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Santa Barbara Education Foundation Turns Hope into Reality by Raising $71,000

On Thursday, April 29, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation hosted the Hope Awards to celebrate individuals and programs making strides for students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. 

The online gathering raised over $71,000 in critical funding for the Santa Barbara Education Foundation to continue making a positive impact on SB Unified student outcomes.

SBEF tried to make its virtual event feel like its in-person Hope Awards gatherings of years past to properly celebrate the work of Craig Price and Nick Rail for their long-time support of public education. Like in years past, the event featured a student performance. This year the Dos Pueblos High School Jazz Band helped kick off the festivities.

Craig Price is best known for his work in providing counsel in education law locally. What many may not know is that he is a leading advocate of public education. For nine years, Price served on SBEF’s Board of Directors and notably served as its president for two of those years. 

And as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Price’s daughter, Mallory, a teacher at Adams Elementary School, had the privilege of presenting the Hope Award to her father for his support of public education.

Nick Rail during the Hope Awards

Even though Nick Rail is more commonly known in the community as the founder of Nick Rail Music, he has worked for decades to make music accessible to Santa Barbara students by providing new instruments valued more than $100,000 to public school music programs. Rail also created low-cost and high-quality music instruction through the Nick Rail Summer Band Camp, which is now in its 32nd year of operation.

During Rail’s acceptance speech, he summed up his philanthropic motivation by saying, “Our future is only as good as the education we give our students, both in the classroom and in the arts.” He went on to say, “the opportunities I’ve been given to open doors to others has been my blessing in life. Thank you!”

SBEF also wishes to recognize and thank Hope Award sponsors, including Visionary Sponsors: Griffith and Thornburgh and Mechanics Bank; Ambassador Sponsors: Atkinson, Anelson,  Loya, Ruud & Romo, KBZ Architects, RHS Construction, Santa Barbara City College Foundation, Toyota of Santa Barbara and Union Bank; Champion Sponsors:  Arroyo Seco, Bryant & Sons, Cottage Health Systems, DA Davidson, Frontier Technology, Future Leaders of America, LogMeIn, M.F. Strange & Associates, Montecito Bank & Trust, Montecito Journal, Pueblo Radiology Medical Group and Sage Publishing; and Underwriters: Dennis Forster, Jessica Foster Confections, and Noozhawk.

Santa Barbara Education Foundation promotes private support of Santa Barbara’s public education system, serving over 13,000 students in 19 schools. For more information, visit www.santabarbaraeducation.org.

Santa Barbara’s Recipe for Academic Success

The Santa Barbara Education Foundation is not your normal nonprofit supporting students. Rather it is like an educational Robin Hood, matching donors with students who need it most. 

Students like Antonña Mollo. During her freshman year, Mollo’s mother died of an overdose and her father was sentenced to 12 years in jail.  

“I grew up so angry at the world, constantly asking ‘why me?’” Mollo says. “Gangs and violence became my sense of peace. My crazy life spread through the halls at school, and for once I was placed in a program that was meant for me.” 

That place was the Academy for Success, a program developed by Dos Pueblos High School Math Teacher Kelly Choi. When some of her students weren’t showing up to class, Choi took the time to ask why. Some were hungry, while many others, like Mollo, had turbulent home lives. 

The program identifies struggling students in the 9th grade. Instead of taking courses from different teachers year to year, students stay with the same cohort of students and a team of teachers to take the classes they need to  graduate.  And the group “becomes a family,” says Margie Yahyavi, executive director of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation. With additional mental health services and counseling, the students flourish: there is a 95% reduction in disciplinary action; 98% of Academy students graduate high school; and 92% enroll in some type of post-secondary education.

(Photo by Benjamin B. Morris ©2016)

But this is only one of many programs that Yahyavi and the Education Foundation’s generous donors support. The nonprofit raises private funds to assist students in three ways: funding programs like Academy for Success developed within Santa Barbara Unified schools by faculty or administration; supporting outside programs that want to work within the schools; and finally by sustaining programs that the Education Foundation developed themselves. 

Yahyavi is particularly proud of the work the Foundation is doing to ensure that vulnerable students stay on track through long summer months. “We are tackling summer learning loss with our robust summer programs,” she says.  

With nearly 60 percent of southern Santa Barbara County’s students enrolled in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, giving to the Education Foundation is one of the most clear-cut ways to lift up educational outcomes for the community as a whole.