SchoolPower supports local campuses with community-minded programs.
By Tanya A. Yacina
Since 1981, SchoolPower, a nonprofit foundation that has been elevating the well-being of school-aged children through educational programing and grants, has worked to unite the community to support local campuses. As the oldest education foundation in Orange County, SchoolPower has certainly evolved over the last 40-plus years, operating successfully due, in large part, to the involvement of Laguna parents and community members who care deeply about the town’s students.
“Our goal is for all community members to unite in support of our schools, whether or not they have children enrolled,” says Sarah Durand, the executive director of SchoolPower.
According to Durand, the key areas that the foundation supports include grants and after-school programs. The grants support all levels of staff, from teachers and counselors to coaches, all of whom encourage innovation while the after-school enrichment programs directly benefit students, with access to everything from music and foreign languages to group sports and classes focused on STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math. In addition, funds are allocated to the Family Resource Center, offering academic support, economic assistance and other services to those in the Laguna Beach Unified School District.
“My hope is that the entire community takes pride in our incredible schools and that SchoolPower can help facilitate that,” Durand notes. “We have a unique … school district and community involvement—from financial support to volunteerism and connections—can make a huge impact.”
With fundraisers, special programming and more, SchoolPower provides enrichment and support for students and their families.
Putting the “Fun” in Fundraisers
One of SchoolPower’s most notable fundraisers—or “funraisers,” as they’re often called—is the annual Dodgeball Tournament. Typically held in October, the thrilling event has been connecting the community for 11 years with hundreds of players and volunteers competing in funky costumes throughout that time. Another beloved event is the Chef Challenge, dreamed up by Lumberyard owners Cary and Suzanne Redfearn. This winter event, held in January, brings together school principals to face off in a cooking competition in pursuit of the Golden Spatula trophy; SchoolPower supporters then enjoy the food and vote on the winners. And coming up is the Three Clubs Barefoot Canyon Classic, which will take place at The Ranch at Laguna Beach on May 22, as well as an annual campaign that begins in the fall. SchoolPower aims to raise $500,000 each year and donors who contribute $100 or more receive Laguna Locals cards for discounts at area businesses.
Generating grants is an important way for SchoolPower to utilize its funds, as they enhance the quality of the education in town. “We award grants in all kinds of areas: academics, athletics, music, visual and performing arts, student experiences, social-emotional support and more,” says Sarah Durand, the foundation’s executive director. With $150,000 budgeted this year alone, applications from teachers, counselors and other staff are reviewed by a committee of SchoolPower volunteers as well as school administrators throughout the year. In the past, these grants have provided supplies for the Peer Mentor Program at Laguna Beach High School, funding for Thurston Middle School’s SMART Rewards program (which provides things like lunch or raffle tickets for those who exhibit positive behavior on campus), materials for the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) labs at local elementary schools, in-water resilience training for the high school surf team and more.
All in the Family
In partnership with the Laguna Beach Unified School District, SchoolPower helps run the Family Resource Center, which provides students and their families with direct access to academic tutoring, financial assistance, summer programs, mental health services, parenting resources and other forms of support. Plus, SchoolPower recently launched after-school programs at El Morro and Top of the World elementary schools in an effort to provide enrichment activities and extra learning for children whose parents also need help with child care once the school day is over. The foundation curates these special experiences for children, ensuring that there is something for those with any interest. In total, SchoolPower has facilitated more than 35 different enrichment classes for students at various school sites, with sessions touching on everything from music, the arts and language skills to science and physical fitness.