United Way Bay Area

SparkPoint Skyline Teams with Grove Scholars: Building a Foundation for Success

Posted on March 2, 2011, by United Way in Uncategorized

A few years ago, Evelyn Ibanez never imagined her family could become homeless. She and her husband held steady, full-time jobs at the same Bay Area company for more than a decade. But when the recession hit, they were both laid off, victims of corporate downsizing. After exhausting their savings, the family of five became homeless.

Fortunately, new doors have since opened for Evelyn, thanks to an innovative partnership between the SparkPoint San Mateo Center at Skyline College and the Grove Scholars program, which together provide an integrated network of support to Evelyn who is now pursuing a degree in Judicial Studies.

“SparkPoint and the Grove Scholars program have been instrumental in lifting me and my family out of the most difficult time my life,” Evelyln said. “They have made it easy for me to be successful. Since I'm already on campus for classes, taking advantage of SparkPoint services is very convenient. With every SparkPoint budgeting exercise I complete, I know I'm keeping my family and me on track.”

Supported by United Way, the SparkPoint San Mateo Center at Skyline College is one of four SparkPoint Centers in the Bay Area, which focus on helping people move out of poverty and achieve lasting financial stability. The Grove Scholars program, created by former Intel chairman Andy Grove and his wife Eva, provides need-based scholarships to enable people from diverse backgrounds and life stages to pursue vocational training at community colleges and other institutions.

“The services we offer through SparkPoint are a perfect fit for Grove Scholars,” said SparkPoint Coach Melanie Espinueva, who advises Evelyn and the 23 other Grove Scholars currently enrolled at Skyline. “We provide them with financial coaching to help manage their scholarship awards, as well as their other finances. We also meet regularly to ensure they are on track to achieve their academic goals, while working to improve their job-search skills so they can succeed in the job market.”

Evelyn's journey hasn't been easy, but she has a new lease on life through the SparkPoint Center and Grove Scholars program. Step by step, Evelyn's family has stabilized their situation; they have secured permanent housing, and she has only a semester left until graduation. In addition, their new Individual Development Account (IDA) - a matched-savings account started through SparkPoint - provides a financial safety net that they did not have before.

“We have Grove Scholars of all ages accessing SparkPoint services—from 18-year-old students on their own for the first time, to working mothers and older adults seeking career transition,” said Adolfo Leiva, program services coordinator at the SparkPoint San Mateo Center. “At each of these life stages, financial coaching is extremely important, as most students are living on a tight budget, and many are learning about saving and budgeting for the first time.”

Learn more about SparkPoint Centers throughout the Bay Area at

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