Learning Together as Equals

I found the image below on the internet.  It encapsulates all that is amiss with education today in the U.S., but it also made me think that this isn’t true at community colleges. In the words of Daniel Zoughbie, one of our alumni and Foundation Board members, “Our community colleges are the one place where students coming from various backgrounds can learn together as equals.” 

Community colleges are uniquely affordable and accessible.  And they have programs like those that we sponsor that provide remediation for students that are not-so-great at math (like me), challenging honors coursework for students that excel at certain subjects (also like me), and programs for every other kind of student in between. 


Community colleges are a route into a certain quality of life that we all hope to have.  Without our schools and people supporting our schools, so many members of our community would certainly be left behind.  The gaps between students alluded to in this cartoon would still exist for those people: financial gaps, achievement gaps, learning gaps, family situation gaps, child care issues, etc.



Meet Roxanne Brewer, Our Development Associate!

Roxanne in her signature sunglasses

If you were to drop into our office, you’d be struck by these things about Roxanne:
1) She’s CRAZY busy.  I’ve never seen her not working a mile a minute, and I have no idea how she keeps it up.  There’s always a little, controlled tornado of productivity happening in her corner, which keeps her very firmly on top of her (very large) work load.
2) Despite the incredible pace of her work and her intense focus on that, if a donor or colleague stops by to see us (or more often, meet with us), Roxanne absolutely lights up, welcoming them and making them feel at home.  She is so clearly fond of so many of our visitors, and you should hear her sudden, enthusiastic laughter during these conversations — it’s contagious.   
3) She genuinely loves her kids.  This isn’t unusual for a mother by any means, but it’s quite striking with her.  On one of the busiest, most stressful days of work I’ve witnessed (it was right before our First Annual Golf Tournament), while all the rest of us were rather harried, Roxanne was calm and smiling non-stop.  Her son, Nick, was coming into town the next day, and she couldn’t have been more pleased.
As she put it when we were discussing the pictures of her kids she’d sent me to include in this post, “They are [her] TREASURES!”

Roxanne and her daughter, Holly, at Holly's college graduation

Roxanne’s Autobiography

Roxanne was born and raised in a small town in Michigan, and she values her Midwestern upbringing.  Shortly after graduation, she headed north on the Alcan Highway to Fairbanks, Alaska, trading green grass, maple trees, watching fireflies, and enjoying Lake Michigan for moose in her backyard, beautiful views of the Aurora Borealis, river running, fishing, extreme temperatures, and understanding the true meanings of the summer solstice and the winter equinox.  You should ask to hear some of her great stories about her treasured time living in Alaska.   In October 2004, after 22 years of living in Alaska, Roxanne decided it was high time for warmer weather and moved with her family to northern California.

Roxanne, age 5, and friends (Roxanne is the one in the kangaroo outfit)

Photograph of the Alaskan sky, taken by Roxanne's friend Tim

Photograph of the Northern Lights, also taken by Roxanne's friend Tim

Roxanne takes great pride in her children.  Her 26-year-old son, Nick, graduated from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.  He is currently working in the audio department of a large corporate radio station in New York City.  Roxanne’s twins, Heather and Holly, are alumnae of our very own Skyline College!  Holly then went on to graduate from Portland State University with a degree in early childhood education and is currently living in France.  Heather recently graduated from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and her husband, Jim, is in the United States Air Force.   Both girls are actually alumni of our very own Skyline College!

Son Nick

Daughter Heather and Son-in-Law Jim at the 2010 Air Force Ball

In her spare time, Roxanne loves to travel near and far.  She finds adventure in exploring northern California, enjoying a variety of music venues and festivals, and staying in close contact with her family and friends.    
On a profession level, Roxanne has over 21 years of experience working within the K-12 & community college arenas.  From 1990 through 2004, she was employed by the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District as an Administrative Secretary, 21st Century Grant Coordinator/Before & After School Programs, Student Council Advisor, and a Transportation Scheduler.  At Skyline College, she worked for the Financial Aid Department and the Office of College Development, Marketing, & Public Relations.  And in 2008, Roxanne enthusiastically joined us at San Mateo County Community Foundation as the Development Associate/Administrative Assistant.  
As our Development Associate, Roxanne has been intricately involved in the planning and implementation of several events across the District.  She has worked closely with many of San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation’s committees, the Skyline President’s Council, district administrators, Women on Writing coordinators, scholarship coordinators, donors, students, faculty, and staff.  You will find that she has a pleasant demeanor, excellent communication and leadership skills, and, above all, she is committed to providing outstanding service and support.      
Roxanne enjoys working for San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation, continuing her involvement in donor stewardship and cultivation while working with a team.

