Holiday Spirit

Eighth-grade students at St. Elizabeth Seton School, from left, Anayeli Lopez, Briana Diaz, Aaron Andrade, Jocelyn Galvan (center), Jimmy Paine and Angel Garcia, read about the physical sciences while doing classwork with their new textbooks in class on Dec. 7, 2017. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Posted December 8, 2017

Students given the gift of knowledge
Holiday Fund grant provides students with much-needed new science textbooks

By Alexandria Cavallaro

The classroom sat in captivated silence in late November as science teacher Scott Bell explained the day's lesson, lecturing from a pristine textbook. Each of the 27 eighth-grade students at St. Elizabeth Seton School, dressed in navy and red uniforms, had his or her own copy open and followed along. Extra science textbooks were stacked neatly in rows on countertops in the back corner of the room.

Eighth-grader Ashley Magallon, who has attended the nonprofit Palo Alto school since kindergarten, received her brand-new textbook this fall. Previously, students like Ashley and Aaron Andrade, who has also been enrolled for nine years, struggled to learn from books published in 2008 that were not only worn from years of use but were also on the brink of inaccuracy. Because the textbooks no longer met Next Generation Science Standards, a set of national educational guidelines written and finalized by 26 states in 2013 and revised periodically, science teachers had to seek out or create supplemental materials to adhere to the requirements.

"We had very outdated texts before, so it was imperative that we update the series," Principal Evelyn Rosa said.

With the support of a $10,000 grant from The Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund and $5,000 from The Thomas Merton Center, St. Elizabeth Seton School was able to provide new Glencoe Series science textbooks and additional LearnSmart software for all 90 of its sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

St. Elizabeth Seton School eighth-graders from left, Yamarie Martinez, Anayeli Lopez, Briana Diaz and Victoria Mora, talk with science teacher Scott Bell while they study about the states of matter while working from their textbooks on Dec. 7, 2017. The school purchased the new textbooks with grants from the Holiday Fund.
The textbooks fulfill the requirements for sixth-grade Earth and Space, seventh-grade Life Science and eighth-grade Physical Science curricula. Bell noted, however, that the Life Science books are also a great supplemental resource for his fifth-grade students.

The new books' detailed diagrams and the accompanying interactive software are especially helpful for English-as-a-second-language learners like Ashley, Aaron and their classmates, school staff said. The interactive software provides videos, review questions calibrated to the learning needs of students and the opportunity for teachers to include their own notes for their students.

Though students arrive at the school speaking English, the majority come from low-income homes in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park, where English is not the first spoken language. The adaptive and visual elements of the new science textbooks and software are particularly key to helping this population of students learn effectively.

"Right now we're reading about atoms, and it showed a picture of what atoms are made of," Aaron said. The diagrams, and the way the book simplifies concepts, make the material feel more accessible to him, he added.

"The old ones, they would just have an excessive amount of information and wouldn't simplify it with how it is relevant to your life," Aaron said.

Ashley agreed that the shorter sections of the new textbooks make it easier for her to study.

"Some textbooks are way too busy, but these kind of hit the sweet spot," Bell said. He's glad that the new books are largely concept-based, presenting the core concept and then breaking the matter down into smaller, more digestible components.

After familiarizing students with the structure of the new textbooks, Bell said, "The next step (will) be to integrate the software without diluting the reading process we've established."

Bell said that the vocabulary of the books is slightly above students' reading level, but he isn't concerned. He prefers to "teach up," he said.

"It's above," he said, "but it's accessible."

To help students grasp the concepts and language, teachers take the time to work with students in small groups so that each can have individualized attention when working through more difficult grammatical concepts.

The population of students at Seton School is 80 percent Hispanic, with just under 10 percent of students from the Pacific Islands, and, according to Carmel Caligaris, the school's advancement director, the majority of students will be first generation high school and college students.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, in 2015, about 50 percent of Hispanic East Palo Alto teens graduated high school and a mere 10 percent continued to higher education. In contrast, 95 percent of students from the Seton School graduate high school and 75 percent continue on to some form of higher education. The graduation rates among school alumni are a source of pride, not just for the accomplished students, but for their parents and the whole Seton community.

"We want to prepare our students to share in the prosperity that Silicon Valley offers," Caligaris wrote in the school's application to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund earlier this year.

