Student recognition project


Samantha Teshima, Managing Editor

The 2015 San Ramon Valley Unified School District Student annual Student Recognition Project has concluded.

An Open House, open to all members of the San Ramon Valley community, exhibited the projects on March 16 at Bishop Ranch. The full list of winners is available on the SRVUSD website.

Students from all the high schools in the district had the opportunity to participate in the project featuring 25 categories recognizing the talents of students and their dedication to the arts, technology, creativity, and community service. For the performance categories, auditions took place at a designated campus hosting the given audition category. The deadline to register for auditions was February 13.

New members joined the committee this year: Meaghan Krakoff, the communications specialist for SRVUSD, and Elizabeth Graswich, the director of communications and community relations. These two oversee the entire project.

“We have committee members in all departments of the community as well as assistant principals, one from each school,” Krakoff said. “Combined, we all make up the committee, but [we are] primarily in charge of the planning and coordinating.”

Each committee member oversees a specific category and recruits judges who are professionals in their fields. The judges usually live or work in the community or have some other ties to the community.

“They are the ones that help establish relationships between the school district and various businesses within the community,” Krakoff said.

Ms. Krakoff is the judge coordinator for the journalism category. There were three judges for this category: Jeremy Walsh from the Danville-San Ramon Express, Denise Rousset from The Valley Sentinel, and Mrs. Graswich’s husband, R. E. Graswich, the current community journalism coordinator for Sacramento Voices. Mrs. Graswich says that her husband has been in newspaper and broadcast journalism for 40 years. Reportedly, Rousset and Graswich have both been judges for the journalism category in the past.

“A lot of [judges] come back every year, so we have a lot of returning judges who are very seasoned and familiar with this project,” Krakoff said.

Assistant principal Gary Peterson is in charge of Monte Vista’s branch of the project: dance and computer programming.

“I’ve recruited some of the people in the fields to help with judging, specifically in the computer programming category,” Peterson said.

Laurel O’Brien, a community member with a background in dance, helped with recruiting judges for the dance category.

This was the first year Crystal Lopez, the new assistant principal at Cal High, which hosts the two instrumental categories and culinary arts, worked with the Student Recognition Project. She has taken on the role from the previous assistant principal who is now the principal.

“I asked to have this assigned to me so I would be a part of [the Student Recognition Project],” Lopez said. “It’s really awesome to see what [students] can do outside of the classroom.”

For such an extensive project to run smoothly, it is crucial to have support from community and school district members volunteering their time and expertise.

“While our office coordinates it, it is very much a community project,” Graswich said. “All the volunteers devote tons of hours per year to make this a success. It is really because of them, and since we are new this year, that they were able to carry the tradition through this year for us. They are an enormous part of this project.”

Barbara Burg and Mary Chestnut are a retired district personnel and a community member volunteer respectively. They have had various roles throughout the years.

“[The Student Recognition Project] has been in existence for over 20 years,” Chestnut said.

Mrs. Burg has been involved since 1996 when she was working for the district.  She was also an assistant principal at Monte Vista a few years ago. After retiring, Mrs. Burg has been extensively involved as an administrator in the instrumental category.

Mrs. Chestnut was a former judge for this category.

“I was thrilled to be asked, [because] the talent was unbelievable,” Mrs. Chestnut said. “It was difficult to choose a winner. It’s really fun to see all the kids and experience their greatness.”

They are now coordinators in charge of finding judges. This year is Mrs. Chestnut’s sixth year as a judge coordinator. She knows many people within the community who are qualified and therefore plays an integral part in the recruitment process.

“This [instrumental category] is a little bit harder because there are two performances going on, [instrumental music and the piano],” Burg said. “We wanted to help out the assistant principal because we knew how complicated it could be.”

This year was the third year the signups were done via the website. Even though the website and processes have improved, the overall enrollment of participating students was slightly lower. Unfortunately, there were a few issues where some students were not able to sign up online. Due to the online glitches, the deadline for projects was extended from the initial date of February 13 to February 24 with the exception of the performance categories.

“We are always trying to improve and keep up with the 21st century,” Burg said.

With the upload feature, available as of last year, students were able to upload their projects electronically. Ms. Lopez indicated that a good number of hard copies of projects were still submitted.

“[With] so many projects online, we have to figure out a better way to show the online projects,” Burg said.

An important note is that students are not limited to submitting just one project.

“Some students think that they can only sign up once, but they can sign up for as many categories as they are prepared for,” Burg said.

Participating seniors were also given an additional opportunity to be awarded $1000 from the Raj Shah Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship is in honor and memory of San Ramon Valley community member, Raj Shah, who past away on January 7, 2014. He dedicated countless hours to celebrating student work with the Student Recognition Project. Donations in his name are made to the Student Recognition Project and are distributed to the scholarship winners. The deadline to apply for this scholarship was February 25. There were a total of 10 winners from five of the six SRVUSD schools. School district officials say that no Del Amigo students applied for the scholarship. These winners can be found on the SRVUSD website.

The final date for project submissions was March 5. Mr. Peterson stated that the projects were displayed and judged between March 9 and March 12. On March 16 from 4 to 7 PM all projects were on display at the Open House. The winners, honorable mentions, as well as the scholarship recipients, were announced: there were 80 winners and close to 150 honorable mentions. On April 3, an Awards Breakfast will be held to honor them.

“There’s a nice ceremony for all students who have won awards and earned scholarships,” Mr. Peterson said. “Family members can come too.”

So what is in the future for the Student Recognition Project?

“We talked about changing some of the language of the website, to be a little more user friendly,” Krakoff said. “We are [also] going to try to make it more focused on the community aspect with businesspeople in the community and try to make it more of a career preparation.”

Historically, the Student Recognition Project started as a business-education oriented project. Over the years, this was less emphasized.

“We really want to put the focus back into the business community partnership with the schools and the students,” Graswich said. “It is just refocusing on that and demonstrating to students that this is a possible career path for them. I was amazed by the quality of entries. It is really incredible.”

  “[The Student Recognition Project] is an opportunity for the kids to really demonstrate what they like, what they know, and what they have actually learned in high school, not to mention that it is a great experience for them to show how it involves them in their community,” Peterson said. “Seniors have access to scholarships through it, and it is a good opportunity for students to boost their résumé.”