Santa Rosa, California – A week ago, on Wednesday, May 10, Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation held the seventh annual Spark the Future, a fundraising event and student showcase supporting career-connected education and pathway programs for Sonoma County students. Nearly 300 attendees, including local high school students, business leaders and partners, elected officials, educators, and more gathered at Saralee & Richard’s Barn at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds to celebrate and support Sonoma County students and their futures.
The event exceeded a fundraising goal, raising $310,000. These contributions will make a lasting impact, directly supporting programming to equip students for a thriving career and future. Major event sponsors included long-time CTE Foundation partners, Keysight Technologies, Redwood Credit Union, and Max Machinery, Inc.
“The level of community support that we witnessed at Spark the Future was inspiring,” said Mark Soiland, CTE Foundation Board Vice Chair. “Our supporters’ generosity will power another year of transformative, relevant education for Sonoma County high school students.”
“CTE Foundation’s vision is that all Sonoma County students have rewarding careers that strengthen their lives, our community, and the workforce. We work in partnership with local employers and educators to connect students to meaningful careers, and it would not be possible without the steadfast commitment of our donors and supporters,” said CTE Foundation CEO Kathy Goodacre.
The highlight of Spark the Future was the Student Showcase, where more than 80 local students representing 10 Sonoma County High School CTE classes demonstrated integrated career-connected learning developed over their school year. Projects included culinary demonstrations and creations, woodworking and construction displays, automotive and electrical engineering, and audio-visual productions. Students proudly showcased their learnings, while attendees witnessed the rich, hands-on learning students experience through CTE courses. Event attendees heard directly from students about the value of this kind of relevant education and work readiness, with the support from CTE Foundation.
The Student Showcase featured the following projects: Analy High School, Student Video Narratives & Culinary Arts; Cloverdale High School, Unique & Artistic Construction Projects; Elsie Allen High School, Ag Mechanics, Floral & Future Farmers of America (FFA); Hanna High School, Golf Cart redesign & Culinary Bites; Petaluma High School, engineering of NASA Handrails for the International Space Station; Piner High School, Culinary Bites; Technology High School, Engineering Design Projects; and Windsor High School, Creative Woodworking Projects.
Each class received a $250 grant from CTE Foundation for participating in the Student Showcase. During the event guests could purchase tokens and use them to vote on their favorite student projects. Half of each token purchase went directly to that class, increasing the total grant amount. The winning class, Analy High School’s Culinary Class, was given an additional $500 gift card to put towards the classroom activities.
“The Spark the Future Student Showcase really empowered our students and provided them with real industry experience. From planning a menu, to prepping and serving the dishes, and interacting with guests, this experience was something they all enjoyed and learned a lot from,” said John Mahlstedt, Analy High School CTE Teacher. “They were so excited and proud of themselves when they won, but just as proud when they heard positive feedback from the guests about their food. These kinds of experiences truly light a spark in students and help create the next generation of leaders in the hospitality industry.”
As many as 25,000 students have already benefited from CTE Foundation investments since 2013. CTE Foundation offers several programs that directly link students to work readiness and industry partners, through industry-mentored projects and internships such as the Sonoma Corps program; a two-year college and career readiness program designed to help students build a foundation for a successful future through immersive career exploration and a paid internship.
Sonoma Corps graduates from several Sonoma County High Schools attended Spark the Future, sharing their individual stories and how programs and opportunities like these have helped to shape their futures.
With the success of Spark the Future, CTE Foundation will be able to make a lasting impact on students’ lives, preparing graduates for thriving careers and helping them build a future here in Sonoma County.
Career Technical Education is innovating the education-to-career experience to strengthen economic development and student success through a multi-year sequence of courses that integrates core academic knowledge with technical and occupational knowledge to provide students with a pathway to post-secondary education and careers. CTE programs deliver an enriched educational experience that promotes student interest and academic success while developing technical and career readiness skills necessary for the workplace of the future. Graduates of today’s rigorous and relevant CTE programs are better prepared for high-wage, high-skill and high-demand careers.
For more information about CTE Foundation, visit CTE Foundation’s website.