Rancho Santa Fe student council celebrates a year of giving back with special assembly


By Karen Billing

The R. Roger Rowe School’s Community Service Learning program celebrated a year’s worth of giving back to the community with a special assembly on May 24. At the assembly, the middle school student council presented checks to various nonprofits the council raised funds for throughout the year.

Assistant Principal Paul Coco said the students did a great job representing their school by donating their “time, talent and treasure” and learning the importance of philanthropy.

This year the students held a canned food drive for Feed America; collected 200 books in a book drive for the Monarch School for homeless youth; held a hot dog cookout and newspaper and blanket drive for the Helen Woodward Animal Center; and held a shoe-cutting party to support Sole Hope, an organization that provides closed-toe shoes for children in Africa.

The cloth cut during shoe cutting parties helps create jobs for women in Uganda who sew the shoes to put on children’s feet. The cloth from the party will result in shoes for 160 people.

Leticia Castellanos, the librarian at Monarch School, was caught off guard by the donation at Friday’s assembly. She had no idea that she would be receiving books that day.

“This is an amazing surprise,” Castellanos said. “The kids will be very excited.”

Renee Resko, director of development at Helen Woodward, brought Charlie, a 3-month-old puppy up for adoption along with her to accept the students’ contribution.

“We couldn’t do what we do without you guys,” Resko told the students. “You guys are an example for other kids in the community.”

The middle schoolers also supported an organization started by the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project that student council advisor and teacher Maureen Cassarino is involved with called Literacy Lifeboats, which helps restock libraries and school materials lost in the New York area due to Hurricane Sandy.

“The work that you do is reaching out all over the globe,” Cassarino said. “This student council has done an amazing job, working hard to make the school better but also make the world a better place.”

As an added boost, the middle schoolers’ efforts were matched in funds and in hands-on help from Dave Baker and Steve Knight who run the Philanthropy Club Foundation through the Coastal Community Foundation.

As local philanthropists, Baker and Knight started the Philanthropy Club as a way to help children learn about the art of giving. The pair not only helped plan events at Rowe (they cooked close to 200 hot dogs at the hot dog cookout) but they contributed $5,000 to the students’ causes.

Typically, Knight and Baker work with third-graders and this was their first middle school program. Paired with local schools such as Solana Highlands in Carmel Valley and Solana Vista in Solana Beach, their organization has helped over 30 nonprofits throughout San Diego.

“These guys just rose to the top of the heap,” Knight said of Rowe students. “They did an incredible job this year.”

“I can’t wait for next year’s project,” Baker said.

Knight said that the Philanthropy Club program is looking to expand into even more local schools. For more information, contact the foundation at (760) 942-9245.