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Stories / History

Founding History

How it all began in the San Francisco Bay Area

After a long legal career in New York and San Francisco, our Founder and Executive Director Michael Rugen resigned his law partnership and set out to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth.  He quickly learned what the academic literature and anecdotal evidence show – that the most reliable path for a youth to find his or her way out of poverty is to have a consistent, caring adult presence in their life.
Michael decided to found a mentoring organization to serve young vulnerable children and stay with them through adolescence. He searched far and wide for such a model before meeting Friends’ Founder Duncan Campbell and National President Terri Sorensen. Having served on many nonprofit boards, Michael immediately recognized how unique the Friends model is, combining the soulful mission of identifying the most vulnerable children and serving them for 12-1/2 years with a business-like, evidence-based approach.
Michael spent over two years raising seed money to start the SF Bay Area chapter. Our initial site is located in Bayview Hunters Point – long the poorest and most underserved community in San Francisco.  We began to hire staff in late 2016 and enrolled our first class of kindergartners in March 2017. 
We’re proud to serve the children of Bayview Hunters Point, and will add a new class of kindergartners each year and stay with them for 12-1/2 years – no matter what! Our youth will change the stories they believe about themselves and will go on to live healthy and productive lives!