Bulletin Editor
Don Shoecraft
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Our SMART Program

Don Leydig, Kristi Spence, Mark Avelar, Rod Linhares, Cara Wharton, Anne Campbell

How members’ support helps middle-schoolers make strides towards college

It’s one of those things you hear about, think you know, but maybe really don’t grasp the full measure of its impact.

Our speakers are all involved in a scholarship program our club innovated, one other clubs have praised and some have emulated, the San Mateo Academic Rotary Team (SMART) Program, which identifies, coaches and helps focus eight-graders as they begin to move on to high school with the intent of improving their scholastic achievement levels throughout high school with the goal of urging them on to college.

The incentive is a prize of about $900 they can earn step-by-step through high school if they continue on to college, whether it be a two-year or a four-year college institution.

“We’re hoping to entice you to get involved,” Don Leydig said by way of introduction.

According to him SMART has coached 823 students since its inception in 1991 and has funneled an aggregate $740,700 to SMART scholarships in that time.

Ninety percent of SMART kids — 790 in total — have matriculated.

SMART now has $102,400 in Boston Private Bank, held pending the results of 136 students’ studies as they go through high school.

The way it works is every Sept. 11 Rotary volunteers gather in the Hillsdale High School cafeteria to meet scores of middle school students selected by teachers, principals and counselors as potential SMART candidates. Parents come along.

Teams of Rotarians, usually two but, if the presentation was effective, larger teams in the future, meet and interview students, trying to get a reading on potential for college, need and what benefit the student might derive from Rotary support. In consultation with Rotarians, the eighth-graders set goals 

Rotary opens a savings account for each selected student with a $500 deposit. As they meet their goals each year of high school, $100 is added to student accounts. The $900 accrual is turned over to them upon proof of college enrollment.

Kristi Spence referred to five student profiles that members had been provided showing the diversity of students considered.

“Many are well qualified,” she said. “We try to look at academic potential, to look at the kid, look at where they live, how many are in the home, how many in the household are competing for resources, health status.”

Mark Avelar said “the rewards are incredible; I would just say that part of the program is an appeal to get more of you involved in the program. I know we have your support, but we haven’t had many new recruits.”

“I want to say,” Borel Middle School counselor Cara Wharton said, “I have always thought of San Mateo Rotary as being very professional. I tell my students about this program always, and I tell them this is like a preparation for life.

“They (Rotarians) are a little older,” she said to chuckles, “but they’re very professional. They (students) think of it as a job interview.”

The typical student has a 3.8 GPA, has one or both parents working and wants to graduate from high school.

“I grab these kids,” she said. “They already know how to do school. This scholarship molds them through high school. It gives them another adult in their lives.”

“I’m one of those older Rotarians,” said Anne Campbell, whose brings her experience as the county’s superintendent of schools to the goal-setting sessions with students.

“Cara does a terrific job of preparing them; for many it’s their first ever interview and they’re petrified.”

At the Sept. 11 interview session at Hillsdale, Rotarians sit at the front; the room is “packed” with students and parents anxious to have their shot at a SMART grant.

“You see before you how much power there is in the Rotary Club,” she said.

Rod Linhares, SMART volunteer, said the program is “inspirational,” to him and to students.

He makes a point of talking to graduates of the program and presented a few cases in point, like Jorge Ramirez, who made it through Hillsdale High and is moving on to Denison College, Ohio.

“I’m showing my little brother it can be done,” Jorge said.

“We’re letting these people know by being there that people care about them,” Rod said.

“It’s almost as fun talking to students as talking to Rotarians who worked with them…watching them set and achieve educational goals is powerful.”

However, he added, “the need is still urgent. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds need out support. The time commitment is minimal, six and a half hours over four meetings during the course of a year

“Could there be a better return on investment?”

Rotarians agreed.

Chairman Leydig reported subsequent to the meeting that 13 Rotarians have signed up to help out.


Peter Webb

Remember when this was the real end of summer and school started after Labor Day? Speaking of Labor Day, the labor movement gave us the eight-hours workday, the 40-hour workweek, and the end of child labor.

Confucius said, “If you work at a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life.” What, exactly, was Confucius’ job?

Sunshine Report

Bernie Mellott reports that John Kelly was hospitalized and treated and returned home. He’s at Lesley Towers senior housing downtown. Bo Whitehill is recovering well from double knee replacement and would appreciate calls and visits.

Cards for both were circulated.



Sheila Canzian introduced Deputy Fire Chief Ray Iverson. Don Leydig introduced Cara Wharton. Don Shoecraft welcomed the distinguished Tom Mohr, member of the San Mateo County Community College district board of trustees.


Visting Rotarians

Dick DeLuna introduced Noemi Avram of the Foster City club.







President BB read a letter of thanks from Mikhail Venikov, San Mateo SWAT member and founder of Ranger Road. In recognition of the militaristic memory, Mr. President asked former Army Sgt. Angel Riley (what a name for a grunt) to describe her hardest duty in the service. It was a boot camp ruck march, 15 miles starting at 3 a.m. with around 40 pounds of gear. Piece of cake. I did that in my sleep.

In Angel’s honor, Dick DeLuna hiked over with $100. Asked if he’d like to join in, Martin Harband said, “I’m waiting ‘till Veterans Day.”


President Bruce Bean
Upcoming Speakers
Sep 06, 2018
Metropolitan Transportation Commission
Sep 13, 2018
Heart Health
Sep 20, 2018
Panama Canal
Sep 27, 2018
Electronic Crimes and Identity Theft
Oct 11, 2018
National Drug Policy
Oct 18, 2018
Govern for California
Oct 25, 2018
Building Resilience to Catastrophic Events, Including Climate Change
Nov 15, 2018
Forest Fires and the Forest Industry
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