Year Founded: 1986
Staff: 7 paid, 375 volunteers
The Big Idea: Every year, ARIEL provides an opportunity for elementary and middle school kids from Monterey County to attend a show at Sherwood Hall in Salinas. For many of the students (some 250,000 since 1986), this is their first or only exposure to live theater. The cast includes between 50 and 70 young actors, ages 7 to 17, which allows the cast to show the end result of their hard work to their peers, and introduces audience members to the possibility of singing, dancing and acting on stage. Although tickets prices are low – $2.75 per student – budget cuts to arts programs and increasing transportation costs prevent schools from attending. The 2012 show is The Hobbit, and ARIEL’s Big Idea is to foot the bill so 18,000 students can attend for free.
Life Imitates Art: “My love of theatre was born here but I didn’t just learn to act here. Through ARIEL I have discovered how a sensible adult should act and how to become a solid human being within our community.”
Bay View Academy
Year Founded: 2011
Staff: 15 paid, 200 volunteers
Budget: $1 million
The Big Idea: Bay View Academy, a new public charter school open to students within the MPUSD boundaries, has the Big Idea that public schools are the foundation of society – and that despite Draconian budget cuts, public education can succeed when community and parents are integral participants. At BVA kids will learn the importance of civic duty and community. Partnerships with local businesses and education associations are written into the charter and the school is mandated to incorporate these relationships into the formal curriculum. But first, it needs to cover school start-up costs. Federal and state grants are slow coming, so BVA took out a loan to cover teacher salaries and educate hundreds of students. The loan is running out, government funds are still months away and BVA’s got kids to teach. The school can subsist at state-funded levels, but it cannot thrive without financial help from the community during its first year.
School Pride: “We’re inspired by the dedication of this community school and thrilled to be a part. We have renewed hope for our son’s education.”
Monterey Bay Blues Festival-Blues in the Schools
Year Founded: 1986
Staff: 1 paid, hundreds of volunteers
The Big Idea: The primary goal of the Monterey Bay Blues Festival since its start has been to keep the blues alive, and pass its history to the younger generation. Its Blues in the Schools (BITS) program makes this happen – but it’s run out of money. In 2008, BITS brought music workshops to 10 school districts and nonprofits, 16 in 2009 and 24 in 2010. But in 2011, as donors had less money to give to MBBF, the budget could only fund the student honor band composed of about 12 local student musicians. Schools want BITS back, and the in-school workshops can begin as soon as funding is available: $53,000 would allow BITS to reestablish 20 in-school workshop programs. The programs may kick-off with a school-wide assembly about the impact of blues on modern music, with professional musicians playing and talking about the blues. Or they may be four – or five-week workshops with a small group of students selected by their teachers. It’s up to the individual schools.
Inspiring Greatness: “Playing with the Honor Band is inspirational – not academic. This is pure music creation and I actually enjoy doing it and being here.”
Year Founded: 1983
Staff: 43 paid, 100 volunteers
The Big Idea: Physically based learning variations affect 15 to 20 percent of all people, across all languages and cultures. Although they make up less than a quarter of the population, people with learning challenges comprise 40 to 70 percent of those in the juvenile justice and adult prison systems. Chartwell is the only local school specializing in educating children and teens whose learning style prevents them from succeeding in traditional classrooms, despite normal or better intelligence. It does this through small class sizes (averaging 10 students) and incorporating technology with language arts, math and science, as well as music, drama, art, and wellness and fitness. It works: More than 90 percent of Chartwell alumni complete high school and more than 70 percent attend college. In 2012, the school will launch its new high school project, adding the 12th grade and graduating its first seniors. With community support, it will offer financial aid to more than 40 percent of students.
Talented and Gifted: “Since people with learning variations are often gifted in the arts, science, design, and outside-the-box thinking, our community cannot afford to lose their potential.”
