Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s surprising effect on students
Ceci Garcia bounds up the stairs and enters the office of Santa Barbara Education Foundation, paperwork in hand. She smiles broadly as she presents it to executive director, Margie Yahyavi. Garcia is the first parent to sign up her child for the third annual Get Ahead Summer School program run by the foundation. Her daughter Priscilla Rubio—an eighth grader who aspires to become a pilot—completed two courses in Latin last summer and is taking the advanced courses for six weeks this summer. “She keeps asking me, ‘Can I do summer school again?’” says Garcia. “She’s so excited, she is jumping up and down!”
That’s the kind of enthusiasm about education that Santa Barbara Education Foundation sparks throughout the community. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the foundation supports Santa Barbara Unified School District’s K-12 education in myriad ways.
“Early childhood education is so important,” says Yahyavi. “For every dollar spent in K-12, you get much more back. We keep raising awareness in the community about the importance of investing in K-12, and people are realizing that we have to invest in those early years.”
The many school-based community-enhancing programs the foundation supports address an array of critical K-12 issues, which are not otherwise funded at levels that provide maximum impact. They provide funds for music education and access to the arts in the schools; offer inspiring, educating and role-modeling for at-risk students; address the achievement gap in innovative ways; offer a variety of specialized instruction and support for parents (starting with pre-kindergarten); focus on violence prevention from dating situations to gang activities; teach entrepreneurial skills to high school students; and more.
Yahyavi, who spends much of her time raising the funds to keep these programs going, realizes the impact her work has on the individuals served. “It’s really exciting seeing programs get funded. I get really inspired when I see students whose paths have been changed by opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
School may be out in summer, but thanks to the foundation, plenty of students are still in class. The foundation takes seriously studies that show how effective strong summer school programs can be in helping students reverse learning losses over the summer, making learning gains and supporting low-performing students.
This is the third year the foundation has offered a comprehensive summer school program of for-credit classes that benefit students in many ways. Enrolling in rigorous summer courses allows students to fulfill requirements, enabling them to free their schedules for other classes, and also helps students focus in a way that might not be possible during the school year when they’re juggling a full schedule.
Thanks to generous donors, the summer school program offers financial assistance for low-income students who would not otherwise be able to attend; approximately 42% of those who enrolled last summer received financial aid.
Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s annual event—Honoring Outstanding Public Education, the HOPE Awards—is appropriate, since it offers so much hope and opportunity to students and their families. Yahyavi says, “I’m really grateful so many individuals and family foundations understand the need to fund K-12 programs. It’s my job to increase awareness—and be thankful for those who do!”
For more info about Santa Barbara Education Foundation, call 805/284-9125, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit sbefoundation.org.
Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.