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Mary Crum, Raylene Nesbit, Linda Silvius, Michal Ramon, Soma McCandless, Lori Maitski

Mary Crum, Raylene Nesbit, Linda Silvius, Michal Ramon, Soma McCandless, Lori Maitski

Project Cornerstone, an initiative of the YMCA of Silicon Valley, held it’s annual Volunteer Appreciation event on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.  The event honored the nearly 3,800 adult volunteers who generously donate their time to deliver Project Cornerstone’s School Partnerships programs to 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.

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 54,717 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—Soma McCandless, Michal Ramon, and Raylene Nesbit.

SOMA MCCANDLESS is a parent volunteer in the Cupertino School District.  She began as an ABC reader and then became the ABC lead at Stocklmeir Elementary School.  As an ABC lead she worked to bring a cyberbullying prevention component to the ABC lessons.  This past year she developed newsletter summaries and a lesson outline for all 24 ABC lessons.  These contributions have been utilized by the 3,350 ABC parent volunteers to be more effective in the classrooms and to share the ABC program with parents in the school communities.

MICHAL RAMON is the ABC lead at Blossom Hill Elementary School in the Los Gatos School District.  She was instrumental in the development of the ABC Preschool Program which she and a few friends piloted 4 years ago at the Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos.

The ABC preschool program has since grown to 16 preschools in Silicon Valley.  Michal has also partnered with the Los Gatos Public Library to have volunteers read the ABC book of the month to families on the first Tuesday and Thursday of each month.  Starting in the fall she has arranged for students from Fisher Middle School to be doing the volunteer reading in the library.

RAYLENE NESBIT is a volunteer at Cherry Chase Elementary School in the Sunnyvale School District.  Raylene has been in charge of the noontime program for a number of years and makes certain that all noon aides complete the Take It Personally  6-week study group, ensuring that all adults caring for students have the same “lens”– one that is about finding kids strengths and building assets as a caring adult in their lives.

Along with the noon aides, Raylene has recruited a team of parent volunteers who manage Fun Zone – a recess and lunch time program that has activity areas set up all over the playground.  This provides numerous caring adults on campus every day and has led to improved positive peer interactions.  Raylene also coordinates the Expect Respect students.   She was also able to accomplish a huge goal. She has been working for 4 years – bringing the ABC program to Cherry Chase.

Project Cornerstone is committed to helping every child feel valued, respected, and known. We are building a community where all adults support children and youth so they find their spark and thrive. Project Cornerstone works within the YMCA of Silicon Valley and with over 200 community partners and schools to intentionally build in youth the positive relationships, opportunities, values, and skills—known collectively as “developmental assets”—that provide the foundation for a healthy, successful future.


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