It started out as a summer project in the local community, an opportunity to share some of their artistic talents with younger students. But these Dougherty Valley High School students have taken it much further, with aspirations far beyond the county line.
Project SmArts is the brainchild of DVHS sophomores Meera Menon and Christina Liu and junior Ayushi Gupta, who last year organized a summer camp for third- through fifth-graders in their own garages. They taught dance, violin and oil pastels and had a talent show scheduled for the end of summer.
The success of the summer program launched them into creating a school club which now has more than 200 members and expanding the program to Dougherty Valley High School's sister school, Community Unified Elementary School in Oakland.
About 50 Project SmArts club members have taken the art workshops to more than 100 children who are mostly from low-income homes and have limited or no exposure to the arts. Their goal is to help children "find their potential and pursue their passion through the arts," says Menon.
The club has also applied for nonprofit status, which, says Menon, shows members' real commitment to the community and will help them create more of an impact and gain access to resources. English teacher and Project SmArts adviser Rachel Decker calls the club "a well-oiled machine" and a self-sufficient group that uses its 21st century skills.
"It's always so rewarding to see them give back," she adds.
With one more workshop scheduled for this month, Project SmArts organizers are looking to expand the program, and hope to get other schools to create similar clubs and form local chapters of the nonprofit, says Gupta. They also hope to form more partnerships with other elementary schools and gather more donations for art supplies and funds to purchase snacks for the kids attending the workshops.
Liu says she enjoys "bonding with the kids who are living in different conditions and connecting with them and teaching them things."
"The true value of our programs," says Menon, is "not just in the art component itself, but also the connections we develop with the students that we work with."
The club volunteers serve as role models for the children and form meaningful relationships with the kids," which sophomore and club treasurer Jasmine Daragahi says she enjoys the most. For more information about Project SmArts or to make a donation, visit its website at www.projectsmarts.org.
NAME THAT SCHOOL: Dougherty Valley's fifth elementary school is scheduled to open in time for the 2015-1016 school year, but it still needs a name. A school district committee is asking for suggestions from the community to name this school, which will be built on a 7.4-acre site just southwest of the Dougherty Station Community Center and Library and adjacent to a 30-acre park currently under construction.
According to the Board of Education, new school names can be named in recognition of the geographic area in which the school is located (like Iron Horse Middle School); in recognition of individuals who have made contributions of state, national or worldwide significance (Neil Armstrong Elementary); or in recognition of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the county or community (John Baldwin Elementary).
The committee, comprising representatives from the school district, the city of San Ramon, the San Ramon Valley Historical Society and the local parent community, will take the suggested names to the Board of Education for its final approval.
If you have an idea for the school name, complete the online form at the school district website at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/dvschoolname. The deadline to submit suggestions is May 21.
Contact Monica Lander at firstname.lastname@example.org.