Meet Carrie Ridge, Our Director of Development!

Carrie, right, with her husband and adorable son at his kindergarten graduation

Carrie is the first person you’d nominate to talk to anybody on your behalf.  She is so incredibly warm and friendly and genuinely interested in getting to know people — everybody loves her.  It’s difficult to put into words, but it’s the amount that she values your relationship and your trust in her.  To her, it is absolutely an honor and a delight to get to know you, to bond with you.  Stephani has often remarked on Carrie’s incredible memory for details about people, and it’s clearly because Carrie is so interested in these little details, and they really mean something to her.  We all think this is why she is so great at her job as our Director of Development.

The best way that I can describe this is to show you a couple excerpts from recent emails I received from Carrie.  She was sending me pictures to include in this blog post.

I am attaching my favorite photo of me and my favorite donor of all time.  I raised close to a half a million dollars with this one donor, working closely together.  I’m proud of the money we were able to bring in, but I’m most proud of the relationship that was formed while raising the money, and this relationship exists to this day.  Priceless.

Please do not post this photo until I get permission from him.

I then asked her if I could quote what she’d just said in the blog.

Of course you can quote me! :)  That donor impacted MY life so significantly that I’m the one that feels incredibly lucky that I had the most amazing development experience of my life, thus far, and perhaps for my entire life.  I can’t imagine anything topping that in my professional career.  I knew it was a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience as I was going through it, so I tried really hard to preserve every moment we had together.  I’m still friends with this donor’s daughter as well, as we are ‘kindred spirits’ in a lot of ways.

Carrie’s Autobiography

Carrie Ridge, the Foundation’s Director of Development, has been at San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation for over three years now.  Carrie’s favorite part of development is the relationship-building, which she finds that to be the most rewarding part of her job.  She currently works mostly with the Foundation’s donor base and is excited to get better acquainted with the Foundation’s broader community through our brand-new outreach to the District’s alumni.

Before coming to the Foundation, she was the Director of Development at San Mateo County Historical Association, a Redwood City non-profit.  Even before that, Carrie worked at Stanbridge Academy, a private, non-profit K-12 school for children with learning disabilities, where she and the Head of School spent four years working side-by-side to reposition the school.  (He and she are still friends to this day!)  Carrie also used to be an elementary school teacher in San Mateo County “way back when.”  For her, working at San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation now is a perfect fit (she feels “right at home”), as she can apply both her experience in development and her background in education.  

Carrie with her husband and children at Top of the Rock in New York

On the home front, Carrie has a husband, Bret, and two children: Alana, 16 (just about to get her driver’s license), and Evan, 10.  Carrie also has four stepsons, whom she adores along with their wives and their own children.  Carrie’s sister, Michelle, and mom, Mari, also live close by.   

Stepson Brian giving Carrie the thumbs up

Eldest stepson Daniel at his surprise 35th birthday party

Stepson Steven, flexing his muscles

Stepson Matt at Alana's birthday party

Carrie loves living in San Mateo County and plans to stick around for quite some time.  (She is a true native of the area: born in San Francisco, raised in Pacifica and Millbrae, and a graduate of Capuchino High School in San Bruno.)  In her spare time, she enjoys going to 49ers games, baseball games (“Go Giants!”), and LOVES spending time with her children, husband, and extended family.   

