Project Cornerstone Celebrates Our Volunteers

School-based volunteers and school staff honored at annual celebration

YMCA/Project Cornerstone’s annual Volunteer Appreciation event on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 honored the nearly 3,300 adult volunteers who generously donate their time to deliver Project Cornerstone’s School Partnerships programs in schools throughout Silicon Valley:

 ·         The Asset Building Champions (ABC) program brings parent volunteers into elementary school classrooms, using children’s literature to address the difficult topics of bullying, teasing, and peaceful conflict resolution as well as the importance of family support, friendship, and healthy decision making. After reading a story aloud to the children, the parent volunteers lead discussions and hands-on activities that reinforce the story’s lesson. Teachers, parents, and students alike enjoy the lessons and activities that make it easier for children to talk about ways to handle common problems and concerns.

·         Los Dichos enables Spanish-speaking families to share their language and heritage with the entire class, promoting positive cultural identity in students of the same background and increased cultural competence for classmates of different backgrounds.  Parents share stories of their heritage in classrooms while promoting positive values such as cultural pride, tolerance, and healthy decision making.

 These programs reach over 45,990 students each month throughout Silicon Valley.  In addition to recognizing the volunteers in these established programs, Project Cornerstone presented awards that recognize and honor the many administrators, teachers, and volunteers whose school-based efforts help create caring, vibrant learning communities where all students are supported to thrive and achieve.

 Volunteers of the Year

This year, Project Cornerstone honored three Volunteers of the Year—Yolanda Lopez, Jodie Oubre, and Reid Meyers.

 YOLANDA LOPEZ is the Los Dichos coordinator for Lowell Elementary School in San Jose Unified School District.  Yolanda has been a part of the Los Dichos program for 6 years and for the last 3 years has been the site coordinator. For the 400 students at Lowell School and the 10 Los Dichos readers, Yolanda brings the monthly lessons to life. Yolanda goes the extra mile to make sure students enjoy the activities that are part of the lesson. For example, with the book “The Woman Who Outshone the Sun”, she made a life size, three dimensional piece of art of the lead character from the book.  This art piece was used in all of the classrooms and shared with the site coordinators at other schools.

 Yolanda also inspires the students at Lowell to be readers. In her own words, “I really enjoy reading the Los Dichos books because I have seen that modeling reading helps my children. When I read they become more self-motivated to read themselves.” Perhaps no higher “award” can be given to Yolanda than the name the students have given her – “maestra” – Spanish for teacher.  

“Yolanda . . . not only talks the talk – she makes it happen every day. She has taken Los Dichos from a Monday through Friday activity to something that is essential to the Lowell community. Yolanda serves as a model for what could be, and for what MUST be – every single day.”  Emalie McGinnis, Lowell Elementary Principal  

 JODIE OUBRE is the ABC program lead at Graystone Elementary School in San Jose Unified School District.  She serves as the parent lead even though her children have already graduated.  Graystone has 32 parent volunteers. It is an active, involved group of parents and Jodie shows the same level of commitment and dedication to the program as if her own children were still in school there.

 Jodie has also become an integral part of the major events hosted by Project Cornerstone – the Annual Asset Champion Awards Breakfast and the Volunteer Celebration. She has served on the Asset Champion Awards Breakfast Volunteer Committee for 5 years and the past two years has chaired the videography committee. She has also served on the Breakfast decorations committee for all the years of her involvement.  Additionally, she has served as a committee member for the annual Volunteer Celebration and she creates artwork monthly that is shared with other Project Cornerstone schools.

 “Words that come to mind in describing Jodi are dedicated, enthusiastic, creative, dependable and always willing to go the extra mile. She understands the heart of asset building and is unfailingly dependable. She does the extra things that are unexpected and is an invaluable asset to our team.”  Anne Ehresman, Executive Director of Project Cornerstone.

 REID MEYERS is a parent in the Sunnyvale School District and she made certain that Cumberland Elementary was the first in the district to adopt the ABC parent engagement program. She has been the ABC co-lead for 3 years now and has helped spread the ABC program to the rest of the Sunnyvale School District elementary schools.   In addition to volunteering with the ABC program, Reid has taken to heart the goal of ensuring that all children find success and all schools provide high quality educational experiences by successfully campaigning to be a school board member.  As a school board member she actively advocates for the developmental asset model and caring schools.

