The Santa Barbara Education Foundation hosted the Hope Awards recently to celebrate individuals and programs supporting students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD). At the first in-person Hope Awards in three years, a record $150,000 was raised for the foundation to continue making a positive impact on Santa Barbara Unified student outcomes.

More than $65,000 of the funds will go toward We Care, a partnership between the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and SBUSD that supports students, families and staff as they face ongoing and unexpected challenges brought to light by the pandemic. The program ensures students of families who are struggling have the tools needed to attain successful academic outcomes.

While the purpose of the event was to celebrate the work of Sara Miller McCune and Frank Stevens for their long-time support of public education, it also highlighted students throughout the evening. Dos Pueblos High School students Devin Ross and Isabella Valentine served as emcees.

A performance by the Santa Barbara Junior High School Jazz Band kicked off the event, and culinary arts students from Santa Barbara, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos high schools served a variety of salads, savory treats, and desserts.

Honoree Stevens has been an educator and advocate for public education since 1960, when he started as a student teacher and transitioned to counseling at the then newly opened San Marcos High School.

Stevens first became involved with the Santa Barbara Public Education Foundation when he received a grant from the organization. He then volunteered to help where needed most until he became a board member and eventually president.

Since retiring in 1995, Steveens has been volunteering more of his time by serving on boards and holding leadership positions for organizations supporting public education. In accepting the award, he said that despite his career and involvement in a lengthy list of education advocacy organizations, his family was his job, and education has always been his hobby.

Honoree McCune’s philanthropic support of the community is well-documented. A life-long entrepreneur and philanthropist, she has consistently advocated for access to quality education, literacy, and the arts.

In her acceptance speech, McCune said she was grateful for the award, but acknowledged there is more work to do. “I want to encourage you to continue working for and keeping in your heart this school district,” she said.

McCune acknowledged that just over half the students in SBUSD are currently living below the poverty line. “Let’s not forget that. It shouldn’t be this way, and we need to help turn it around,” McCune said.

Santa Barbara Education Foundation also recognized Hope Award sponsors, including Pillar Sponsor: SAGE Publishing; Visionary Sponsors: Griffith and Thornburgh, Mechanics Bank, and Raymond James; Ambassador Sponsors: Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, KBZ Architects, Santa Barbara City College Foundation.

Also, RHS Construction, Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and Union Bank; Champion Sponsors: Ablitt’s, Arlington Financial Advisors, Cottage Health Systems, DA Davidson, M.F. Strange & Associates, Mark Watson Professional Fiduciary, Montecito Bank & Trust, Montecito Journal, Pueblo Radiology Medical Group, Smart & Final, and UCLA Health.

Santa Barbara Education Foundation promotes private support of Santa Barbara’s public education system, serving some 14,500 students in 19 schools. For more, visit