Organization Highlight: North Central Neighborhood Association

The North Central Neighborhood Association (NCNA) is perhaps the most significant community institution in North Central. Its volunteer leaders have been quietly and steadily uplifting our community spirit for nearly forty years. The association’s legacy is immeasurable, as multiple organizations have grown out of their efforts and continue to serve our community decades later.  

Rev. Morris Coleman, Sr. (founding NCNA member) & Gloria Brown (Black Women United member) 1984

In 1983, NCNA organized the first Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay and Poetry Contest with the help of the local N.A.A.C.P Chapter. The contest invited all church members and district students from kindergarten to 12th grade to present an original poem or essay to reflecting on Dr. King. This was an important and timely effort to celebrate Dr. King when the country was still debating the idea of creating a national holiday. On November 2, 1983 President Reagan signed the bill creating a federal holiday to honor Dr. King. Just a few months later, Mayor Florence P. Rhoads of the City of San Mateo designated January 8-15th, 1984 Dr. King Week. In 1986, NCNA partnered with Black Women United, a local group of professional women, many of who were teachers and educators. With funding support from NCNA, BWU directly managed the event until 1997. NCNA has been managing the contest ever since, and January 2018 the Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay, Poetry, and Art Contest marked it’s 35th year!

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Eleanor Curry, Anita Webb, Emmett D. Carson (Silicon Valley Community Foundation), Ethel Burnside (2008)
Eleanor Curry, Anita Webb, Emmett Carson (Silicon Valley Community Foundation), Ethel Burnside (2008)

In 1984, NCNA began a free after-school tutoring program at the King Center run by volunteers. The Peninsula Community Foundation (now the Silicon Valley Community Foundation) provided grants and even funded the first computer for the tutoring program. The program was in high demand and quickly expanded through the efforts of Ethel Batiste and Mildred Swan, who liaised with the school district and recruited volunteer tutors. Ultimately NCNA transferred the program to C.L.E.O. in the early 1990s. When C.L.E.O shut its doors, Homework Central was established and still operates a nonprofit after-school tutoring and family support program serving socio-economically disadvantaged students in North Central.


Jean Norwood Ethel Batiste (2008)
Jean Norwood (visionary of the NCNA baccalaureate program) & Ethel Batiste (co-founder of the NCNA tutoring program) 2008

In 1985, the NCNA president Jean Norwood and founding member Dorothy Wesson spearheaded the first NCNA baccalaureate scholarship program – a college scholarship and student achievement award ceremony to celebrate graduating black high school students in San Mateo. At the time, a black student had yet to receive academic recognition or a scholarship from the existing school and community programs. Roger Winston, who served as the Human Relations Director for San Mateo High School District, recognized the need to increase engagement among black parents. He hosted meetings in his home to educate parents on ways to support their students. These efforts grew to form the Black Parents Association (BPA) of the San Mateo Union High School District, which was founded by Robert Printis. In 1987, NCNA transferred the baccalaureate program to BPA, which has carried forth this legacy for over thirty years. Today BPA is a thriving organization which hosts member meetings with artist and activist speakers, organizes college tours, and continues the baccalaureate scholarship and award ceremonies at the Trinity Baptist Church in San Mateo.

Circa 1987, Bertha Sanchez, a NCNA member, joined other North Central neighbors, including Maxine Turner and Dorothy Chow to protest and ultimately stop a major housing development project on Humboldt Avenue. Catalyzed by the community energy, they formed the Homeowners Association of North Central San Mateo (HANCSM). In the 1990s, the organization was renamed the Home Association of North Central San Mateo, to make the association more inclusive and welcoming to renters and local businesses. HANCSM continues to focus on community development, housing, zoning and neighborhood beautification efforts. Sanchez stayed active with NCNA and served as the HANCSM president for over 20 years until her death in 2016.

As North Central residents, we are still sowing the seeds that were planted by the dedicated members of NCNA.  To learn more about ways you can support the North Central Neighborhood Association contact: and please make a tax deductible donation through PayPal. 

Sources and photo credits: Anita Webb, NCNA Financial Secretary

North Central is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the City of San Mateo and home to many trailblazers. As North Central residents we are all custodians of this rich and diverse history. HANCSM is proud to share stories of our neighborhood history and the leaders who helped shaped the community that we enjoy today. Poet Robert Penn Warren said, “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.” 

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