Scholarship Awards Program
The American GI Forum of Santa Maria has been awarding scholarships since 1979. Until the Education Foundation was established in 1991, all monies awarded were raised by the members themselves, mostly at the food booth at the local county fairgrounds. With the Education Foundation, the organization has been able to acquire donations from other sources, mostly from local businesses. The organization holds an annual Scholarship Awards event, where the recipients and their parents have a chance to meet the donors, who present the awards to them.
Veterans Family Assistance Program
The American GI Forum collaborates with local agencies for referrals to assist veterans and their families for emergency needs, such as clothing, food, lodging, transportation, and medications. Documentation on file includes an application filled out for the veteran, and verification of veteran status. The majorities of veterans served are homeless and referred by the Santa Maria and Lompoc Police Depts., Catholic Charities, Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Good Samaritan Shelter, Santa Maria VA Clinic; although veterans may self-refer through word-of-mouth. Funds for this program come primarily from Verizon and ExxonMobil.
In an effort to close the ‘Digital Gap’, the AGIF Education Foundation has partnered with California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) to implement a program partially funded by Frontier Communications. AGIF Education Foundation assists eligible households in selecting the best low-cost Internet plan for them, filling out applications required by Internet Service Providers, and once enrolled, provides the household with a free HP Chromebook and up to four hours of free basic computing lessons. This gives families access to the Internet, as well as access to learn other skills that will benefit them in various aspects of their lives, such as accessing services, educational opportunities, comparing product prices, etc.
Youth Pride Work Project
This project gives youth who traditionally have little possibility of finding gainful employment a venue by which they can get some work experience, obtain a letter of recommendation and needed for certain occupations, develop a “good work ethic” and get some guidance on what the next steps are to prepare for career readiness. Youth are placed with an agency, organization, or local business in a work environment and paid a stipend by the AGIF Education Foundation for a 5-hour week, 12-week period. Funding is raised locally, with AERA Energy being the biggest sponsor.
Collaboration with Local Events
Members of the American GI Forum and the Board of the Education Foundation of Santa Maria regularly participate in local annual events by sponsoring and serving on the planning and workforce committees of the Santa Barbara County Stand Down, A Run to Remember, and Día del Campesino. All three are all-day events that provide services, information, and goods to veterans, their families, and farmworker families.
Veterans/Family Health Fairs
The Education Foundation has implemented several Health Fairs for veterans and families that provide health screenings, information on veterans benefits and medication updates, and access to local services. These fairs, as well as information on discrimination and transparency in medical coverage have been largely funded by Pfizer Inc.
The American GI Forum Education Foundation has sponsored various seminars for local youth at state conferences, and provided expenses for youth to attend national conferences designed to introduce youth to procedures to run a meeting, understanding Robert’s Rules of Order and By-Laws, voting procedures, and listening to inspirational and motivational speakers. Youth also attended civic meetings and did community service. Fund for Santa Barbara has also funded several one-day youth leadership conferences.
The Education Foundation has provided classes in the Adult Literacy Acquisition School for illiterate adults to teach them to read in order to accelerate their acquisition of the English language. The program was funded by Verizon and was a collaboration between the local school district’s CBET (Community-Based English Tutoring) Program for adults, the district’s English Learners Intensive Literacy Intervention Program for school-aged children, and the Literacy Council. This project served those adults who traditionally fall through the cracks in English classes because of illiteracy.
Collaboration with SES Provider
The Education Foundation has collaborated with a Supplementary Educational Services (SES) Provider to provide after-school tutoring to students who attend schools in the local school district that fall under Program Improvement Status. The AGIF Education Foundation has provided expertise to locate community buildings, personnel, and materials to help make this program successful for our community’s children, the majority of which are English Learners.
Food Booth Training
The Education Foundation has provided training for many youth at the American GI Forum’s permanent food booth at the Santa Maria Fairgrounds. Approximately 16 youth per year work at the food booth, getting it ready for the county fair; and then trained in all areas of food preparation: purchasing food, preparing and cooking food, taking orders, using a cash register, and interacting with customers and the general public. This has been a very successful youth program for those who would not or could not obtain employment on their own. All youth working in the booth are encouraged to continue their education, and many of them have been AGIF Education Foundation scholarship recipients.
Through a grant from Fund for Santa Barbara, parents of high school students took a course on computer literacy. It was successful in teaching them the basics of the parts of the computer and how to set up an email account and how to use it; as well as searching the Internet for things of interest to them. The computers were purchased through a grant from Santa Barbara Foundation.
The American GI Forum Education Foundation sponsored several College-Bound Seminars for high school students, featuring young, college-educated speakers from the community. They connected well with the students, and the students were also invited to visit tables with representatives from the two nearest universities and our community college to obtain information on financial aid, how to apply, enroll, and some materials on various careers.
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