After hearing Thomas Russell Middle School Principal Sean Anglon’s wish to install four water-bottle filling stations for his students, Rotary Club of Milpitas President Hon Lien immediately relayed the information to her fellow Rotarians.
The very same week, the local Rotary Club agreed to donate $2,000 to TRMS to fund two water-bottle filling stations.
“If we did not have the CBO event, we would not know what the specific needs are for schools in the district,” said Lien, who doubles as the Board of Education President for the Milpitas Unified School District among other community-based titles.
Lien was one of a dozen representatives from different local and regional organizations to attend MUSD’s inaugural event, “A Perfect Partnership: Community-Based Organizations and MUSD,” which was held virtually on September 8, 2020. Participating CBOs included the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, the Nuñez Foundation, Milpitas Chamber of Commerce, Milpitas Community Education Endowment, Milpitas Lions Club, St. John the Baptist Ladies Guild, Milpitas Cares, Go Milpitas and more.
“Through the CBO with the principals sharing their needs, we were able to fund this small project,” added Lien. “Rotarians are always looking for projects to help support the community, especially with students.”
Principal Anglon, one of a dozen MUSD principals to help host the speed-match-style virtual Zoom event in which the CBOs rotated through breakout rooms learning about each school’s needs, was “ecstatic” when he heard the news. It had been a standing request from TRMS teachers for several years, according to Anglon.
“During a typical school day, even though we have water fountains on campus, very few students would use them to drink or fill their water bottles. Instead, they would either purchase plastic water bottles, which are not good for our environment, or simply wait until break or lunch to get milk or buy a smoothie,” Anglon noted. “Ensuring proper hydration of our student body throughout the school day emerged as the main ‘ask’ for improving our campus environment for students.”
The Milpitas Rotarians did not stop there, also donating $300 toward an outdoor stage project in the works at Mable Mattos Elementary School. According to Mattos Principal Jackie Vo-Felbinger, who teamed with her school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) to co-lead their Zoom breakout room, they had “set a goal to raise funds to build an outdoor stage that can hold and support the entire school and will be used to promote student leadership and collaboration through the performing arts.”
“We envision the outdoor stage as a platform for learning presentations and school celebrations, and become a focal point for the community,” Vo-Felbinger added.
An innovation of Superintendent Cheryl Jordan, Board President Hon Lien, and Vice President Chris Norwood, the virtual event was developed to create new opportunities for MUSD to build relationships with potential Community-Based Organization partners. The 90-minute session’s goal, spurred by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, was “to ensure our teachers, caregivers and students have the best school year possible during these uncertain times,” Jordan explained.
Norma Morales, the Latinx Community Liaison for Secondary Schools, likened the CBO event to “being a kid in a candy store,” with the community funders fulfilling the needs she presented to them.
“Seeing all these amazing organizations willing and wanting to listen to us and just support us was wonderful,” said Morales, whose wish list included funds “to alleviate some of the financial hardship our most vulnerable families are going through right now due to the pandemic,” such as vouchers to pay for their utility bills and bus passes. “They listened to all of our requests. They were very excited.”
Weller Elementary School Principal Deanna Sainten was just as excited to make her pitch to the CBO representatives. She prepared for the event by quickly gathering ideas from her staff about what was on their wishlist for Weller and categorizing them.
“As I met with the different organizations, I asked them, ‘What (kind of) partnership are you looking for?,’” said Sainten, who made a match with the Nuñez Family organization on acquiring internet hotspots for families.
Jill Nuñez, who wears many community organization hats as well including the Nuñez Foundation, said she “found the event very enjoyable” and even hoped for more time with each school leader to be able to make a connection.
“I enjoyed hearing from the different schools and learning what each of their needs were,” added Mark Simmons, of Christ Community Church. “I was really impressed by all the principals.”
School Linked Services Coordinator Nicole Steward enjoyed the event format, allowing her to talk with representatives from several organizations.
“It was like being in a candy shop, only it was about funding for our students,” Steward said.
“My request was funding for SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) kits that we can do for our kids so they can stay connected with each other and with us. We are really hoping some of our community funders will support the mental health needs and wellness of our students.”
Ann Zeise, founder of gomilpitas.com and CBO event participant, posted the wishlists from each school principal on her website at https://gomilpitas.com/education/a-perfect-partnership-school-program-needs/.