Recognizing Excellence:  We believe the future of our community depends on the skills, character, and community spirit of our children.  As part of that commitment, we provide recognition and scholarships to students who have distinguished themselves in various ways both in, and out of, school. 
               Overcoming Obstacles Awards – Many students in high school face significant challenges to making it to graduation.  Those who have the grit and perseverance to make it through often want to make a difference, helping others who are facing similar obstacles.  These are the kids who will make our future a better place.
               The Rotary Club of Sebastopol recognizes and rewards such remarkable high school seniors through its Overcoming Obstacles Award Program.  Choosing from applicants at our three local high schools, we award six deserving students with scholarships and a half day leadership workshop.
                 In addition, in 2017, each student received $200 in spending money and a scholarship worth $1500, and one of the six winners received an additional $1000 in scholarship monies.
                The luncheon when the awards are made is often an emotional highlight of the year.  Here are a few of the comments we have gathered recently after one such event:
               “Today, I am proud to be a Rotarian.
               “I have been in this club 25 years, and this was the most amazing meeting I’ve ever seen, and we have had a BUNCH.”
               “They [the winners] are an inspiration and model for every one of us.”
               Leadership Award – Santa Rosa Junior College Scholarships – We believe in recognizing and rewarding students who have demonstrated strong leadership or show that they are likely to become future leaders.  In 2017, we received 68 applications from West County students at Santa Rosa Junior College.  We give three scholarships of $4000 a year to those students who best demonstrated real leadership skills along with academic excellence and a realistic vocational plan that incorporates serious humanitarian goals.  The size of the scholarships, which are far larger than those given as part of the junior college’s Doyle scholarship program, gives a big boost to the terrific students who receive them.  Here are some examples of leadership that we have recognized:
               - committing to make garment manufacture a sustainable industry rather than one that exploits labor and harms the environment,
               - serving as the student representative on a committee choosing a high-level academic administrator,
               - being a teaching fellow with responsibility for developing and teaching parts of several courses at SRJC, and
               - leading a class of 100 nursing students.
               Trade Paths Awards – Sebastopol Rotary recognizes there is far more to high school than just academic performance.  Whether the goal of what we used to call “vocational education” is to give a student the grounding in a traditional craft, like wood shop, introduce her to modern agricultural methods, begin to train him for a career in the culinary arts, or teach her to create great video, we recognize the importance of highlighting and acknowledging the extraordinarily creative things students do in school outside the traditional classroom.  Each year students from El Molino and Analy High Schools who have distinguished themselves are invited to our Rotary meeting to receive a framed certificate and a check for $125. In 2017, we chose a “Fish” theme, borrowed from the Seattle Pike Place Fish Market’s iconic fishmonger’s fish tosses which have led to a workplace business philosophy with these 4 tenets: “Play”, “Make their day”, “Choose attitude”, and “Be there”.   In response, our students showed us amazing work using a laser printer,  demonstrated awesome culinary skills, and entertained us with a video - among other things.  All of our individual winners received $250 and the trio of videographers received $175 each. 
               Student Speech AwardsEvery year, Sebastopol Rotary hosts students from our three local high schools who show their communication skills by giving six minute speeches on timely issues that reflect the principles of Rotary.  In 2017, the subject for the speeches was: "Who has been the most influential person in your life.
All six of our contestants, Seryna Bonacorso, Jesse Osman, Harley Littlesun, Emily Cline, Kyra Hulse, and Marion Hall-Zazuetta did such a great job that Club’s original budgeted prize money swelled from $325 to $1200 with additional voluntary, spontaneous contributions from six club members.  As a result, first place winner Seryna Bonacorso received $350, second place finisher Jesse Osman, $250, and third place finisher Harley Littlesun, $225.  The runners-up all received $125.
            Tricia Maxson, Analy High’s speech and debate coach wrote to the club: “Thank you.  I am so proud of our speakers and am thrilled with the response from the Rotary Club of Sebastopol.  Please let the Rotarians know that we are so grateful for their support of our program and for the opportunity to speak.  I am struck by the personal generosity…. Please offer everyone at Rotary my genuine appreciation.”
Supporting Great Instruction:  The Club recognizes the importance of providing great instruction to our students.  We support teachers who are thinking creatively about how they teach, and we share our expertise with students where we can.