Community of Caring Monterey Peninsula
Year Founded: 1999
Staff: 2 paid, 50 volunteers
The Big Idea: Community of Caring Monterey Peninsula’s CHOICES encourages students to stay in school and focus on education so they have better career options in the future. Business and community volunteers facilitate one-hour interactive, decision-making workshop sessions that take eighth – or ninth-grade students through real-world exercises on academic self-discipline, time and money management and goal setting. More than 5,000 students have participated since the program started in 2009. In 2012, Community of Caring Monterey Peninsula will launch CHOICES-Cultivating Caring Communities, expanding opportunities for community members to support youth success. Businesses invest in youth, youth invest in their education and the whole community wins.
Return on Investment: “Ever since you came and told me about my future, I’ve become more serious about college and my education.”
Everett Alvarez High School French Club
Year Founded: 1997
Staff: 2 volunteers
The Big Idea: As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” Through travel to French-speaking countries, this nonprofit gives high schoolers the opportunity to interact with people from other cultures while learning about the world and improving their language skills. To date, the club has taken six trips. Everett Alvarez is a school where 68 percent of students receive free lunches. The families can’t afford to send their kids abroad, so the students have to fundraise to pay for the trip. In June 2012, the club will travel to France for 15 days; 20 students have signed up at a cost of $4,000 each. They’ll visit large cities and towns, and tour castles, museums, ruins, markets and a graveyard. Up until then, the students and families will meet once a week for planning, plus extra sessions for fundraising and parent meetings; the group accrues no overhead except for international bank card fees. Barely 10 percent of Everett Alvarez grads go on to attend a four-year college or university, more than 80 percent of French club members do.
Expanding Horizons: “Our French club travelers leave Salinas, many for the first time, and learn to manage themselves in a foreign culture they have been learning about.”
Year Founded: 2002
Staff: 3 paid, 15 volunteers
The Big Idea: In Monterey County, low-income neighborhoods face minimal access in fresh produce. Some 21 percent of Monterey County teens were considered obese in 2007, according to the Monterey County Health Profile. That’s about 22,499 teens. Lifestyle changes, access to fresh produce and nutrition education can help. Everyone’s Harvest runs the Marina, Pacific Grove and Alisal Certified Farmers Markets. In 2010, the nonprofit launched an Edible Education for Healthy Youth program teaching youth about nutrition, small-scale family farmers and local produce. In 2012, it will reach out to more youth and their parents. New aspects of the program include: interactive nutritional presentations at various after-school clubs informing youth about the importance of healthy eating and where to get fresh food; healthy cooking workshops engaging family members in our outdoor kitchen to preparing healthy recipes alongside a chef; farmers market scavenger hunts helping youth discover the bounty of nutritious food and connect with local agriculture. Community funding means more families receive free nutritional lessons, fresh produce and $5 market coupons.
Five a Day: “Everyone’s Harvest Edible Ed program revealed to my family a love for farmers’ market produce and supported our youth’s emotional healing through good healthy cooking.”
Seniors Council Foster Grandparent Program
Year Founded: 1979
Staff: 5 paid, 241 volunteers
The Big Idea: Foster Grandparents (very-low income seniors who volunteer 20 hours a week) are often the only other adult, besides the teacher, in a classroom already stressed by the current education budget crisis. According to 15 years of survey data from teachers, foster grandparents calm classrooms by 80 percent because they mentor and tutor children whose behavior is disruptive to the classroom and academic underachievers who demand a disproportionate amount of a teacher’s time. In 2012, the program will recruit the next generation of seniors – Baby Boomers now approaching retirement age – just as Monterey County classrooms increase in size and lose professional staff. The nonprofit needs money to recruit, interview and screen applicants, conduct criminal records checks, provide training prior to and during classroom assignments, monitor volunteer performance and pay benefits monthly. Without it, low-income baby boomers with decades of life experience will become a large and underutilized cohort of seniors not available to make a difference in the academic performance and classroom behavior of underachieving students. Each dollar of funding received will be matched by $9 federal, $1 CalTrans and $1 Harden Foundation, or 11:1 funding leverage.
