Courtesy Photo

LuAnn Miller still tears up when she tells the story of Elizabeth and Iris, a mother and daughter who were struggling to make ends meet two decades ago in Isla Vista. A housekeeper raising her infant daughter as a single parent, Elizabeth eventually broke out of the cycle of poverty, thanks largely to support from the Isla Vista Youth Projects, which serves thousands of children in the surrounding area every year. Elizabeth eventually signed herself up for English classes, became a supervisor at I.V. Youth Projects, and got married. As for Iris, she’s now excelling at UC Berkeley.

As the project’s director for 31 years, Miller has seen countless children like Iris come through their doors. “When people think of Isla Vista, they don’t even realize there are children out here,” Miller said. “People don’t even know we exist.”  

Miller hopes to change that with their ongoing campaign to raise $300,000 to pay off the loan on their school property, encompassing seven classrooms and three large playgrounds, located on Phelps Road. If they raise the money by December 31, they qualify for a matching grant. As of press time, they have $69,000 left to raise.

Courtesy Photo

What started 45 years ago as a small organization serving just 12 kids has grown to a nationally accredited school for nearly 2,500 children each year. The programs include the children’s center, after-school care for elementary students, prep classes for kindergarten, and a family resources center. More than 100 kids are on the waiting list.

At the children’s center, 94 percent are children of color, 85 percent come from low-income households, and 54 percent are raised by a single parent. They provide more than 63,000 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to preschoolers each year. They are backed by a number of area foundations, and many children have scholarships. “It’s like a three-legged stool,” Miller said, “with the child, the parent[s] and the community as each leg. Each must be strong or the stool topples.”

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