“Reid has been a dynamic and tireless advocate for Project Cornerstone and the Development Assets in our community and school district. Due to Reid’s leadership the Sunnyvale School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution supporting the Project Cornerstone movement in all district schools. She was also instrumental in the Sunnyvale Challenge Team being recognized recently for using the Developmental Assets as their guiding principles.”  Benjamin Picard, Superintendent Sunnyvale School District.

 Trailblazers Awards  

The Trailblazer Award honors individuals who develop innovative programs to meet the unique needs of their schools and districts this year’s Trailblazer recipients are the following:

 ·         ELIZABETH EASTMAN has been promoting Asset #9, Service to Others at Escondido Elementary in Palo Alto by creating school wide service projects. She recruited other parents and together they work with students at lunchtime to put together their service project.  Some of the things they have done this year include assemble bag lunches for people who need food;  collected Halloween candy to send overseas to the troops along with thank you cards; and making cat toys for a local animal shelter.  The Escondido PTA have created a committee chair position for their community service projects so that these school wide efforts will continue.

 ·         MARWA SABRY is a parent who participated in the Project Cornerstone parent workshops, which are a 6 week intensive group.  It made such an impact that she wanted to share it with others in her community.  Because the materials were only available in English and Spanish, she translated the materials into Arabic to meet the needs of her community. Then in order to provide maximum flexibility she has organized a group of parents that meet weekly using Skype. 

 ·         JULIE DESAI, ALICE LEE, YIHE DENG, JINYAN ZHAN, LING XIAO, BEILI XIANG and WEIHUA ZHOU have worked together to translate the ABC lessons into Mandarin to meet the needs of the large number of parents at Santa Rita Elementary in Los Altos that speak Mandarin Chinese as their primary language.  By working as a group they have managed to translate 4 years of materials and lessons.  Beili is a major contributor to this project even though she lives in China.

 Leadership Lunch Box

Leadership Lunch Box is awarded to school leaders who pioneered Project Cornerstone programs in their districts or who moved to new schools and brought the developmental assets framework with them.

·         Three school district superintendents were recognized for supporting Project Cornerstone in their districts: MAURICE GHYSELS from the Menlo Park City School District, CARY MATSUOKA from the Milpitas Unified SD, and JOHN PORTER from Franklin McKinley School District.

·         Five school principals were recognized for their outstanding efforts to bring Project Cornerstone to new campuses or take it deeper at their school site: SANDRA MCGONAGLE at Blach Junior High in Los Altos School District; LISA HICKEY at Juana Briones Elementary in Palo Alto School District, ELVIA TEXIERIA at P.A. Walsh Elementary in Morgan Hill School District; LISA TAOIAMA at Sedgwick Elementary in Cupertino School District; and DAVID WILCE at Capri Elementary School in Campbell School District..

·         TRACY CRESSIO at Williams Elementary in San Jose Unified School District and RAYLENE NESBIT at Cherry Chase Elementary in Sunnyvale School District were recognized for creating exemplary programs that give students choices during recess; times where bullying behaviors often occur. 

·         BRENDA CARILLO is the Director of Students Services for Palo Alto Unified School District this school year and she has worked diligently with principals and community partners to spread knowledge about developmental assets in the Palo Alto community.  

·         MYRIAM Cordero is the parent liaison at Lynhaven School in Campbell and has been with the Los Dichos program from the very beginning. Myriam has been an outstanding advocate for the program, for the parents, and for the asset of Positive Cultural Identity.  She has helped shy monolingual Spanish speaking parents grow into school leaders as they find their voice through Los Dichos and she has nurtured their leadership development all along the way.  

Another award given to 28 volunteers at the event was the Volar Adelante (“Soaring Forward”) Award presented to school-based volunteers who develop innovative asset-building programs and strategies that meet the unique needs of their communities.  156 volunteers were also recognized with the You Measure Up Award for their efforts to ensure that the ABC and Los Dichos programs were fully implemented at their school sites.

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