Morning Gloria: “Grandma Gloria is an excellent person. She helps children with catching up on their skills. I don’t know what we would do without her.”
Monterey County Fair Heritage Foundation
Year Founded: 1989
Staff: 40 volunteers
The Big Idea: Let’s teach kids where their food comes from. In 2012, the Heritage Foundation will promote agriculture literacy on the Monterey Peninsula. It currently supports School Tour Day during the annual county fair – more than 600 students visit the fair and learn about local ag. But with additional funding, the nonprofit can bus in an additional 500 school children to the fair and provide teachers with curriculum and $100 in books related to ag literacy. Kids will become more aware of how and where their food is grown, and this educational experience can also encourage health, nutrition and fitness. Start ’em early and they’ll retain these lessons into adolescence and beyond.
Farming Frenzy: “I have participated in School Tour Day for 14 years. It is an invaluable educational experience for my class and I wouldn’t miss it!”
Girls Inc. of the Central Coast
Year Founded: 1999
Staff: 4 paid, 42 volunteers
The Big Idea: One in every 5.4 adult women in Monterey County has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, according to the report “The Lives of Women and Girls in Monterey County,” and 55 percent of 11th-grade girls have reported harassment based on race, religion, gender, actual or perceived sexual orientation and other factors. Girls Inc. gives girls the leadership skills to confront and speak out against violence. In 2012, its Big Idea is a one-day violence-prevention leadership conference for 200 high-school aged girls from all over Monterey County. From 9am to 5pm, girls will attend workshops facilitated by experts on self-defense, violence and leadership and learn what girls can do to protect and help themselves, and their communities from violence, bullying, sexual abuse and verbal harassment. Community funds will also allow Girls Inc. to rent buses to transport girls to a yet-to-be-determined conference on the Peninsula.
Run the World: “Girls Inc. empowers girls to go further than they ever thought possible and it will continue to do so for the generations of girls it touches.”
Harmony At Home
Year Founded: 2004
Staff: 22 paid, 28 volunteers
The Big Idea: Harmony At Home, which helps children and families learn alternatives to violence and abuse, is expanding, and in 2012 wants to see its programs in junior high schools countywide. Its new youth program and film is called Choices, and it was created to teach youth how to set goals and overcome obstacles through education and healthy choices. The program was tested at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County earlier this year and now it’s ready to launch – provided it receives funding.
It Starts At Home: “Our belief is that if the family system is functioning well, this will filter out into our communities and schools and Monterey County will be a safer and more peaceful place to reside in. We are promoting violence prevention programs, which are helping this current generation choose alternatives to violence. We are focusing on prevention of gang affiliation as well as bully prevention within the schools.”
Hartnell College Foundation
Year Founded: 1979
Staff: 7 paid, 250 volunteers
The Big Idea: Hartnell College Foundation has a plan to improve graduation rates, help students find careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and change the economic conditions of families living in the Salinas Valley. In other words, its Big Idea reaches for the stars – with the help of NASA. Hartnell is the only community college in California to partner with NASA, and the Hartnell’s NASA SEMAA (Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy) Project introduces math and science to local undeserved and K-12 students, targeting Latino youth. It gets students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through hands-on training with a flight simulator, gravity machine, wind tunnel and weather station at the Aeropsace Lab at the Alisal Campus. The program will serve 625 students in a year. It also encourages parental involvement through the Family Cafe, which helps parents interact with their kids, offers alternatives to gangs and discusses the ethnic and gender gap in STEM jobs. NASA provides the initial funding, but Hartnell needs to raise $100,000 a year to keep it going.
Putting the Community in Community College: “In the Hartnell community there are plenty of people willing to help. You almost get the feeling they’re more motivated than you to make sure you finish.”
