Saturday, July 23 , 2016, 4:53 pm | Fair 76º

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Santa Barbara Partners in Education Celebrates Awards, Volunteers

The organization's internship program receives two major state honors — the Golden Bell Award and the Apple for Excellence Award

The Santa Barbara Partners in Education organization celebrated two major state awards and another year of volunteer and internship programs during Wednesday’s annual breakfast.

The nonprofit organization connects local schools to community resources — someone likened it to a can opener, the tool able to get resources to those most in need.

“You, my friends, are the soup,” Susan Salcido told the crowd of volunteers, businesses and educators.

Salcido, deputy superintendent of the County Education Office, said the internship program was honored for the Golden Bell Award and Apple for Excellence Award this year from state boards. The program offers job experience for high school students and help with resume writing, interviewing and other workplace skills.

The hosting businesses and nonprofits contribute $4 per hour toward their wages, and Partners in Education provides the other half.

Thousands of volunteers contributed 30,000 hours to schools last year, and Computers for Families handed out its 10,000th computer after 17 years of handing them out to families on the South Coast. Board president Steve Ainsley said it’s an important part of Partners in Education’s goal to bridge the digital divide.

On Wednesday, Santa Barbara Junior High School student Luis Valencia and MedBridge volunteer Danielle Ivie stole the show. Ivie and other MedBridge employees volunteer weekly for the CORE program, a class tailored to help at-risk students with their academics and behavioral issues. Teacher Marc Fidel takes students on field trips and other experiences, such as Camp Whittier, with MedBridge’s help.

Ivie said Fidel wasn’t sure he would be able to continue the program this year without their volunteers. She said it’s incredibly rewarding to form those relationships with the students and means a lot when they accomplish something in school.

“It’s not always easy, but what is with junior high boys?” Ivie said.

Valencia, an eighth-grader, said he didn’t take school seriously last year and just wanted to have fun. CORE gives him more time and support for schoolwork, and Fidel works hard to make lessons interesting, he said.

“The way he leads the class makes me want to become a better student,” he said.

He said Ivie makes sure he keeps up with homework and helps with overwhelming assignments. The extra classroom help makes him more confident in school, and students love to visit the company office, especially since there’s pizza.

“MedBridge volunteers are like my friends, just older,” he said.

He even helped a friend, who was struggling in school, make the change to the CORE program.

In the future, he wants to be a soccer player or engineer — maybe even design his own car one day. He’s still “exploring options,” he told the crowd, but is very glad MedBridge volunteers are there to help him figure it out.

Partners in Education is always accepting “time, talent and treasure” from the community, and volunteers can sign up anytime through its website. All the programs rely on community support, and the Orfalea Foundation is offering to give a $100,000 matching grant this year if the organization can fundraise that much.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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