

I enrolled in the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program with the fervent desire to learn about the complexities cities’ face and what concrete ways we can make them more equitable. I know I am in the right program because it is made explicit in the classroom that we do not enter as isolated beings. Every time I step into a seminar, I bring my parents and my community in with me and our knowledge is honored. So ultimately, although the daily struggles that come with being a first-generation student can be difficult, those struggles look dim in the shadow of the brilliant parents and community I come from and continue to learn from, in conjunction with my academic coursework.