From 1 to 21: How Salesforce Teams are Committing to San Francisco Schools
It seemed to be any other day of volunteering: show up at 8:30am ready for 3-4 hours of work before heading back to the office. This one however, was different.
For a group who had become accustomed to disconnected volunteer activities, this was going to be the 7th event with this school in just over three months. In fact, the 100 hours being donated that day were a small piece of a long term commitment by the Salesforce Small Business and Sales Development team through SF.Citi’s Circle the Schools program. After the success of one team last year, Salesforce raised its commitment this year and circled another 20 schools in San Francisco. Our school, the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, was one of them.
I’d first heard about the program when Marc Benioff announced Salesforce’s plan to adopt 20 more schools while at my niece’s school, Presidio Middle School. So, I was eager to get involved when my team was called upon. However, I was worried: I wondered, what school would we get? Would we be able to help them? And did I know what I was signing up for? When I heard we would be partnering with Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, I realized once again how everything happens for a reason.
My niece and nephew had both gone to Harvey Milk when they were younger and I’d become familiar with the school. I met their teachers and attended fundraisers like their annual Drag Queen Show run by the PTA president. I owned tons of classroom art projects, purchased at their Spring Carnival…like a ceramic mural of peace symbols painted by 1st graders that hangs in my house today. Like many urban schools, it has seen challenges over the years, but the school’s mission to teach equality, tolerance and acceptance aligned with the values of not only the Castro community where the school resides, but also of Salesforce.
Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy Principal Ron Machado and I clicked at our first meeting. New to the school, Ron was intent on bringing it back to its roots and needed assistance. That’s where my team came in. This was different than any other team volunteering we’d done; we were invested beyond the typical 3-4 hour commitment. This was about being aligned on Ron’s goals and supporting them through numerous activities and hours. Ron’s #1 focus was to improve the reading levels of his students, and it was clear that by “circling” the school, we could be intentional, strategic, and consistent in how we executed on this goal.
To kick off our partnership, we hosted all of the teachers, staff and the principal at a happy hour at our Executive Briefing Center where we host some of the world’s largest companies and government organization. Our goal was for the staff to get the royal treatment and feel our commitment and desire to show them how much we value their work. The event was a success in every way, from building relationships, to getting the school’s staff and our Salesforce teams excited, to setting our intentions for the partnership. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to wait long to get started, as we had our next event already planned for the following morning. We were helping them kickoff their annual Read-a-thon by sending volunteers into each of the 11 classrooms to read to the kids.
Seven events later and many of our team members are becoming regulars at the school. We’ve done everything from helping organize books in classes to playing at recess with the kids. Our most recent volunteer event involved unpacking, leveling, sorting, and delivering 3,600 books donated to the school as a result of the Million Books Drive we did at Dreamforce. We’ve volunteered more than 375 hours since our first kickoff meeting!
When I mentioned this to one of the teachers, she paused, turned to me and said “I just got chills.” We have a saying at Salesforce, #WeWinAsATeam. That’s what we’re doing here, but our team has grown to include the staff, teachers, parents and community as we work together to improve reading at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy.
Our commitment to “circle” 21 Bay Area schools is setting us up for longer term engagement, deeper support and more lasting impact within our community. Learn more about Circle the Schools and the Salesforce.org Employee Volunteering Program.
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