               Mark Sell Rotary Teacher Grants ­– The Mark Sell Rotary Teacher Grant Program provides teachers in West Sonoma County with $50 to $500 grants to fulfill a variety of requests.  Since the start of the program in 2002, almost $260,000 has been distributed to local teachers.  In 2016-17, we were able to provide over $24,000 towards the scores of requests that included a 3-D printer, science instruction equipment, Chromebooks, art supplies, and tools for a garden.  The funding cycle occurs twice yearly. 
Here is what some of our recipients have to say about their grant:
               “Rotary allows me to do more than just the minimal requirement in my classroom.  They have supported my unique perspectives on teaching and gave me the resources to make it happen.  I feel as though Sebastopol Rotary is on the teacher’s side of education where kids come first and ideas are supported.  It is a really nice feeling to have someone like Rotary always in your corner.”
                              - Katya Robinson, West County Special Education Consortium
               “With the Sebastopol Rotary Club Teacher Mini-Grants, I have been able to provide my students with professional real-world tools and equipment that have helped solidify the applications and connections in my curriculum.  Thank you for supporting our school mathematics program.”
                              - David Casey, Analy High School Math Teacher and leader, Project Make
               Mark Sell Rotary Teacher Grants are funded by money raised at our annual Sebastopol Rotary Crab Feed in February.  Please come join us, have a fabulous meal and support our terrific teachers.
For more information about tickets, click here.
               Financial Literacy – In 2009, Sebastopol Rotary envisioned an initiative to address a glarning need: Only one in six high school graduates receive any financial education.  Our goal is to reach EVERY senior in our local high schools to discuss topics such as savings and investing, budgeting, credit cards and debt, balancing a checkbook, taxes, insurance, and charitable giving.  The students leave with a flash drive filled with resources to help build a successful life. 
               Our club selects local professionals and Rotarians to lead the discussions.  In 2010, our first year, we worked with 500-600 students in 13 classes, and have continued these programs ever since.  Over 2500 students have now attended the workshops.             
               Learn with MeThe club recognizes the importance of reading as the foundation for every child’s success in school.  The project begun in 1988 by two members of the club, first focused solely on third graders at Park Side School.  It has now expanded to K-5 students at Park Side and 5-8 graders at Brook Haven.  Teachers select students who need help and encouragement in their efforts to improve their reading skills, and the Rotarians and other volunteers work with them to overcome their difficulties.  In 2016-17, there were 67 at risk students in the program, and they received over 1000 hours of individualized tutoring during the course of the year.
               The program has a bigger impact, however, than just addressing reading.  It is a way to give students confidence about their ability to improve far more than just their reading.  As one Rotarian described the work: “You soon realize that the kids you are assigned look forward to your visit.  There’s no stigma.  Their faces light up, and they rush to get their books. 
Would you like to volunteer? Contact Deborah Drehmel at 829-3886 or
               Dictionary Program – The Dictionary Program provides hard cover dictionaries to all third graders in the schools we support – Brook Haven, Pleasant Hill Christian, Apple Blossom. Orchard View, Gravenstein, Oak Grove, Sebastopol Charters, Park Side, and Salmon Creek.  In 2016-17, we distributed 383 copies.
               Even in the computer age, the students value the dictionaries; some of them are thrilled because they have never owned a book before and many still need this useful reference tool because they do not have Internet connectivity at home.
               West Sonoma County Career Fair – Sebastopol Rotary and Sebastopol Sunrise Rotary partner every year on a Career Fair at Analy High School for students at all three local high schools.  Designed jointly with the Analy High School College and Career Department, this event connects employers to students and exposes them to career and volunteer opportunities.  Fifty professionals and business executives spend three hours sharing experiences and knowledge with over 500 students and their parents to help guide them on their career choices and college plans. In addition, many companies seek students for part- or full-time job opportunities. 
               To help them get the most out of the event, before the fair, Rotarians help students practice interviewing for a job and reviewing their resumes.  For those students interested, the practice interviews are videotaped and analyzed with the help of the Rotarians.
See also the website of the Sebastopol Rotary Education Foundation,, whose board is drawn from the club's membership. SREF has many worthwhile activities, like its Teacher of the Year, which expand the club's commitment to supporting local schools and students.