International School of Monterey
Year Founded: 1998
Staff: 46 paid, 800 volunteers
Budget: $3.1 million
The Big Idea: The public charter school’s Big Idea for 2012 and beyond (it’s a three-year process) is to become an International Baccalaureate World School. The tuition-free school that enrolls students through a public lottery process is already accredited by the Council of International Schools – one of nine U.S. schools and the first public charter school among 325 CIS-accredited schools worldwide – and fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. But after a yearlong feasibility study, International School of Monterey decided to align its curriculum with the world-renowned IB programs, and in the spring of 2011, ISM applied for and received candidacy status for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, which covers grades K-5, and Middle Years Programme, which covers grades 6-8. It’s asking for community funds to cover additional annual costs for IB training, staffing, planning and materials.
World Studies: “Our becoming Monterey County’s first International Baccalaureate World School will be a big deal for the whole community because it will further elevate the quality of our educational program to the benefit of the many families who choose our school as the best place for their children to learn.”
The Lyceum of Monterey County
Year Founded: 1960
Staff: 4 paid, 30 volunteers
The Big Idea: The Lyceum wants to inspire in kids a life-long love of learning. Starting in the fall of 2011 and continuing through 2012, it’s expanding its academic programs to focus on middle school students, and coordinating this effort with the Community of Caring of the Monterey Peninsula, the California Writers Project’s Digital Storytelling Program, the National Steinbeck Center, the Monterey County Office of Education, and experts in science and math curricula. The programs include History Day for students and a Model United Nations for middle schoolers – the first event was held April 14 with 5 middle schools participating. It also hosts a Space Adventure for grades five through 7, coordinated by Bob DeWeese, with participation of NASA astronaut Jim Newman, Ching Planetarium and Chabot Science Center.
Glory Days of History: “I hope that you will stay around to take History Day of Monterey County back to the glory days of past – where the rooms were full of posters and kids from all schools participated in large numbers.”
Friends of Monterey Academy of Oceanographic Science
Year Founded: 1994
Staff: 1 paid, 72 volunteers
The Big Idea: Considering its location – on the Monterey Bay, surrounded by world-class oceanographic research outfits – it makes sense that Monterey High School’s MAOS would have state-of-the-art technology to accompany the advanced math and science applications it teaches students. In 2012, it hopes to take the program deeper. MAOS recently received the classroom space (a former woodshop facility) to create a technology lab, which will give real-world, hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering and math. Now it needs community support to outfit it with computer-aided design (CAD), simulation and statistics, a robotics lab where student build and test underwater remotely operated vehicles, marine tanks and research equipment in which students will design and test their own hypotheses and – fingers crossed – a 3-D printer to supplement the CAD engineering software.
Jobs for Grads: “I am sure that MAOS gave me the advantage I needed to be successful at the University of California Irvine, at my job at the Naval Postgraduate School, and with my friends. Thank you.”
Marine Life Studies Monterey Bay
Year Founded: 2006
Staff: 0 paid, 70 volunteers
The Big Idea: As schools suffer from state budget cuts, nonprofit education programs – like Marine Life Studies – play an increasingly vital role. And if Marine Life Studies doesn’t help kids research and learn about conserving and protecting the oceans, environment and marine mammals, who will? MLS provides educational programs to schools and Boys & Girls Clubs. It needs funding for its Marine Life Studies Whale and Marine Wildlife Adventure Program, a free classroom study and whale-watching project for kids and teens. Class activities include a photographic journey, fun facts and hands-on activities. Students learn how to recognize and identify whales, dolphins and other marine wildlife, and how the animals eat, sleep and stay warm. During the whale watch, they learn about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary as they experience the sounds, smells and feel of the ocean.
Oceans Apart: “MLS educational programs provide children the opportunity to discover they have an interest in becoming scientists to study the oceans, or in becoming active stewards of the environment, or to know they have the power to create positive change now and for future generations.”
