Alameda County Discourages Truancy By Holding Parents Accountable

CBS SF Bay Area, November 17, 2017
By Sharon Chin

More than 200,000 California elementary school students were truant last year, according to the State Attorney General’s report.

With that alarmingly high number accounting for ten percent of the students in Alameda County, officials have been taking a tough-love approach toward parents whose kids miss too many school days.

When children miss too much school, it’s the adults who are getting dragged to criminal court. Read More

New route: A bus takes learning to places where the streets are deadly

The Christian Science Monitor, October 9, 2017
Jessica Mendoza


With the Self-Determination Bus Project, a San Francisco-based nonprofit hopes to address safety issues that keep adults from earning their high school diplomas.

Visitacion Valley, a district that sits on the southeastern end of San Francisco near the San Mateo County line, has a history of substance abuse, drug dealing, and gang violence going back to the 1970s. It’s not unusual, Ms. Hill says, for young men in the neighborhood to kill each other because they come from rival gang territories – areas that could be just two blocks apart.  

“They can’t even go to the corner store without risking their life,” she says. “It’s crazy, but it’s real.” Read More

The 8th Annual Five Keys San Francisco Art Show​ "BEYOND WALLS"

We know the Art Show was back in May, but June and July kind of slipped by... and in case you missed it or have students who contributed, we thought these things were still worth sharing: 

  • Our Art Show website and Instagram page have been updated with photos and videos from the night. Special thanks to Chris Faucher, Dep. Palumbo, Anthony Piscitella, and Alfredo Lopez. If you can, please share with your students -- especially those who submitted work or performed. 
  • We had more submissions, performances, and attendees than ever before!
  • A first-time attendee said this about our show: "I saw much more than an art show. I saw a battle for people's dignity, self-esteem, truth, compassion, freedom, identity, and of course, love."

On behalf of the Art Show committee, thank you for all the time and energy you contributed to making the show a success. Please keep the Art Show in mind as you prepare for this upcoming year! You don't have to wait for the call for submissions to start creating.

To view more please click on our links below
Website | Instagram

Five Keys Bus Launch - Photos

Check out photos from the Self-Determination Bus Project from Five Keys. Click on thumbnails to view full size photos.

Mobile classroom bus will steer adults toward a diploma, June 28, 2017 Jill Tucker, June 28, 2017
Jill Tucker

Thousands of high school dropouts in San Francisco would like to return to the classroom, but for many, the short distance from home to an adult school might as well be a hundred miles given turf wars, gang ties or other safety concerns.

That’s the challenge described by local education leaders who, starting next month, will bring a classroom to those potential students in the unusual form of a revamped Muni bus stocked with computers, Internet access, and a teacher.

Currently, about 86,000 city residents have not finished high school, including 8,000 in Bayview-Hunters Point, according to Five Keys officials. They believe this is the first mobile school for adults in the country, and plan to expand the program to Oakland and Los Angeles if it is successful.

“We believe that everyone — and we mean everyone, especially those behind the eight ball, so to speak — deserves a dignified, effective and free education,” said Sunny Schwartz, co-founder of Five Keys, which opened its first school in 2003 inside San Francisco County Jail. “They’re our students. They’re our community.”

Read More

Five Keys is Offering High School Diplomas to Inmates in County Jail , December 22, 2016 Alexander Nazaryan, December 22, 2016
Alexander Nazaryan

"There is a lesson about Hamlet on the whiteboard, maybe a day or two old, judging by the streaks that partially efface the names of Claudius and Ophelia. At one table, students play a game about financial literacy. At another, they leaf through newspapers. Down the hallway, rows of students sit quietly taking college placement tests, their hunched backs forming a phalanx of identical orange sweatshirts."

Read more

Co-Founder Sunny Schwartz honored by the Anti-Defamation League

Five Keys Co-Founder Sunny Schwartz was honored at the Anti-Defamation League's Annual Luncheon with their Civil Rights Award. More info one the award can be viewed on the ADL website's event page.

For pictures from the ceremony, see our Facebook post here.

Five Keys Featured in NYU's Center for Urban Future Innovation in the City , November 2016 Tom Hilliard and Neil Kleiman, November 2016
Tom Hilliard and Neil Kleiman

"A new report by NYU Wagner and the Center for an Urban Future with support from the Citi Foundation highlights how mayors and city managers are using innovative approaches to ameliorate poverty, finance infrastructure work, or protect the environment. The report profiles 15 of the most innovative urban policies launched by cities over the past decade, spotlighting programs from Chicago and Seattle and from Nairobi and São Paulo.

Pattern-breaking policies detailed in the report, Innovation and the City, include San Francisco’s Five Keys Charter School, the nation’s only charter school embedded in a city’s correctional system; Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, which established a more inclusive process for urban policymaking; Barcelona’s Reempresa program, an economic development effort focused on small business succession; Los Angeles’ new model for integrating workforce and educational services for youth; São Paulo’s plan to capture value from new real estate development to help cover the cost of infrastructure improvements; and an initiative from Malang, Indonesia, that uses revenue generated from garbage collection and recycling to fund comprehensive health care for low-income residents."

Read more

The Pop-Up Approach to Fighting Mass Incarceration

A rendering of the School on Wheels bus (Credit: Designing Justice + Designing Spaces) , October 27, 2016 Danya Sherman

A rendering of the School on Wheels bus (Credit: Designing Justice + Designing Spaces), October 27, 2016
Danya Sherman

"Picture this: An executive from Twitter, a former gang member, a probation officer and a community activist sit together at a table and share what kinds of spaces make them feel inspired, and what makes them feel dehumanized. They discuss their personal experiences and memories. Slowly, empathy builds and a shared understanding of needs emerges."

Read more