SJC “Divas” continue to make an impact on community

Elizabeth Ortiz

San Juan Capistrano “Divas” met for a district meeting at Swallows Inn to discuss past and present community service work.

A bond between these Divas developed while serving the local San Juan Capistrano Elementary two-way immersion school program several years ago. Although some of the elementary school children have grown, The Divas involved continue to serve the community.

“The saying “it takes a village” has never felt truer to me than in the community we live in,”  Sabrina Medrano, the new president of San Juan Children’s Education Foundation (SJCEF) said. “The Community is where we live and where our children attend school, where we work and where we help one another.”

The annual boutique, spring festival and Chili cook off still remain prevalent until this day.

“Math,” a program developed to work with children for achieving high success rates, was used and paid for each year from the start. Other funds went to furniture for the new science lab, tables, chairs, racks for the Multi-purpose room, bus transportation for fifth grade science camp each year, a school golf-cart, grants for teachers etc.

Irma Goerner, the former SJCEF president started the San Juan Capistrano Children’s Education Foundation which played a big part in the volunteer work that the Divas participated in. She got the paper work together to be a official non profit organization to help supplement where funds were needed throughout the community.

The “Divas” have been dedicated to serve spanish-speaking and non-spanish-speaking families. According to Goerner, the barrier between these two cultures has become less narrow.

“The spring festival was what brought the two cultures together,” Goerner said. ” I knew the language and was able to bring in the Latino community to serve along side the English-speaking women and overtime this brought the two cultures to gain respect and value towards each other.”

Plans for future events are currently being discussed but the fruit of the labor is documented.

The first year started slow but the foundation gave a lump sum of $15,000 to San Juan Elementary School to be used as needed. Each year after, the foundation’s revenue increased and things that were not being paid for by the district, school or PTA were paid for by the foundation.

 The foundation was founded in 2008 by President Irma Goerner and  Secretary Sabrina Medrano.

Goerner says it was her kids being enrolled in a Title 1 school, which means half the families are low income and in this case mostly Hispanic.

“The first few weeks going to the school was a big adjustment for me and the parents at the school. I was the odd man on campus because I was always dressed up wearing designer sunglasses, and pushing my poodles in a dog stroller, like, who is this person? And I felt the same way about everyone else,” Goerner said.

Goerner says the wall came down when she and her husband brought a JiJi Math program into the school. During that next year, San Juan’s API scored soared 33 points more than any other school in Orange County.

The foundation started when local PTA’s yearly revenue reports were on the low end and not treating their fundraisers as a business, more like getting the kids, family and community together. So after talking to the school principal, starting a foundation was the way to go.

The Marbella Country Club’s Holiday Boutique has been taken over by the foundation coming up on 6 years.

“This is such an important event for the club and the foundation that when my term ended this year as president, I brought along the boutique with me,” Irma said. ” Because they knew my work and position in a non profit organization, not to mention I know how to shop, I was selected to do the job.”

Goerner says she will continue to give 20 percent of the proceeds as long as the new members of the foundation provides volunteers. She is currently planning to work a new Organic Gold business in the near future.