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Volunteer Initiative Grows into Year-Round Partnership with California School District

by Staff
March 28, 2011
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MENLO PARK, Calif., (christiansunite.com) --For five years, Menlo Park Presbyterian has partnered with schools in the Ravenswood School District in East Palo Alto, CA, through Compassion Weekend, a volunteer effort to meet community needs. Today, thousands of volunteers in the church and throughout the community are helping increase student test scores and supporting principals and teachers.

Historically, Compassion Weekend poured more than $350,000 and 12,000 work hours back in the community on a single weekend. Volunteers began by remodeling a teachers' lounge and science labs throughout the district. Out of the initial weekend effort, individuals and small groups committed to adopt teachers, provide supplies for classrooms, and tutor students year round.

Most of Ravenswood's 4,500 students are English learners. In the past two years, three schools crossed the 700 API (California's Academic Performance Index), and two others are approaching the mark. District-wide, scores have improved 51 points. Furthermore, more than 500 parents got involved in the newly founded Ravenwood Education Foundation.

"All the successful Peninsula school districts had foundations supporting them," said Charley Scandlyn, founder of the Ravenswood Education Foundation, which grew out of a Compassion Weekend project. "These teachers can teach; all they need is for someone to get behind them. These kids can learn. All we need is for someone to invest in them."

Last year, Brentwood Elementary School, a charter school in East Palo Alto, asked for help. Volunteers from Compassion Weekend renovated the school, painted buildings, installed new library tables, cleaned classrooms, and assembled student test kits which include snacks, pencils, and water bottles for the annual test.

"There is so little time for us to provide the one-on-one attention that every kid needs," said Tami Espanosa, principal at Brentwood Elementary and a participant in Compassion Weekend for several years. "This has become a partnership, not just a once-a-year event. We are building community."

For more information about Compassion Weekend, April 2-3 visit their website at www.CompassionWeekend.com.

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