Gamers Flock to the Mission to Support Schools

Robot dances in Dolores Park with tech savvy scavenger hunt participants.

Tech savvy gamers rouse the crowd in an impromptu dance session with Dolores Park's favorite robot. photo by Erica Hellerstein.

On Saturday, as sun-drenched weekend worshippers relaxed throughout Dolores Park, children and adults of all ages raced around the Mission as part of the city’s first-ever Tech-Savvy Scavenger Hunt for San Francisco Public Schools.

Branded as fun philanthropy for the creative San Franciscan, the event drew students, parents, young techies and first-time tweeters in support of San Francisco’s public schools, now struggling to remain afloat in the face of deep budget cuts.

“Public schools are hurting a lot, so it’s great to do these things that support them,” said 31-year-old participant Mandy Maiden.

Spearheaded by the nonprofit organization edMatch, the scavenger hunt was the final event in Support San Francisco Public Schools Week, which took place Sept. 24-29. The money raised from the event will be matched by corporations and distributed evenly to all 13 public middle schools in San Francisco, including the Mission’s Everett Middle School.

To jump-start the day, self-selected teams of four or five congregated in Civic Center Plaza at 12:30 p.m. and were dispatched to the Mission and other San Francisco neighborhoods. Each team was given a tin lunchbox that contained riddles and trivia questions about San Francisco public schools and “tech-savvy” missions to accomplish on a smartphone.

Tin-toting teams scoured the areas surrounding Dolores Park, Mission High and Everett Middle School for Mission-related challenges, clues and prompts.

“At the end of the day, fun is universal,” said Jenny Gottstein, producer and coordinator for the scavenger hunt. “We’re hoping that people will walk away with a better understanding of our local school system and why it’s so great.”

Actors, including a man dressed as superman, were placed throughout Dolores Park to provide clues. At times this created confusion, as when one clue-hungry group approached a man dressed as a ninja. The man told the team that he was not participating in the hunt, but graciously agreed to have his picture taken with them.

Michele McMahon-Cost, a parent of two students at Mission’s Marshall Elementary School, did the scavenger hunt with her children and husband to support San Francisco schools and “have fun as a family.”

But she recognized that the tech-centric nature of the event made it difficult for many Marshall families to participate, noting that a large majority of students are in the free lunch program and do not have Internet access.

“A lot of these families are just trying to survive,” said McMahon-Cost. “We need to heavily rely on funders outside of our school community to help fund our programs. That is why we are looking to partner with our Mission neighbors to help support the school.”

For edMatch Executive Director Todd David, opportunities loom on the horizon for expanding the scavenger hunt and other fundraising events for the public schools.

“This event is going to get bigger and bigger,” he said. “My hope is that one day it will become the Bay to Breakers of school fundraising.”

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