Foundation for California Community Colleges to provide financial services for Breakthrough

(Photo used by permission of Julie Nelson)
Former SCDS student John Hansen and high-school Breakthrough students Vincente Gonzalez and Bryana Castillo serve breakfast to middle-school Breakthrough students during the 2016 summer program.

The Foundation for California Community Colleges (FCCC) will provide a wide range of financial services for Breakthrough Sacramento in Breakthrough’s effort to become financially independent of the school after the Board of Trustees cut off most funding from the school and services in June.

FCCC has agreed to handle all Breakthrough accounting, audits, taxes, budgets, investments, purchases, contracts, human resource support and IT support, according to group member Pat Talamantes, father of senior Austin and Patrick, ‘14.

The Breakthrough Working Group announced this new relationship to the community in a Sept. 19 email.

While a formal agreement has not been signed yet, Barbara Webster-Hawkins, director of FCCC grant development and fiscal sponsorship, said that she expects a contract to be finalized within the next two weeks.

Salaries and benefits for Breakthrough staff (such as program coordinator Ying Lo-Khang, who agreed to remain with the program last week) will be paid for by the FCCC and reimbursed by Breakthrough when donations grow, Talamantes said.

Talamantes said that Lo-Khang and the future executive director will handle Breakthrough operations while FCCC manages the business side.

Former Breakthrough executive director Adolfo Mercado said that the Working Group had asked him if he would stay on as executive director but that he decided during a summer retreat to “explore other opportunities.”

“I am ready for something new or less chaotic than the role I served at SCDS (for) the past decade,” Mercado said. “I was in charge of all matters Breakthrough: administrative, leadership, fundraising, planning, direct service to program participants, partnerships.”

Mercado said that he is currently unemployed and is volunteering in college counseling, UC Santa Cruz admissions, and the Government Relations and Affairs Committee with the Western Association for College Admission Counseling.

FCCC will act as “ultimate fiduciaries,” according to Talamantes, and in the future, the Working Group will form a more organized advisory board.

(Photo used by permission of Julie Nelson)
Breakthrough teachers wave goodbye to their students, who are riding home on a bus, from posts outside of the SCDS campus. The goodbye was a daily tradition for Breakthrough.

FCCC might provide assistance in grant applications as well, Talamantes said. However, fundraising will not be a primary function of the organization, and unlike SCDS, FCCC will not cover any of the program’s financial deficit.

Instead, the Breakthrough group will secure funds and may seek a permanent staff member to fundraise and find permanent financial sources.

Donations to Breakthrough will be sent to the Sacramento Region Community Foundation (SRCF), according to Talamantes.

Originally the Breakthrough Working Group planned on donors giving through FCCC. However, on Sept. 20, the group met and agreed that SRCF is better equipped to handle all kinds of donations, including anything from small-size, more frequent donations to more complex donations, like stock pledges.

“As we got into more of the details,” Talamantes said, “we realized that (SRCF) was set up to accept donations whereas the FCCC did not have nearly as much expertise with that because it’s not their core mission.”

“From time to time,” SRCF will grant Breakthrough its funds to keep it operational, according to Talamantes.

Because of this system of donation acceptance, Breakthrough will no longer seek a 501(c)(3). FCCC and SRCF replace the need for the title of an independent corporation, Talamantes said. But Breakthrough may return to this plan if future circumstances demand it.

According to FCCC’s website, the nonprofit organization’s goal is to fund services for college-bound and college students and to support the Board of Governors, the California community college system and the California Community Colleges’ Chancellor’s Office.

“We cultivate permanent relationships with community colleges, students, and partner organizations in order to develop and support programs that increase opportunities for Community College students and their surrounding communities,” the website says.

Breakthrough is consistent with this mission, Webster-Hawkins said.

(Photo used by permission of Julie Nelson)
Breakthrough teacher Patrick Talamantes, ’14, (third from left) stands with his class at the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office on Career Day during the 2016 summer program.

The Breakthrough Working Group learned about FCCC through Mercado and SRCF’s Linda Cutler (chief executive officer and a former Country Day parent) and Jim McCallum (chief financial officer), according to Talamantes.

FCCC’s website lists several Student Service programs that it supports year-round, including The Foster Youth Success Initiative, Umoja and California Community Colleges Student Mental Health Program.

Webster-Hawkins said that FCCC’s fiscal sponsorship, which allows programs to “focus on the good they are trying to do in the world instead of fiscal, grant and human resource management,” is a common service programs seek. These organizations benefit from the resources and professionalism of an established charitable organization without starting a new nonprofit organization, Webster-Hawkins said.

“Programs can become tremendously more effective when they can focus on their program services and allow the fiscal sponsor’s experts to ensure careful attention to accounting, tax filing, human resource rules and so forth,” Webster-Hawkins said.

For example, the California AfterSchool Network, which services tens of thousands of students in afterschool and summer programs statewide, became a fiscally sponsored program of FCCC a year ago. Webster-Hawkins said that “by providing a home at a well-established, well-respected nonprofit,” the program could focus on leadership, framework and a strategic plan and, as a result, could attract grants and expand more easily.

FCCC’s most recent partnership began in the end of June and is with DeepTok, a relatively young program that connects first-generation community college students with pharmacists, doctors and engineers for mentorships, according to Webster-Hawkins. Since then, Webster-Hawkins said that DeepTok has received its first grant from a philanthropic.

Webster-Hawkins said that Breakthrough will also succeed because of its “deep roots in the community.”

In the email, the Working Group said that FCCC is  available to work almost immediately, so a Breakthrough fundraising drive will be announced soon.

Talamantes said that the group hopes to restart Breakthrough student services as soon as possible, but will wait until enough funds have been raised to keep the program running for at least several months, making fundraising their biggest priority.

Another priority for the group is figuring out how Breakthrough’s daily operations will be carried out by Lo-Khang and the new executive director.

(Photo used by permission of Julie Nelson)
Breakthrough teachers and students eat lunch on College Day at University of the Pacific during the 2016 summer program.

The email said that the Working Group is open to recommendations from the public for executive director applicants and that they will be advised by Mercado in their selection.

“We believe that Breakthrough is a great chance for someone to come in and know that they are both preserving a 23-year-old program and being given an opportunity to think boldly about what Breakthrough can achieve in the future,” Talamantes said.

The Working Group is also looking for a new office for the program to replace the SCDS location. Currently they meet at coffee shops and at members’ homes.

As for the summer program, Talamantes said that Breakthrough will maintain a “healthy dialogue” with the Board of Trustees over SCDS offering their campus.

“While we regret that Breakthrough and SCDS will not be continuing their relationship in the same way, we are excited to be charting a new, independent path through FCCC,” Talamantes said.

“The SCDS trustees’ agreement to host the (summer) program is a significant step in restarting operations, and we’re grateful for the support.”

Webster-Hawkins said that FCCC is also pleased to be joining with Breakthrough.

“We’re delighted,” Webster-Hawkins said.

“Breakthrough advances two of our primary goals: providing work-based learning opportunities and helping students achieve college success. And it has a long history of (positively) impacting the Sacramento community.

“It’s inspiring to see the community come together to make this happen. I’m so impressed by the leaders who are making the most of this change and working for long-term success and stability.”

By Sonja Hansen

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