Guests and supporters of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation gathered last Thursday at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum for the annual HOPE Awards ceremony and fundraiser honoring Jim Kearns, Village Properties Realtors and the Garden Club of Santa Barbara for their dedication to public education.
The Santa Barbara Education Foundation, founded in 1985, aims to promote the private support of public education to enhance student achievement and provide a quality education for every student in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Since 1998, the foundation’s HOPE Awards (Honoring Outstanding Public Education) annually pay tribute to organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to public education in Santa Barbara County.
“It is an honor to celebrate those individuals, organizations and volunteers who contribute so much for the good of our students,” SBEF Executive Director Margie Yahyavi said.
This year’s event brought together a diverse group of guests made up of educators, students, family members and civic leaders from the community to the organization’s signature event.
The festive downtown location provided the ideal setup for people to congregate and connect while viewing the museum’s exhibits and offering bids for dozens of silent auction items. Guests also enjoyed a wide selection of wine, beer, nonalcoholic beverages and small plates offered by Jeff and Janet Olsson of Industrial Eats, James Siao, executive chef at Finch and Fork, Derek Simcik from the Outpost at the Goodland Hotel and food service director Bethany Markee of Solvang School.
“It’s a beautiful setting at the SB Historical Museum with great eats donated by local restaurants and wineries, an inspiring speaker, fantastic honorees and a sold-out audience of those who really care about public education in our community,” Yahyavi told Noozhawk.
Giselle Fernandez was this year’s HOPE Awards emcee, a five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist who has anchored the weekend Today show and been a contributor to Face the Nation, 48 Hours and CBS Sunday Morning.
Just before sunset, a group of talented music students from the iCAN Catalina Ensemble of Winds and Brass provided musical entertainment with conductor Gabrielle Molina and music program director Xochitl Tafoya.
Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent David Cash opened with an award tribute to Kearns, a co-creator of iCAN, offering innovative music and art programs to eight public elementary schools in Santa Barbara.
“In just 10 years we have seen many young lives changed by the arts,” Kearns said “And, always looking forward, we will be actively working with our community to provide these transformative creative opportunities for so many more to come.”
Kearns also elaborated on the value of a comprehensive, quality education at a young age.
“We tend to look at things for their utility instead of their value and the arts changes the quality of the community, and if we invest in our children when they’re young we change the quality of the community,” he said.
Tish Gainey, a Santa Barbara Education Foundation board member, shared insight with the crowd on another award recipient, the Garden Club of Santa Barbara.
A nearly 100-year-old all-volunteer nonprofit, the Garden Club of Santa Barbara was founded in 1916 and was honored for its funding of student gardens at public schools since 2003, including projects with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Girls Inc.
A keynote address from William Adams, National Endowment for the Humanities chairman, elaborated on a commitment to a complete education and civic duty.
“It’s important because in addition to schools creating people who will go out into the economy to work, they are creating citizens — they’re creating parents, they’re creating community members who will have obligations to their communities and they’re creating citizens of the world,” Adams told Noozhawk. “And it’s very important to have that strong cultural background, that strong humanities background in all of those roles.
“So we’re not just creating workers, we’re creating citizens and citizens of the United States and citizens of the world, and we need that strong humanities current going through all of our educational institutions.”
A tribute to Village Properties was shared by Megan Cotich, a La Colina Junior High School teacher, who mentioned the Teacher’s Fund started by the realty group in 2002, to assist with equipment and supplies for local elementary school teachers, that has since grown to grades kindergarten through 12th grade at both private and public schools.
“Very soon after we opened the doors of Village, we started getting requests for sponsorships and donations. We found that we were giving to many schools for their events and programs,” Village Properties co-owner Renee Grubb said. “We were brainstorming one day and kept hearing about how many teachers use their own funds when they want something for their classroom.”
More than $1.5 million in supplies have been given to 2,600 teachers throughout the Santa Barbara area, including tape and paper up to iPads, projectors and computers.
“Thanks to the generosity of our guests, about 80 low-income students will be able to earn credits over the summer in SBEF’s Get Ahead Program,” Yahyavi said.
The Santa Barbara Education Foundation provides a variety of Community Programs toward its mission to support community investment in public education to ensure access and equity to world-class, innovative education, serving more than 16,000 students in 22 schools annually.
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.