Tag Archives: Santa Barbara Education Foundation

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.

SB Education Foundation

Santa Barbara Education Foundation Executive Director Margie Yahyavi was reluctant to have her office visible during our Zoom call last week, even going so far as to employ a virtual background of a rustic cabin complete with a woodburning stove in place of her actual surroundings. 

“Oh my God, this office is insane,” Yahyavi said. “Instruments galore, wine, jackets, and silent auction donations. It’s kind of embarrassing now that I look at it.” 

All true. 

But what that clutter represents is what SBEF is all about: action over administration, getting things done toward the mission of “providing and supporting programs that enrich the academic, artistic, and personal development of all students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.” Even if it means a bit of disarray in their downtown HQ from time to time. 

Especially during the pandemic when their one-room “office suite” has turned into temporary storage for donated items and much more, as a growing list of needs for students, such as internet access – which we wrote about in our Giving List book that came out last fall – food and other various requests that came in as COVID caused continued havoc. 

Late this winter, that meant finding jackets to keep underprivileged students warm as the new safety protocols for resuming in-person learning required open doors and/or windows, which created cold and drafty classroom environments. Handling that problem on the quick is exemplary of one of the ways that SBEC works. 

“The kids were actually shivering in their classrooms,” Yahyavi said. “The principals asked us if we could get the jackets for these students who didn’t have warm enough clothes. There was really a sense of urgency, because it was cold out and they needed them right away. We were thinking, how are we going to deal with this when there’s such a big need and so many kids? What we landed on was to go school by school and have the principals let us know how many jackets that they needed, the sizes and all.” 

Then SBEF jumped into action, with development and marketing-communications director Melissa Davenport posting on social media, issuing press releases, getting coverage on KEYT and sending out email requests to secure donations of funds to cover the kids who were cold. Harding came first, then Adams and Cleveland, as the nonprofit methodically undertook what Yahyavi called an overwhelming kind of task but one that was urgent. 

“We did a really good job,” she said. “I have to pat ourselves on the back because it all happened pretty quickly, barely more than a month and kaboom, we’ve done every school except one, even the preschools. But we still need some larger sizes, so we’re about 10 grand away from being done.”

Doing a good job isn’t at all surprising. A sampling of SBEF’s signature programs include its wildly successful Keep The Beat program that has raised funds to support music education in local schools since 2003 resulting in all 5,000-plus elementary school students being able to learn to play an instrument during their school day. (It’s leftovers from the latest instrument drive in February that take up quite a bit of space in Yahyavi’s office.) Other popular programs include summertime Band Camp, Drumline Camp, String Camp and, in the non-musical department, summer STEAM Camp for junior high students and annual teacher grants that support the purchase of project-based supplies and tools as well as encourage the development of creative and innovative teaching in the school district. SBEF also contributes to a number of academic – which makes up more than half of the nonprofit’s budget – as well as behavioral, emotional, parent, and peer support programs that are essential to learning and frequently designed to address disparity and inequities in the district. 

Now, as to the boxes of wine and other assorted items jamming up Yahyavi’s workspace? Well, that’s where administration actually comes in. 

The Santa Barbara Education Foundation will host its Hope Awards on Thursday, April 29, and the bottles of vino and other gifts are prizes featured in the virtual events that include a mystery wine pull and a silent auction as well as performances by the Dos Pueblos High School Jazz Band. The online gathering will also honor Craig Price and Nick Rail for their longtime support of local SBUSD students. 

Price is well known for his work in providing counsel in education law and has served on SBEF’s Board of Directors for nine years, including two as president where he played an instrumental role in growing the organization. Rail, the founder of the Summer Band Camp, is also the founder of Nick Rail Music, a network of stores serving as the premier school music dealer for Southern California. The company has been a long-time partner with SBEF to provide new instruments valued in excess of $100,000 to Santa Barbara public school music programs. 

With the awards and the entertainment, the Hope Awards’ return promises to be a celebration for the community, but more importantly the event’s goal is to raise critical funds for the Santa Barbara Education Foundation to continue making a positive impact on public school student outcomes. That means money for the programs, but also to run the organization. Paying the rent and utilities. Furnishing the office. Renumerating the employees, of which, amazingly, there are only four, just one full-time. 

