The Making Hope Happen Foundation was founded to support the educational mission of the San Bernardino City Unified School District, providing programs for learners from cradle to career. In the last few years, Making Hope Happen has expanded beyond the district boundaries, helping strengthen families and building an educated and engaged workforce.

One of Making Hope Happen’s primary programs is Dr. Albert Karnig Infant-Toddle Success (KITS), which gives parents and families the tools to prepare children from ages 0-5 for their future. The program is built on the lifetime of work in education by the late Dr. Karnig who served as president of California State University, San Bernardino from 1997 -2012. In his research, Dr. Karnig solidified the need for supporting pediatric neurodevelopment at its most critical stage which is from birth to the age of three.

KITS is just one way that Making Hope Happen is combating achievement gaps in the community. The program addresses that in the first five years, what a child sees, hears and experiences creates the base for future success in learning. KITS supports parents through classes that teach positive child guidance, developmental milestones and enrichment activities.

KITS also offers programming to help parents manage stress through its KITS Club. Members participate in activities like Yoga for stress and fun workshops. Participants are given free child care which is provided by trained child development staff. Parents often build friendships in the program, creating their own group of supportive peers.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup,” the organization’s Director of Programs & Development, Erin Brinker said. “Parent stress leads to abuse. Nurturing families helps them deal with significant generational trauma and abuse.”

The majority of Making Hope Happen’s staff live in San Bernardino and are dedicated to the city and its residents. One of the organization’s coordinators started as a KITS participant after she moved from Los Angeles and was raising four boys. Recently, she became a homeowner and is thriving, according to Brinker.

“We love the city,” Brinker said. “The work that we do is not abstract and it’s not just the job we do, it’s who we are.”

Making Hope Happen also provides mentor-supported scholarships to San Bernardino students graduating from high school. Recipients receive a $3000 scholarship and a paid mentor. One of the recipients, Melyssa Karcher grew up in a low-income family, facing a lot of instability, but focused on her future. Drawn to medical clubs in high school, she was able to shadow a nurse anesthetist and found her calling. This led her to join a group of health students in 2021 where she assisted medical professionals offering treatment to children and families in Haiti. Karcher now attends University California, Irvine where she is studying public health.

“She set the tone for a lifetime of service,” Brinker said. “Reading scholarship applications, you can see our kids are remarkable. It is wonderful to be a part of helping them to the next level.”

Recently, Making Hope Happen Foundation received a grant from the Community Impact Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization depends on funding to provide many of its services and scholarships.

San Bernardino has often been ignored by institutional sources of funding outside of the region, according to Brinker. Making Hope Happen is working to change that and get more attention for the city’s programs. In 2020 Uplift San Bernardino, a collective impact initiative with over 50 multi-sector partners, joined the Making Hope Happen Foundation. Uplift San Bernardino focuses on creating human capital, economic opportunity, neighborhood development and collective impact.

We’re a catalyst and a change-making organization,” Brinker said. “We see San Bernardino. We are San Bernardino. We are thinking about the residents and the kids in the school. We are seeking to uplift so that San Bernardino residents can be successful however they define it.”

More information: or (909) 245-1454

This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, February 2023.

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