By Willie Tamayo, Brien Farrell and Mary Gail Stablein
In 2009, Brien Ferrell began teaching at Elsie Allen High School. Brien was a retired attorney who had a passion to work with underserved communities. He immediately noticed the school’s disconnect to it’s community and felt the need to change it. He then heard Mary Gail Stablein’s, Elsie Allen High School Principal for 20 years, vision for supporting the students and connecting them to much needed resources. In an effort to change the school’s relationship with its community, Brien and Mary Gail invited 15 community leaders to the campus, to tour and to meet the students.
The community leaders in attendance included Willie Tamayo, Ross Andress, Carlos Ayala, Gerald Villareal, Mike Lopez and many others. They heard students talk about their challenges and their dreams, some students shared “...we have never been outside of Sonoma County,” or, “...I will be the first to graduate from high school and attend college.” Hearing these statements and inspiring stories inspired the creation of a committee to support the students’ aspirations. With the time, talents and treasures of Willie Tamayo, Brien Ferrell, and Mary Gail Stablein they were able to bring people together to support Elsie Allen High School students with much needed resources.
In 2011, a new partnership took place between Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa City Schools, Lawrence Cook Middle School and Elsie Allen High School. It was known as Compact For Success, and it was designed to encourage students to start thinking about higher education early by guaranteeing those who successfully complete the program admission to the university.
CFS partnership catapulted the group to begin formally meeting monthly at the invitation of Elsie Allen High School Principal Mary Gail Stablein, along with school instructor and retired Santa Rosa city attorney Brien Farrell. The committee was now known as the Elsie Allen Compact For Success Committee. This committee was composed of 47 members, they were professionals from local business, government and community, and had no association with Elsie Allen High School. The conference room of La Tortilla Factory was the meeting spot for this new committee. They were focused on supporting the CFS initiative but also wanted to raise funds to invest in student services, college scholarships and student mentoring.
In 2013, the committee began conversations of turning the group into an official 501(c)3 focused on scholarships, student services support and mentorships and internships. The committee eventually received it’s 501(c)3 status on December 13th, 2013. The founding Board Members of the Foundation were: Willie Tamayo, Mike Lopez, Eddie Sandoval, Michael Garcia, Brien Ferrell, Ernesto Olivares, Gerald Villarreal, Herman G. Hernandez, John Meislahn, Katie Barr, Lannie Medina, Penny Cleary, Mickael Menendez, Ross Andress, and Michael Musson.
In 2014, the board adopted the phrase: ‘building the bike as we ride it,’ to explain to the community that they were newly formed but they were already having a positive impact on the youth at Elsie Allen. The Foundation coordinated their first ever Dream, Plan and Achieve Breakfast to raise funds to support their focus areas. Under the leadership of Willie Tamayo, Ana Guyer, Lannie Medina and Penny Cleary, the Foundation was able to raise $56,000. In that first year of being an official Foundation they also were able to grant $40,000 in scholarship funds to the Class of 2014.
In 2016, the Foundation decided to change their fundraiser from a breakfast to a dinner, and this is when the Annual Fiesta began. The Fiesta is the Foundation’s largest fundraiser, and allows the Foundation to give on average 40 scholarships and $50,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors and alumni who are continuing their education.
Since 2013, the Elsie Allen High School Foundation has invested in thousands of students in its focus areas. The EAHS Foundation:
- has given over 400 Scholarships to graduating seniors and alumni;
- has invested over $600,000 in our students;
- saved over $815,000 in our endowment for scholarship support;
- and has raised over $1.7 million.