Monterey Peninsula College Foundation
Year Founded: 1994
Staff: 4 paid, 39 volunteers
The Big Idea: It sounds like an anxiety dream: the first day of school at MPC and you’ve received a map of your classrooms, the cafeteria, the library. But you can’t see it. For the 100 low-vision and blind students enrolled in the college, it’s more than a bad dream. The MPC Foundation wants to make Braille/tacticle maps so all students can find their way on campus. It’s raised $1,000 of the $10,050 total cost to date. With community funds, the project will display centrally located permanent display maps that include all buildings, walking paths, bus stops, cross walks and recreation areas. It will install additional Braille/tactile maps in high-traffic areas such as the High Tech Center for the Disabled and MPC Library, and make available collapsible folded maps with large print and Braille features.
Higher Education for Everyone: There are currently 900 student-veterans at MPC, many who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan blind or visually impaired.
Monterey Bay Christian School
Year Founded: 1980
Staff: 25 paid, 30 volunteers
Budget: $ 1.1 million
The Big Idea: Its curriculum has a heavy emphasis on basic skills in reading, English grammar, writing and mathematics. In 2012, Monterey Bay Christian School wants to put money behind art and better technology in its classrooms. It’s asking for local dollars to buy art equipment and supplies for both campuses, fund a mobile art center and pay stipends to visiting artists, which will build a more complete art program for its K-8 classes. The private school will partner with art students at CSUMB and area artists to help provide instruction, teaching kids art concepts and showing them its effect on the community.
Holistic Learning: “The primary purpose of MBCS is to assist parents by providing a quality school environment so that children’s physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual needs are met.”
Year Founded: 1997
Staff: 12 paid, 38 volunteers
The Big Idea: Imagine a community whose citizens are creatively bankrupt, where a sense of whimsy and fun is a thing of the past. It may not be that far off. Today kids spend more time passively ingesting someone else’s creativity instead of exploring their own. Kindergarteners have increasingly less time for play and artistic expression, and more than 30,000 schools in the U.S. no longer have recess (free play). MY Museum actively works against a world without curiosity and creativity. Its exhibits educate kids and adults, allowing families to learn together through experience. In 2012, it wants to bring even more families and school groups through its doors through its Two Dollar Tuesday program and subsidized school field trips. Both make the museum more accessible to all kids living in Monterey County.
Family Fun: “So glad we have a resource like MY Museum in our community. I don’t know where I would take the kids without it!”
National Coalition Building Institute, Monterey County
Year Founded: 1993
Staff: 4 paid, 12 volunteers
The Big Idea: Last year’s premier event – made possible by MC Gives! 2010 funds – was a smashing success, so in 2012 NCBI will host the second annual Generation Diversity Celebration, again with the help of community funds. The nonprofit’s student leaders from four county high schools, Palma, Carmel, Seaside and Marina, will soon meet for leadership training. They’ll drive the end result and determine what the celebration will look like, although current suggestions run the gamut from an Embassy Suites gala to an informal picnic. Regardless, the day will honor local teens who volunteer 15 hours or more for their social justice and diversity awareness work. Also new this year: In addition to designing social justice projects on their own schools – such as a Diversity Day or Martin Luther King Day or Service – NCBI schools will plan a county-wide project.
Building Leaders: “Students will use their NCBI skills to promote diversity in efforts to make their schools and communities safer and more culturally competent.”
Year Founded: 2009
Staff: 30 volunteers
The Big Idea: How to get kids excited about opera? Make an app for it. Occhiata, established in memory of Maestro Theodore L. Gargiulo and founded to engage the artistic sensibilities of youth through opera, has an interactive program that often leads to students downloading arias from Carmen onto their iPods and discovering pop heroes like Beyoncé sing opera. The nonprofit takes students, families and teachers to see a live HD broadcast of an opera from the Metropolitan in New York City at Del Monte Center’s Century Cinemas – breakfast snacks and lunch included – and then follows it up with a conversation at a later date. Students who participate are enrolled in Occhiata’s Opera Ambassador program, which gets them free tickets to future performances. Occhiata’s expanding its outreach to students countywide, including Rancho Cielo, and it needs additional funds – about $3,000 per school. It would like to add three new schools to support its programming in 2012.
