VV students learn by giving

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Mr. Granger’s class at Valley Vista Elementary donated close to 500 items to the Committee on the Shelterless (COTS). These generous students are making an impact in the community they live in. Kudos, Valley Vista Vikings on leading by example.

McKinley Elementary School’s Mustangs have a lot to cheer about. Last week, they hosted a very successful Bike Rodeo on campus. Students learned about bike safety, helped each other learn the “Rules of the Road” and also had their bike and safety equipment checked to be sure they had everything they needed to be educated bikers when out and about traveling on the road. These amazing Mustangs also participated in the Sonoma County Office of Education’s Robotics Challenge, taking first place in the competition.

On Saturday at the SCOE Robotics Challenge, the McKinley teams joined students from Kenilworth Junior High, La Tercera Elementary, McNear Elementary, Corona Creek Elementary, Meadow Elementary and Wilson Elementary plus several other county elementary and middle school students at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa. A total of 32 fourth- through eighth-grade student teams competed in eight events that require skill in robot design and programming. Students prepare for the event between February and April, during which time they design, build, and program robots using Lego Mindstorm robotics kits and programming software. “Project work promotes skills needed for success in the modern world, including problem-solving, innovation, team collaboration and communication,” according to Rick Phelan, event director. This year, the day featured more than 400 student participants. SCOE partnered with local schools and the Sonoma County Economic Development Board to create this program, which is now in its 17th year. The goal of the partnership is to engage elementary and middle school students in applying mathematics, science, engineering, critical thinking, teamwork and oral presentation skills through robotics activities.

The Rotary Club of Petaluma Valley has been involved in a project at Loma Vista Immersion Academy since the school’s opening several years ago. At the end of each grading period, two students from each classroom are selected by their teachers for outstanding effort and achievement; they then join 30 other “Champions” for a pancake breakfast provided and served by the local Rotarians. During the Breakfast of Champions, each student introduces themselves and shares something they appreciate about school. Principal Jorge Arvizu congratulates each of the students for exemplary efforts in using their “Toolbox” which helps students positively relate to one another. Two students in the school are selected by the staff to receive “Service Above Self” awards, reflecting the credo of Rotary International. These students are recognized for their exceptional service to their school and classmates with award certificates presented by Petaluma Valley Rotary. Following the breakfast, Rotarians visit each of the classrooms and distribute new books purchased from our local Copperfield’s Bookstore. Each book is carefully selected by Petaluma Valley Rotarian Paulie Johns. Literacy is a hallmark of Rotary International and encouraging reading is a focus of the Petaluma Valley Rotary Club. This is not the only program where this club and the school partnered to support their community. Two years ago, Petaluma Valley Rotarians built an outdoor reading area in the school’s quad so the students could have a place to read when the weather was nice. It was a remodel of the original quad area of the Bernard Eledridge campus before re-opening as Loma Vista Immersion Academy several years ago. The new quad now hosts a variety of community-building events such as music performances, Día de los Muertos celebrations and more.

PEF Giants Night is Friday. Be sure to tune in and see the Petaluma and Kenilworth junior high School bands perform the National Anthem from center field at Oracle Park. This annual event is a benefit for the Petaluma Educational Foundation with a portion of each ticket sold for the special PEF seating section going to support the mission of PEF — bringing grants to local schools and scholarships to graduating seniors. The PJHS and KJHS band students will be front and center standing with Major League baseball players as they perform for a sold-out crowd. Their performance will also be featured on the big screen at the stadium. This is always a special night for all those present. We all love watching Petaluma’s own in-game reporter, Amy G., every time the Giants play, and this Friday Amy will have an additional 625 Petalumans at the ballpark cheering on the team.

Petaluma Adult School (PAS) is a part of Petaluma City Schools and Sonoma County Adult Education Consortium. Recently, PAS partnered with Lori Cain, government teacher at Casa Grande High School, to invite high school seniors to volunteer in a weekly Citizenship Preparation class as part of their senior project. Two seniors, Eli Alfaro and Bianca Gutierrez, applied and were chosen. Together, these two individuals volunteered more than 80 hours helping adults learn about American history and government. They also made presentations to the class on Governor Gavin Newsom and Harriet Tubman.

(Maureen Highland is a Petaluma mother and executive director for the Petaluma Educational Foundation. She can be reached at

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