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CURRENT ISSUE:  March 21, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Parents seek strong, safe schools for their children
Chris Good named new FACE director
Knights and Ladies help develop, keep the faith
FACE kids show the joy of learning

The Mestas Family, back row, from left, Freddy Mestas, 13; Fred Mestas, father; Fred Mestas III, 3; Maria Mestas, mother; Ricardo Hernandez, 18. Front row, Victoria Mestas, 11, and Abigail Mestas, 9.
josé luis aguirre photo
Annual FACE Gala & Auction
April 2, Blackhawk Museum
Tickets, at $150 each, are available.
(510) 628-2155

If Victoria and Abigail Mestas feel right at home at St. Elizabeth Elementary School, that’s as their parents, Fred and Maria Mestas, had hoped.

And if it feels like family, it is family. Eleven cousins — children of Maria Mestas and her two sisters — attend school together. They are picked up together after school, and go to their grandmother’s house to await their parents at the end of the day.

Maria Mestas, with her brothers and sisters, went to public school when they were growing up in Oakland.

What is FACE?

Family Aid – Catholic Education, founded in 1978, provides tuition assistance to allow diverse, low-income children to attend Catholic schools.

Who benefits? Grants of $1,750 each to 370 elementary school students Grants of $3,050 each to 279 high school students

Who’s waiting? More than 2,300 pre-qualified applicants are on a waiting list.

Where do they go to school? FACE students attend 45 Catholic elementary and high schools in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

And then? 100 percent of FACE high school seniors graduated last year — and 98 percent attend college

Where does the money come from? The annual FACE Gala & Auction — FACE’s only fundraising event — accounts for 25 percent of the aid.
“When we started to have children, we wanted to be part of the community and part of St. Elizabeth. We had been going to St. Elizabeth Church for years — since we were children, 5, 6 years old,” Maria Mestas said.

“It’s a great community. There are a lot community programs they do in Oakland, mostly in Fruitvale,” she said. “We like that we, St. Elizabeth, are part of the community. It makes us proud to be part of St. Elizabeth. It means a great deal for the children, not just to be coming to school but being part of the community, and doing something productive for the community.”

FACE (Family Aid – Catholic Education) helps Victoria, a fifth-grader, and Abigail, a third-grader, attend St. Elizabeth Elementary School, which their mother describes as “a great school.”

“Without FACE, it would be very difficult for all of my family members to come to St. Elizabeth’s,” Maria Mestas said. “The grants are such a blessing because they give us the opportunity to give our children a good education, especially nowadays the economy has put a tight budget on everybody.”

Maria Mestas works full time as a medical assistant at Berkeley Pediatrics. Fred Mestas is recovering from a brain tumor and is not able to work at this time.

The sense of community that drew the Mestas family to St. Elizabeth with their eldest son, Ricardo, who is now a high school senior, remains strong.

“I might not have the house, I might not have the luxury car, but I do have the opportunity to give my children the education they are going to need to succeed in life. That’s the greatest gift that I could ever give them,” she said.

“They’ll take it from here,” she said, looking at her daughters. “It’s set in their heads that they are going to college. And having goals, and having dreams. That’s what St. Elizabeth does. It molds them to this world. ”

Fifth-grader Victoria Mestas, who has been playing volleyball for three seasons, enjoys art and science. “I like everything, but mostly, I like spelling,” said third-grader Abigail Mestas. Next year, their younger brother, Fred III, will enroll in the preschool at St. Elizabeth.

About 25 percent of the St. Elizabeth student body receives assistance from FACE. That’s 80 students at the Oakland school.

“FACE has been instrumental in supporting parents in their desire to give their children educational opportunities in a Catholic school where the student can be in a safe learning environment and where their academic, social and spiritual needs are met,” said Silvia Rodriguez, the school’s bookkeeper, who handles financial aid.

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