On a typical day at Don Callejon School, a parent volunteer in an elementary class from the Don Callejon Project Cornerstone ABC (Asset Building Champion) program may read aloud a book encouraging students to “fill other people’s buckets” by saying nice, positive things to one another.
Older students can participate in the Middle School Book Club, another Project Cornerstone program. Facilitated by the school librarian, staff members, and parent volunteers, the book club meets on certain days for lunch where participants discuss a book with a bullying theme.
This year, Don Callejon Middle School received Project Cornerstone’s Caring School Climate award on March 21 at an awards ceremony held at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
“We’re very proud of receiving this award, and we applaud the efforts of staff, parents, and students for their work over the years on the programs that have been put into place to achieve this,” says Mary Martinez, principal of Don Callejon School.
“Every year, Project Cornerstone has a set of awards they give out; one of them is the Caring School Climate Award,” says Jennifer Garcia, parent volunteer and co-lead for the Don Callejon Project Cornerstone ABC program. “We actually submitted entries for both the elementary school and the middle school. They selected us as the winner for the middle school award.”
Garcia points out the paperwork for nominating the school was a collaborative effort between herself and two other parents, Jennifer Whitten and Melissa Kreisa.
“Project Cornerstone is an initiative of the YMCA. What they want to do is promote caring adults, caring neighborhoods, and caring communities for children,” says Andrea Yip, the other co-lead of the Don Callejon Project Cornerstone ABC program. “They also want to help give adults the tools to become those caring adults we need in the community. These adults could be parent volunteers, community volunteers, any adult that wants to make a difference in a child’s life while promoting the 40 assets that make a child thrive. The more assets these children have, for example, positive communication with parents and other adults, the less likely they’d be involved in risky activity, like drugs, alcohol, and theft.”
Yip has seen children in the program develop positive communication among each other.
“The children have a set of tools they can use to boost their confidence in a bullying situation and to avoid a bullying situation,” Yip says. “In middle school, being the formative years for the kids, that’s when they really need it. By the time they get to middle school, they’d know how to deal with gossip and rumors from what they learned in the ABC program in elementary school.”
Martinez, serving her first school year as the principal of Don Callejon, credits many people, including district level administrators and the school board, for the good things coming from the school.
“The students are absolutely delightful,” Martinez says, “The staff is outstanding. The parent involvement is priceless and incomparable to anything else I’ve ever seen. The parent community is so valuable to making Don Callejon great.”