The Impact of Impact100 Sonoma

One expects an elementary school to be abuzz with energy, but at El Verano and Sassarini Schools that energy extends well beyond normal school hours thanks to a series of new classes offered by Sonoma Valley Parent University.

Members of Impact100 Sonoma were recently given the opportunity to learn more about the history of Parent University and its progress in Sonoma Valley since receiving the $100,000 Impact Grant last May.  In addition, attendees heard from representatives of the two $20,000 finalist awards: 10,000 Degrees and ACR at Bouverie Preserve.


Following a welcome from Impact100 president Celia Canfield and Impact Grant Chair, Grace Meeks, each speaker talked about the impact of the grants received.

On The Move

PUParent University is a project of On The Move that works on school campuses in both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Family Engagement Director Susana Garcia explained that the goal of Sonoma Valley Parent University (SVPU) is to provide parents with the skills, knowledge, and tools to support their children’s education. This is achieved by offering a variety of classes in a safe and welcoming learning environment – the campuses of El Verano and Sassarini Schools. Four strategies have led to the success of this program:  an outgoing, friendly, bilingual staff; offering topics that parents want; classes scheduled throughout the day; and free childcare. Twenty classes have been held since January 2015 with 262 parents enrolled. The most popular class is English as a Second Language (ESL), with 35 people on the waiting list.

Ana RiosEl Verano Principal Maite Iturri emphasized the diversity of classes offered – everything from computers to Zumba. She described the impact of parents working on academics at home and the children’s pride in seeing moms and dads on the school campus. El Verano Site Coordinator Ana Rios (left) described her own involvement in the program, the skills she has gained, and the impact the program has made on the families participating in SVPU. She explained: “Along with learning opportunities, parents have been able to get away from the day-to-day routines, escape isolation, and create new friendships. This has truly made a difference in their lives, and in the lives of their children.”

John Petersen, Executive Director, shared some of the history of ACR, which began in 1962 as a grassroots organization to save Bolinas Lagoon from development. Since that time, they have been active in a variety of efforts focusing on land protection, science and research, and education. Today they are probably best known for their role in outdoor education and the variety of activities that they offer including those at the Bouverie Preserve, which they acquired in 1979. John emphasized the importance of “getting kids out on the land. They will be solving the environmental problems of the future, so it is important for them to explore, pick up a newt or a banana slug – make a connection with nature.”


Over the course of its history, ACR has offered programs free of charge to 200,000 children – mostly 3rd and 4th graders – at Bouverie and Bolinas combined.  Some of those students became eligible for a more in-depth experience as 5th graders.  As all ACR staff are trained scientists, they are interested in engaging kids in real science. The support from Impact100 will allow the development of a week-long summer science expedition program for underserved students in grades 8-12 that will launch in June of 2016. A total of 40 students (two week-long sessions with 20 students per week) will be involved in actual research projects at Bouverie Preserve.

10,000 Degrees
10,000 Degrees started in Marin County 35 years ago, but for the last five years they have been serving both Marin and Sonoma Counties. Their goal has always been putting 10,000 students on the path toward college. The grant from Impact100 Sonoma will allow them to expand their work at Sonoma Valley High School and to launch a new program at Hanna Boys Center.

VP1Traci Lanier (left), Vice President, detailed the numerous ways that high school students in the 10,000 Degrees Institute receive support that move them along a path toward college. Sophomores selected for the Institute begin living on a college campus for a week and attending a series of how-to workshops:  preparing for the SAT, writing a resume, reducing stress, etc… all helping students see themselves as college material. 10,000 Degrees staff and alumnae continue working with them for the next two years to help them navigate what classes to take, get tutoring, complete college applications, and apply for financial aid.  Once in college, the support continues resulting in a graduation success rate of 84%.

GimmelGymmel Garcia (right), a 10,000 Degree alum who now serves as a college advisor at Sonoma Valley High School, provided personal stories of two students with whom she is working. One is Eduardo, currently a senior from a family with undocumented status. The second was a young man from Nepal who came to Sonoma Valley speaking little English. She described them as “phenomenal students,” but with doubts in their abilities and more questions than answers. The Institute has helped them both to focus and succeed, and Gymmel has been a perfect role model for them.  She, too, was the first person in her family to go to college, and she was also undocumented. The students she advises see that she overcame her struggles, and this has a profound impact on their aspirations.

The event closed with a reminder about membership renewal from Gera Vaz, Chair of Membership; encouragement from Grace Meeks to join a grant review committee; and thank yous from Co-President Wendy Hoffman.

Supporting the work of nonprofits such as these is what Impact100 Sonoma is all about… and sometimes a little bit more.  Because what was equally striking about this event was that each of the three programs described above complemented one another and that ideas of collaboration were being generated. Perhaps an even greater impact on our community lies ahead.


Photos courtesy of Bari Williams, On The Move, and ACR