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Changing lives through books and music

Becoming a Beloved Community–Schools supports music and reading at Dunbar and Kenwood schools
Changing lives through books and music
Michael Fecskes teaches cello twice per week to 15 third through fifth graders at Dunbar School as part of a ViVO youth orchestra program made possible by Becoming a Beloved Community-Schools.Photo by Tracy Salcedo

By Laurie Boone Hogen

Becoming a Beloved Community– Schools (BBC– Schools), a ministry of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Kenwood, is on a journey of social justice. It values diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and provides educational opportunities and support to children who may not be able to access opportunities afforded other children due to poverty, school location, and school resources.

Rooted in the principle of “Love Your Neighbor” and born out of the Episcopal Church’s commitment to social justice, BBC–Schools supports the education and well-being of the most vulnerable children in our two neighborhood elementary schools, Dunbar School in Glen Ellen and Kenwood School in Kenwood. Since its inception in August 2019, BBC–Schools has embarked on a number of different projects, such as issuing food gift cards to the most needy school families, providing tech hotspots and Take a Break kits for distance learning, and purchasing Secret Santa gifts. The two most involved projects center around books and music.

Realizing that Dunbar School library was in need of new books, especially ones supporting the diverse backgrounds of the children, BBC–Schools began a campaign to fund 100 DEI books and another 100 books for the library’s arts and science collection. Twenty-five books incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion, were donated to Kenwood School’s library. St. Patrick’s parishioners, supporters of the Interfaith Council of Sonoma County, United in Kindness, the Sonoma Japanese American Citizens League, as well as other individuals and organizations, supported this effort.

In addition, All Saints Episcopal Day School in Carmel donated about 800 gently used books for the Dunbar children’s home libraries. Each child received a book bin full of books during distance learning. This will happen again in March, as part of Dunbar’s Read Across America event.

Library media specialist Tracy Salcedo at Dunbar, and librarian Sharon Watson at Kenwood, are making good use of these wonderful books. Here is what they had to say:

From Salcedo: “I just wanted to share this with you, so you have some feeling for how wonderful this Read Across America Day (2021) has already been. I read Sonia Sotomayor’s Turning Pages,

which was part of the BBC’s DEI book donation. I showed the kids the book bins, the place where they can now go to turn pages.”

From Watson: “The books you delivered to our school today are gorgeous! They are wonderful additions to our library. Increasing diversity of our book collections is a goal for our school library and classroom libraries … Thank you for your generous donation”.

BBC–Schools’ recent and mostinvolved project, “Opening Doors through Music,” has coordinated with ViVO Youth Orchestra of Sonoma to introduce and implement an orchestral program at Dunbar School based on the El Sistemo model. ViVO at Dunbar supports an after-school cello class, held twice a week, for 15 third- through fifthgrade students. The class is taught by Michael Fecskes and was organized by Klara Crean, ViVO’s executive director, with help from Katie Hahn, the interim Dunbar principal. BBC–Schools raised the funds for this project, and presented a check for $24,010 to Crean on Jan. 27 at Dunbar School.

This is an exciting time for these third through fifth graders at Dunbar School, for it is the mission of ViVO Youth Orchestras to change lives through music while nurturing safe relationships, developing mastery in music, and building community.

Developing life skills through reading and music by giving children the opportunity to enjoy and learn through books and cellos changes lives. Our neighborhood is enriched by opening doors for these children in our neighborhood schools.

The BBC–Schools Team includes Laurie Boone Hogen (chair), Eleanor Albon, Kerin McTaggart, Anne Phillips, Andrea Stillman, Wendy Wood, and Bob Wohlsen.