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49ers Academy$10,000

AbilityPath$10,000

Able Works$10,000

Ada's Cafe$25,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7,500

Art in Action$10,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
of the Bay Area
$10,000

Blossom Birth & Family$5,000

Canopy$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Children's Health Council$10,000

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto$5,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto$10,000

Counseling and Support Services for Youth - CASSY$15,000

DreamCatchers$15,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation$10,000

East Palo Alto Charter School$5,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring$15,000

East Palo Alto YMCA$10,000

Eastside College
Preparatory School
$7,500

EPACENTER$10,000

Family Connections$7,500

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Friends for Youth$5,000

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo$10,000

Heart and Home Collaborative$10,000

Hope Horizon East Palo Alto$7,500

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Kara$15,000

Learning Home Volunteers$10,000

Live In Peace$10,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$10,000

Mannakin Theater & Dance$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Midpen Media Center$7,500

Music in the Schools Foundation$8,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

New Voices for Youth$5,000

Pacific Art League of Palo Alto$12,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation$10,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care $30,000

Palo Alto Players$10,000

Peer Point$20,000

Peninsula Bridge$10,000

Peninsula College Fund$10,000

Peninsula Healthcare Connection$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$15,000

Peninsula Youth Theatre$5,000

Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship Foundation$20,000

Ravenswood Classroom Partners$20,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation$10,000

Reading Partners
Silicon Valley
$10,000

ReadySetExcel$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$7,500

Resource Area for
Teaching (RAFT)
$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Sager Family Farm$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$7,500

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)$10,000

WeHOPE$15,000

WomenSV$7,500

Youth Community Service$25,000

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All Five$10,000

Covenant Children's Center$10,000

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$10,000

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Barbara Kinsey400
Susan Thomas500
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Romola Georgia*
Katherine Jarvis250
Catherine Ballantyne*
Bonnie Berg500
Nancy Moss250
Mr. and Mrs. John J. McLaughlin100
Dr. Teresa L. Roberts1,000
Sally Hewlett Fund1,000
Peter B. Giles250
Kay Sabin*
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Gwen Barry*
Susan Yee*
Jean MacDonel200
The UMOC Charitable Fund250,000
Gavin & Tricia Christensen*
Jeremy Platt & Sandra Murphy300
Loni Freeman & Stephen Monismith*
Werner Graf2,000
Kim Harvey2,000
Feinstein Family1,000
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Virginia & Jim Fruchterman250
Karen Backer500
Christina Holt250
Peak-Filseth Charitable Fund500
Curt & Margaret Weil1,000
Wachtel Family1,000
Mary Lemmon25,000
Eric Keller & Janice Bohman500
Fran Codispoti250
Deborah Williams & Jean Luc Laminette1,000
Brennan Family500
Herbert Fischgrund100
Claire & Ed Lauing250
John & Martha McLaughlin200
Rob Colley & Kate Godfrey*
Glenda & Gordon Hughes*
In Memory Of

Kaye Kelley and Richard Van Dusen500
Don Kenyon50
Lew Silvers*
Larry Breed*
Er-Ying and YC Yen250
Jim and Dottie Mellberg250
E. Yanosh Alt20
Millie Rose Coldenhoff100
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
Leonard Ely500
Boyd Paulson Jr.*
Phillip Zschokke100
Mary Floyd*
Carol Berkowitz*
Pam Grady250
Lily & Phillip Gottheiner*
Kathy Morris*
August King*
Duncan Matteson1,000
David Mitchell*
Mason & Ryan*
Ian Halliday*
Ted Linden300
Florence K. Ho2,500
Mae & Al Kenrick500
Ray Bacchetti300
Marilyn D. Hansen200
Catherine Chow*
Emmett Lorey*
Betty Meltzer30
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Nancy & Robert Lobdell*
Bob Kirkwood*
Gary Fazzino200
Don & Marie Snow*
Dr. Richard Greene200
Robert O. Jack500
Ruth C. Satterthwaite*
Jack Sutorius500
The Tinney Family250
Hannah & Helen Peterson50
Beverly Aarts*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Tom Nolan Esq.100
Bob Merkevitch*
Bob Donald300
In Honor Of

Ada's Cafe*
Mandy Lowell*
Billee Werby100
Jill & Brian Bicknell*
Marilyn Sutorius500
Emma & Rich Pompetti500
As a Gift for

Dr. Ned Lund100
Street Cleaners100
Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez2,500
Businesses & Organizations

Packard Foundation25,000
Hewlett Foundation25,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
Perry Foundation 10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,500
Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run36,900
Sponsors of Moonlight Run:
  Stanford Health Care10,000
  Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
  Sutter Health/
Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
  Wealth Architects5,000
  Facebook5,000
  Deleon Realty5,000
  Kaiser Permanete5,000
  Stanford Federal Credit Union5,000
  Lakin Spears2,000
  Bank of the West1,500
Bleibler Properties LLC500
deLemos Properties LLC200
Johnson & Johnson Foundation1,000

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000