“We’ve been operating on a shoestring budget forever,” Yahyavi said. “When people find out that there’s so few of us doing what we do, they’re pretty amazed, especially when you look at collegiate staff development departments which are huge.”

It’s not glamorous, but it’s necessary. 

Successful fundraising might even allow for continued expansion, which the ED would welcome enthusiastically, pointing out the difference that SBEF’s new Major Gifts Officer Eryn Shugart has made in less than a year. 

“She just proves to me that the more people that we could hire, the more effective we could be,” Yahyavi said.

But that does take more revenue in the form of donations, but even when it’s used for administrative costs, the impact is enormous, said Davenport. 

“Supporting our organization directly goes into the impact that we can make with students today, and that tremendously affects their future,” she said. “It truly changes kids’ lives.” 

So tune into the Hope Awards next Thursday afternoon at 4 pm for a quick visit with SBIFF. (RSVP at https://sbefoundation.org/hope-awards.) Admission is free. Donations are voluntary. And you won’t have to view Yahyavi’s office. We promise. 

For more information about Santa Barbara Education Foundation, visit sbefoundation.org.

Virtual Event: Santa Barbara Unified School District State of Our Schools with Hilda Maldonado

WHO: SBUSD Superintendent Hilda Maldonado will share the status of the district’s schools. 

WHAT: Santa Barbara Unified School District State of Our Schools is hosted by the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and sponsored by Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, LogMeIn, UCLA Health, DA Davidson, KBZ Architects, Hohbach-Lewin, Oniracom, and Lazy Acres. 

The virtual event features a presentation followed by a Q & A session. This will be an opportunity for the community to learn about the current State of our Schools during this challenging school year.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 30, at 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Via Zoom

RSVP: Reservations can be made at www.sbefoundation.org/state-of-our-schools-tickets

This event is free. Reservations are required. 

Margie Yahyavi


Since 1985, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation has worked with community partners to strengthen the educational experience of all students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Throughout the years, SBEF has raised funds to help promote art and music education, provide technology, and create quality facilities. For more information, visit www.santabarbaraeducation.org.

Junior League and Rotary Get Students Moving Remotely

Imagine trying to lead a virtual PE class for a group of first-graders while they are stuck inside their homes with limited space and no equipment. Since school closures in March, delivering virtual academics has been a challenge, but physical education teachers have especially had to think outside the box to keep students physically fit and active from home.

From designing exercise videos to mapping out safe running routes and encouraging walks and hikes, Santa Barbara Unified School District PE teachers have done a fantastic job adapting to the times. But when it came down to it, putting equipment into students’ hands was crucial, and versatile items like soccer balls and jump ropes were high on PE teachers’ wish list. The Santa Barbara Education Foundation partnered with the Junior League of Santa Barbara and local Rotary clubs to make these requests a reality.  

In January, the Junior League of Santa Barbara collected 640 balls to distribute to SB Unified elementary school students for PE classes during remote and hybrid learning. In addition to many in the community who donated new and gently used soccer balls, local law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck generously sponsored the soccer ball drive.

After learning of the need, the Junior League’s Jessica Burns helped kick off the effort. “The leaders of the Junior League of Santa Barbara were thrilled to take up the idea of a Soccer Ball Drive and work in partnership with the Santa Barbara Education Foundation on a project that directly provides schoolchildren with equipment so they can continue their educational programming through these unprecedented times.”

Local Rotary clubs, including Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, Rotary Club of Santa Barbara North, and Rotary Club of Santa Barbara Sunrise, have donated funds to purchase jump ropes for elementary school students. On account of these generous contributions, 850 jump ropes are already in the hands of elementary school students, and more than a thousand are on the way.

According to SB Unified PE teacher Ethan Zolt, “The need for all kids to have access to sports equipment in the home is especially crucial during remote learning.” Zolt has already seen the difference in engagement with his students. “The joy and excitement of receiving this gift were evident, as smiling students proudly displayed their new soccer balls at our most recent PE Zoom classes!”

Santa Barbara Education Foundation promotes private support of Santa Barbara’s public education system, serving over 14,000 students in 18 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.