BONSALL – Bonsall Unified School District hosted its second annual Bonsall Forward Initiative awards at Bonsall Elementary School Wednesday, Oct. 25. The school's multipurpose room was transformed into a gala which awarded students from sixth to 12th grades with scholarships.
The brainchild of BUSD's Superintendent Joseph Clevenger, the Bonsall Forward Initiative launched last year at the San Diego County Board of Education's "Supe-Tank." Currently in its third year, the "Supe-Tank" follows the structure of the popular television show "Shark Tank." Instead of pitching products to inventors, superintendents from across the county pitch innovative ideas aimed to improve the educational outcomes in San Diego County. Clevenger's idea was the big winner of last year's event and raised more funding and partnerships than any other "Supe" in the county.
The idea, developed with Bonsall residents Larry and Linda Sundrum, was to bring together community partners to address the disparity in female and underrepresented populations in STEM academics and careers. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Statistics show that even students who have done well in STEM in the primary grades lose interest or stop excelling in science and math in the seventh grade.
"Mr. and Mrs. Sundrum have been instrumental in making the Bonsall Forward Initiative a reality," Clevenger said. "Due to their generous support and vision, our District has been able to give nearly 100 students scholarships in STEM to pursue their academic and career goals."
To encourage and support all students to continue in STEM, Clevenger reached out to the community to provide job shadowing, internships, informational resources and hands-on experiences. The Bonsall Unified School District community answered the call. Supporters in attendance to present the scholarship offered advice to the students and mingled with student families following the event.
The supporters included Marisol Edrozo of the Office of County Supervisor Jim Desmond; Corey Uhden from the Office of Assemblymember Marie Waldron; Nick Brust from the Office of state Sen. Brian Jones; Khieem Jackson, senior director of Govt Affairs of Ball/Frost Group; Jaime Salcido of Schools First Federal Credit Union; Chief Keith McReynolds of North County Fire; Lt. Claudia Delgado of San Diego County Sheriff's Department; Jake Wiley, general manager of Rainbow Municipal Water District; Eileen Delaney, chair of Fallbrook Community Planning Group; Lila Hargrove, CEO of Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce; Angelique McInerny, president of Bonsall Chamber of Commerce; Elaine Davis, scholarship chair of Bonsall Woman's Club; Leslie Salmon of Bonsall Rotary Club; Kassandra Costa, board member of Bonsall Education Foundation; Pascal Lapoirie, trustee of Bonsall Unified School District and Julie Reeder, publisher of Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News.
The event was hosted by Leticia Gudiel, a graduate from Bonsall High School's class of 2022 and a former scholarship recipient. Three distinguished guests conducted a panel moderated by Heather Golly, the district's executive director of educational services. The panel, who shared their academic and professional backgrounds and offered advice to the students, were Susan Jacques, CEO and president of the Gemological Institute of America; Terry Loftus, assistant superintendent and chief information officer of San Diego County Office of Education, and Amir Baherim, director of technical operations for Magic Touch Software. The keynote address was given by Bonsall School Board President Larissa Anderson.
Although the sit-down reception had everything from musical accompaniment by student Jett Van Alfen to a tiny box of chocolates as a party favor, the emphasis of the evening was the students and their achievements.
Guests were greeted by a reception of students standing by a poster displaying their future goal and a QR code providing a short biography of their interests and achievements to date. Two of the recipients, Diego Ochoa and Ty Donovan, plan on becoming pilots. The group also had a future marine biologist, computer scientists and an architect to name a few.
Each scholarship winner was nominated by one of their teachers, who during the ceremony shared why that student had earned the award. A featured dignitary also presented each student with an award, sharing advice on their path forward.
"Bonsall Unified School District is dedicated to helping all of our students reach their highest potential, but Bonsall Forward is meant to not only celebrate our student achievers, but also to unite our community," Clevenger said. "We see our school district as being the heart of Bonsall, and our community partners, which includes our teachers, are the lifeblood to our efforts."
Submitted by Bonsall Unified School District.