Next month, the STEP Foundation will host its most elegant fundraiser, Evening Under the Stars, as the organization enters its 10th year and approaches its $200,000 mark of providing education enrichment for Round Valley Joint Elementary School students.
STEP raises funds in unique ways that include upscale dinners, wine tastings and a holiday movie theater experience, said Karen Marshall, who is a foundation board member and RVJES’ teaching assistant principal and special education intervention teacher. All funds provide educationally- and developmentally-enriching in-class and extracurricular opportunities that benefit RVJES students and teachers, said Dan Moore, principal/superintendent and STEP board member.
Evening Under the Stars is the crown jewel of STEP fundraising efforts.
The 10th Annual Friends of Round Valley School Benefit Dinner will be held on Saturday, May 17 at its traditional location, the Arcularius Ranch, 225 N. Round Valley Rd. At 5 p.m., the extravaganza will begin with happy hour and appetizers, during which a silent auction will be held. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. followed by a live auction at 8 p.m. and then some dancing under the stars.
“We want to thank the community for their donations during the silent and live auctions. By May, we will have crossed over the $200,000 mark (since STEP’s 2006 inception). We make the bulk of our money through that community contribution,” Marshall explained.
Tickets for this adults-only event are on sale now at $35 per guest, $75 per couple and $275 for a table of eight guests. On May 1, individual ticket price will be $40 and at the door, $45.
STEP – Round Valley School Student Enrichment Program – sprang from then RVJES Principal Barry Simpson’s 2006 concept of a foundation dedicated to supplementing student education. Marshall is the only remaining founding member of the board, which is comprised of school staff and parents and other community members. Over the last decade, STEP has fully or partially funded myriad new technology, enrichment activities and educational programs at RVJES.
Moore said that each child now has a “personal device, such as an iPads or iPods or an Acer or Dell laptop,” used for homework, research, enrichment games and so on. Every teacher has a personal laptop, projector and document camera – the old-school equivalent of an overhead projector. “We have a librarian/tech assistant and a music teacher.” Curriculum enhancing classes and activities include art, music and tennis and “special classroom equipment and special curriculum needs.” Moore added that RVJES has plans for “future enrichment opportunities, like drama and more advanced tennis. We’re also planning to develop more afterschool activities for 2014-15. We make a request and the board almost always approves it. They’re very, very supportive … We really appreciate them. A lot of enrichment would not be possible without the STEP Foundation.”
Marshall listed other “things the school can no longer afford” that STEP helps fund: cow heart and frog dissection, in-class trout and butterflies raising projects, library reference material – “everything that takes the curriculum a step further. This year, fourth- through sixth-graders participated in an in-class, history- and social studies-focused Walking Field Trip. Facilitators “bring clothing, food and props and set up little scenarios” relevant to the state, U.S. or world history period that elementary students study. STEP gave $500 toward an upcoming, three-day, fourth- to fifth-grade San Luis Obispo field trip where children will experience a Native American museum, botanical gardens, missions and elephant seals.
Board Member Kevin Mazzu said, “A big part of living in this valley is remembering its past and educating people about the rich history that is present everywhere. (RVJES) started country school house. It has a rich history and an intimate setting. It’s one of the first schools in the (Owens) Valley. It was a California Blue Ribbon-rated school.”
According to www.roundvalleystepfoundation.com , STEP honors that rich history by continuing to supplement state and local tax school funding so that students could receive “the highest quality education (by enriching) the educational adventure of teachers and students … wherever possible.”
For information about STEP, to donate or to purchase Evening Under the Stars tickets, contact STEP Fundation President Rick Davis at (760) 408-0466 or firstname.lastname@example.org  or visit www.roundvalleystepfoundation.com .