Carrie with Alana as "Frumah Sarah" in her high school's production of Fiddler on the Roof

Oh, and she can’t forget to mention her four — ‘count ’em, four — dogs: three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (Buddy, Bella and Brandie) and one long-haired Chihuahua (Chewie).  She has been a real animal-lover from the time she was a kid and has never known an animal she didn’t want to scoop up and take home.   

Son Evan with Buddy

Carrie and her family with Buddy (red) and Bella (black and tan)

Meet Stephani Scott, Our Executive Director!

Stephani, center, with volunteers at our First Annual Golf Tournament

Stephani is definitely someone you would like very much.  I’m not just saying that because she’s my boss.  And I’m not just saying that because she’s a great a cook (although, seriously, it’s worth your time to try to convince her to make you some sticky toffee pudding). Stephani is great all in her own right.

She is happy and chatty and funny all the time and, as such, is just  a ray of sunshine wherever she goes (the kind of person who will never seem old and world-weary).  She also has done wonders for the  development of the Foundation since she took over.  This is because she knows what she’s doing, and it also has a lot to do with her really very pleasant style of leadership.  She’s quick with (honest) praise and specific-and-direct-yet-nice about things she wants changed.  And best of all, she really trusts us all to know what we’re doing (which is a confidence-booster when you are entirely unsure that you know what you’re doing), and she always, always has her sense of humor on hand.  Even when we’ve popped into her office with questions umpty-ump times in as many minutes, and we are probably having detrimental affects on her productivity.

Giving a speech at our First Annual Golf Tournament

Stephani’s Autobiography

Stephani lives in Redwood City with her metro-redneck husband (DNA salesman and medical device marketing consultant by day, 4×4 hobbyist by night), her 1-year old daughter, and two disobedient pets (a lummox of a Golden Retriever and Abby the Terrible Tabby).   In her ‘free’ time she likes to swim, cook, hike, and go to book club to see friends and pretend she read a book.  A professed chocoholic, Stephani has absolutely no plans to refrain from consuming mass quantities of the stuff on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.

Stephani’s career in the community setting began in her college years as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in East Palo Alto, and she has been engaged in the San Mateo County community in professional and volunteer capacities ever since.  She brought over a decade of experience working with nonprofit organizations in San Mateo County when she became Executive Director of San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation, where she is charged with overseeing the operations of the Foundation, including long-range planning for comprehensive campaign and stewardship programs, staffing, fundraising, and communications.

Because of whom she gets to interact with on a daily basis at work, Stephani says she leaves the office every day in a better mood than she starts the day.  She is referring not only to the Foundation staff, but also to the donors and students, all of whom who provide an immense amount of inspiration.  They say that one of the top ten conditions for happiness is being involved in your community in some capacity, and she considers it her good fortune that she gets to work with her community as her job.

Welcome to our blog!

Yes, “San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation” is indeed a mouthful, but say it three times fast, and you’ll be surprised by how easily it starts to roll off your tongue.  Even if, hypothetically speaking, you are a new-employee-who-has-to-make-lots-of-phone-calls-to-intimidatingly-important-sponsors-immediately-after-you’re-hired,-and-elocution-has-never-really-been-your-strong-suit.

For those of you who are not familiar with what we do, San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation raises money for student scholarships and special programs at the three community colleges in San Mateo County, California: Skyline College, Cañada College, and College of San Mateo (CSM).  If you attended one of our schools and your financial aid package included a scholarship, we raised the money for that scholarship!  We are also, for instance, responsible for much of the existence of the CSM Planetarium (well, paying for it anyways).

We’re starting this blog so our adoring public (most of whom just learned who we are in the last paragraph) can get to know the faces behind the Foundation.  At the core of the Foundation are three extremely nice, extremely hard-working employees with fine senses of humor (it’s a job requirement, actually), and they are backed by any number of Board members/officers, volunteers, student helpers, independent contractors, etc.

I’m new here, but everybody I’ve met (which is nearly everybody at this point) has already been beyond nice, and they’re all so dedicated.  It’s a wonderful work environment, and in the short time since I’ve arrived, we have already had several adventures (First Annual Golf Tournament for the win!), so this here blog should be an entertaining, uplifting, Pulitzer-prize-winning read.