It takes more than a classroom, a teacher and a pen and pencil to produce a well-rounded education.
That’s why we support Give Big St. Helena, the annual fundraiser put on by the St. Helena Public Schools Foundation and the parent groups for the four public schools.
You can donate online at givebigsthelena.com. The month-long fundraiser culminates this weekend, starting Friday, March 21, when students will be collecting donations in front of their schools. You’ll also find them in front of Sunshine Foods Friday through Sunday.
On Friday, March 29, students will celebrate the end of Give Big with Run Big, a color run starting in front of the high school at 11:15 a.m. and continuing to RLS, the elementary school, and the primary school. Runners will be covered in colorful powder as they reach each school.
Thanks to local property values, the St. Helena Unified School District is one of the most well-funded districts in the state. So why should we give even more money to the schools?
We posed that question to three of Give Big’s organizers: Anna Chouteau, Cecilia Raffo and Jeanmarie Wolf. Their answers were thoughtful, multifaceted and convincing.
First, remember that the district’s sizable budget covers all the basics: salaries, benefits, school supplies, etc. It keeps the lights on and gives students access to well-trained teachers and clean, safe campuses.
Give Big funds the extras: Field trips, guest speakers, arts and drama programs, student clubs, special projects – all the enhancements that make learning fun, interactive and meaningful to students.
For example, it’s one thing to read a textbook or watch a video about the role of the aquatic habitat in our ecosystem. The district has that covered. But it’s quite another thing to hike through Bothe-Napa Valley State Park while a naturalist points out the flora and fauna and helps you identify that bug you found skipping along the surface of Ritchie Creek.
That experience of applying book learning to the world around you – that’s where Give Big comes in.
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A second reason to support Give Big relates to equality. At a lot of public schools, educational enhancements come at a price. Parents are asked to kick in a few dollars for field trips, camps, or materials for woodshop or photography classes. Even in well-to-do places like Mill Valley, parents are asked to donate to support core educational expenses like Spanish education and instructional aides.
St. Helena schools have set aside more subsidies for field trips and programs in recent years, but Give Big ensures that all students get the same high-quality education, regardless of how wealthy their families are.
A third reason to donate to Give Big involves school spirit and student participation. Unlike the wine auctions of yore, Give Big engages students in the fundraising process and incentivizes them to get involved.
If the primary school meets its fundraising goal, Principal Tamara Sanguinetti will dress up as Mrs. “Penguinetti.” High school Principal Ben Scinto will parade around campus in a tutu. What student wouldn’t want to see their principal in a tutu?
There’s also the high school’s penny jar war, pitting the four classes against one another. Friendly competitions like that appeal a lot more to students than a fancy wine auction. (They also happen to be a lot cheaper and easier to organize.)
As of early this week, Spottswoode had given the top donation of $10,000. But Give Big’s “give what you can” format lets everybody participate. Even the first-grader who’s been saving up loose change can feel like she’s investing in some fun activity for the next school year.
That brings us to the last reason to support Give Big: the uniqueness of the experiences.
A lot of kids might never visit a state park if it weren’t for trips to Bothe and Yosemite. Bagels and Buddies at the primary school might be the only time they get to read a book with Dad. A trip to the Exploratorium in San Francisco might give them their first glimpse of the ocean. The book they get for their birthday might be one of the only ones in the house. A visit from Cafeteria Kids Theater might finally give a shy kid the self-confidence to step onstage and sing a song. An author visit might inspire a child to become a bigger reader – or even an author.
Those are the moments that inspire joy, curiosity and a lifelong love of learning. Our kids deserve as many of those inspiring moments as we can give them.
So let’s all Give Big.