SAN FRANCISCO, CA (January 18, 2022) – Felton Institute celebrated the opening of its fifth early care and education site, Solmar Learning Center (SLC), with a ceremony complete with special guests, speeches, tours and ribbon cutting.
The ceremony, full of laughs, a few tears, and wonderful insights, also offered moments of reflection, all while presenting a very real vision for the future of not just children, but whole families – the two-generation approach to building and sustaining healthy and thriving communities.
Cultural sensitivity and relevance are a big part of the way Felton serves communities. Before beginning, the event’s master of ceremonies, Sarah Richardson-Baker, acknowledged the land on which the new structure is built was of the original peoples of the San Francisco Peninsula, the Ramaytush Ohlone. It was a recognition addressing the cultural lineages of the space while moving the audience into a captivating experience as the traditional Aztec/Mexican dance group, Teokalli (meaning “House of Creation” in the Nahuatl language), invoked a blessing over the land, the building and its current and future inhabitants.
Blessing of the Land, Teokalli Aztec Dancers
Following brief opening remarks from Felton Chief Executive Officer, Al Gilbert, and Chief Operations Officer, Dr. Yohana Quiroz who spearheaded the SLC project, special honored guests, elected officials and organizers who were onsite to show their support and welcome Solmar to the neighborhood, had the opportunity to speak to the cause and effect and completion of this ambitious project. The first being, the San Francisco District Attorney, who began his speech in Spanish and praised Felton for the far reaching, positive impacts this initiative will have even across the Justice System over the long term.
Chesa Boudin, San Francisco District Attorney
“[Families] will receive tailored services,” he said, “safe, secure, bilingual, quality education, the kind of love and stability and support that will not only help us to break the school-to-prison pipeline but will also ensure that parents can go to work, go to school and do what they need to do, during the day so they can be there with their families at night. It wouldn’t be possible without their leadership, and I’m so appreciative of Felton for the work that you’ve done, the lives that you have transformed, for the safety and security and stability that you are building in our community right here with this building. For the love and care that it will deliver to so many families, thank you.”
Ingrid Mezquita, San Francisco Office for Early Care and Education
“Our investments are over one and a half million dollars, in just capital alone, helping the neighborhood build out this site. But that doesn’t include the funding that we provide so children can come to these programs. And so not only can they grow and develop, but like Yohana said, it’s a two-generation approach. This is about family, and family is about community and community is about vibrancy and health and development. Hopefully, we can partner even more because the need is great. And that’s what the San Francisco Office for Early Care and Education is there for, to be able to partner with organizations like Felton.”
She emphasized that it’s all our responsibility to contribute to the health and education of our children.
Angie Garling, Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF)
“This is exactly the kind of vision that we want to see in the City of San Francisco and across the state and across the country. The Solmar Learning Center is the first one that the Felton Institute is operating that’s co-located in an affordable housing development, the Casa Adelante, with its 143 units of housing for families.” She noted that co-location reduces parents’ stresses of commuting and provides convenience and assurance “their children are in a high-quality early learning setting while they can work and go to school and pursue dreams for their family.”
Scott Wiener, California State Senator
“Embedding childcare, early childhood education in affordable housing developments makes all the sense in the world because we know that so many of the families that will be in this community will have children and having an onsite option for childcare will support those families. They won’t have to go across town to drop their kids off every day. And so, it’s part of a healthy, functioning, integrated community to put housing and childcare together. It will help families succeed financially and it will help our children in terms of their own development and being more prepared when they enter our public school system.”
Michael Hofman, Felton Institute Board of Directors
Keenly aware of his responsibilities as a member of Felton’s Board of Directors to use the resources of the organization in ways that benefit the community, Hoffman’s words demonstrated his deep appreciation that Solmar was an investment with benefits that exceeded its cost.
“All the Board members understand the importance of investing in the future and as chair of the Finance Committee, I have attempted to bring investments in new facilities to the forefront of our conversations. Every dime we spend on a child produces such a return, every ounce of love and friendship we give produces a return. And I think that’s recognized. Thank you very much.”
Hofman’s words spoke volumes and the emotion with which he delivered them captured the emotions of the day. Excitement infused the day as everyone appreciated the reality of what a setting like SLC means for the children and their families; how the impact will ripple throughout the community in priceless ways.
Solmar Learning Center
Nurturing and Supporting Families
Opening SLC represents the culmination of two years of planning and development, as well as the combined efforts of Felton Institute with partners, Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC). The result of which is not simply Felton’s first co-located ECE site, but rather the hundreds of families that stand to have the opportunity for their children to access quality care in a space that has been specifically and innovatively designed to nurture and support their whole selves and the whole of their family.
In addition to educational equity, SLC is purposed to address the compounding experience of families with children who might otherwise face homelessness and displacement. It’s an incredible barrier not to have access to education, exacerbated by the lack of a sustainable environment where a child can feel safe and secure to learn. By providing a site that is co-located in a 100% affordable housing community, Felton is outwardly acknowledging these disparities are not separate issues but extensions of one another and offering an innovative solution that can reshape the educational landscape for generations to come.
With the speeches concluded, all those partnered with Felton to make this vision reality, gathered behind Mr. Gilbert and Dr. Quiroz, holding Felton’s Golden Scissors. They cut the purple ribbon, officially ending the ceremony and allowing the audience to take pictures and break into small groups to tour the grounds and of course, have cake.
After the last 2 years, the festivities and what they represent were a welcomed reprieve for all involved; something to reframe priorities and remind all just how important it is, for children especially, to have a quality springboard into life and academics as early as possible.
Solmar Learning Center is now officially open for enrollment.
If you would like to know more about Solmar Learning Center or Felton’s other ECE locations, please click here.
Virtual Program Booklet
La Gran Fiesta Downloadable Souvenir Program Booklet (792 KB PDF)
Partners and Sponsors
A very special thank you to all our partners. Without your enthusiastic support, this vision would not be a reality.
- San Francisco Office of Early Care & Education (OECE)
- Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF)
- Community Vision
Architects and Construction
On-site Community-Based Partners
About Felton Institute: Founded in 1889, Felton Institute responds to human needs by providing cutting edge, evidence-based mental health and social services that transform lives. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.
Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult, and senior needs, Felton Institute provides services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties. Felton’s social services and programs utilize the latest scientific research, combining cultural sensitivity, deep respect for client and staff, and a commitment to social justice.
Felton is the oldest non-sectarian and nonprofit social services provider in the City and County of San Francisco. For over a century, Felton Institute has been at the forefront of social service innovation, pioneering new approaches to meet underserved populations’ emerging needs. At the heart of our work is the belief that individuals and families in crisis must have access to services and resources to help them build on their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency. www.felton.org