First Look: “Students were exposed to an art form that none of them had experienced and few knew anything about.”
Year Founded: 1983
Staff: 30 paid, 50 volunteers
The Big Idea: Foster youth are twice as likely to drop out of high school as their peers. This stems from a host of factors, including being born chemically dependent, behavioral problems from past trauma, and mental and physical health issues from an abusive or neglectful past. Peacock Acres’ Learning Center currently provides one-on-one academic support to foster teens living in one of its four residential programs. In 2012, with community support, it will provide supervised tutoring services to any and all Monterey County students in foster care who have been suspended, expelled and/or are currently fulfilling their graduation requirements. The new Learning Center will increase graduation rates among foster youth and decrease their chances of being homeless or incarcerated after leaving the foster care system.
Path to Success: “At Peacock Acres, we recognize our youth’s potential beyond foster care and we strive to prepare them so that when they exit our programs, they are versed in independent living skills like budgeting, grocery shopping and cooking, and are capable of securing a stable residence and job without relying on criminal means.”
Samz School of Music
Year Founded: 2009
Staff: 7 volunteers
The Big Idea: Many local schools don’t offer music education. Samz’ Big Idea is to change this. Currently the nonprofit offers affordable private music instruction for musicians ages 8 to 16 at its North Salinas facility and holds summer music camps and periodic workshops for guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, vocals and stage performance skills. It’s asking for local dollars so in 2012 it can provide year-round music instruction in schools, utilizing spare classrooms and unused instruments that fell victim to budget cuts. More kids have access to music education – and have opportunities to demonstrate their creativity and self-expression.
Community Help, and Jack Black: “We have the interested youth right now and only need a little help from our community to succeed in fulfilling these kids’ dreams and keep them occupied through music.”
Youth Arts Collective (YAC)
Year Founded: 2000
Staff: 5 paid, 25 volunteers
The Big Idea: Studies repeatedly show kids with access to arts education perform better in schools and are more likely to graduate. Here in Monterey County, look to YACsters as proof. YAC’s after-school program in Monterey includes studio and gallery space, tools, supplies and training for youth ages 14 to 22. Nearly 100 percent of these graduate from high school and 93 percent attend colleges and universities, many with acceptances and scholarships based partially on art created at YAC. In 2011, through community donations, YAC opened its doors six days a week, four-hours daily, year round. In 2012 – depending on additional funding – it will expand the program and add an additional artist-mentor to better serve more students. New plans also include more shows and fundraisers, and hosting an interactive art weekend event in the summer that allows for more community participation.
Do Art, Be Kind: “YAC has made me an artist, a thinker and someone who is passionate about making my community better. It creates more than good art. It creates good people.”
El Sistema Salinas/Youth Orchestra of the Salinas valley
Year Founded: 2010
Staff: 10 paid, 60 volunteers
The Big Idea: It’s social change through classical music. The El Sistema Venezuela model targets kids with the fewest resources and offers free, year-round classical music education, three hours a day, five days a week after school and in the summer. This model of creating musicians and improving communities has worked in other cities and counties; to date it’s improving lives of hundreds of Salinas’ kids, too. The Salinas Elementary School District reports a 75 percent decrease in absenteeism for students participating in YOSAL. And if they’re in school, and practicing music after school, they’re less likely to get in trouble. So in 2012, it’s asking the community to help YOSAL reach more kids – and imagine youth safe from harm and free from gang pressures, filled with self-worth and courage. Imagine a county where every neighborhood’s pride is its youth orchestra, and where every child can make joyful music.
healing through music: “My daughter’s happier than she’s been in months. Her father died in 2009 and it affected her a lot. Thanks to YOSAL, she is progressing.”