10,000 Degrees’ mentors named “Volunteers of the Year”

Heart of Marin 2012Jim & Ann Patterson honored at Heart of Marin event

(San Rafael, CA) – Today, at the Heart of Marin Awards, 10,000 Degrees’ mentors, Jim and Ann Patterson were acknowledged as the “Volunteer of the Year.” The dynamic duo has been active with 10,000 Degrees for seven years mentoring students from low-income families to close the education achievement gap in West Marin. The Heart of Marin Awards, produced by the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, was attended by several hundred people and recognizes outstanding Marin nonprofits and the committed individuals who serve them. The winner is also awarded $5,000 for their organization. 10,000 Degrees received the gift.

“Our community is so lucky to have Jim and Ann,” said Kim Mazzuca, President of 10,000 Degrees. “They’ve given a lifetime of opportunities to the young people and their families in West Marin. Never underestimate what two people can do change the trajectory of an entire community – forever! They are remarkable.”

This year’s “Volunteer of the Year” – Jim and Ann Patterson – have a long history of helping low-income youth in West Marin get on the path to college. Jim was the principal of West Marin Elementary School in Pt. Reyes and Assistant Superintendent of the Shoreline Unified School District. When 10,000 Degrees approached him about taking students on tours of local colleges and universities through its College4Kids program, he enthusiastically agreed and thus began a partnership to get more West Marin students to college. Jim realized that many students at the school aspired to a college degree but most were concerned about the expense and had no one at home to guide them on the path to college. He and Ann became committed to doing everything they could to close the educational achievement gap for these students.

In West Marin, the students they work with are very low-income and are the first in their families to attend college. About half of the students are English-Language Learners or in homes where English is not spoken. The parents are employed on cattle and dairy ranches, in the service industry, in landscaping and gardening, and in restaurants and markets. Many parents do not have education beyond the elementary school level.

Jim and Ann do whatever is needed to get their students to college. They welcome them into their homes and feed them. They help them with financial aid applications and college application essays. Jim drives students to the San Rafael 10,000 Degrees office so that they feel included and receive all the benefits of the program. Jim and Ann also establish a relationship with the students’ parents, making it clear that the mentors are part of a student support team that includes the parents, teachers, counselors and other caring adults. They host an annual dinner and barbeque so parents may get to know the mentors and other parents.

With Jim and Ann’s visionary leadership and direct involvement, the college-going culture has been firmly planted in West Marin. They started with 14 students, nine of whom are now in college. They currently have a total of 20 students in the college-bound “pipeline.” If not for their work, many if not all of these students would have found the path to college too difficult to traverse on their own.

There is no better way to show examples of the Pattersons’ dedication and commitment than to quote a mentee: “Neither of my parents attended college so they could not help me with everything that had to be done. Without JP, I would not have taken as many risks as I did with choosing a college. I knew I did not have any money to pay for a private college but JP always said he believed in me so I took the risk, not knowing what to expect. Now, I attend Dominican University.”

BACKGROUND

10,000 Degrees (www.10000degrees.org) has more than 30 years of providing college access programs, scholarships and college completion support to students in need of all ages. Since 1981, 10,000 Degrees (formerly Marin Education Fund) has distributed more than 27,000 scholarships to Marin residents totaling more than $54 million. We were recognized as a national leader and model for our work in assisting low-income and first-generation college students to attend college. 84% of our students complete a four-year degree, compared to the national rate of 24% for students from low-income households. 10,000 Degrees has expanded programs to Sonoma County and Solano County to serve more students in need.

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