A Brand New Field of Dreams for Daly City's Woodrow Wilson Elementary School
They rolled, they tumbled, they laughed. They ran and kicked soccer balls and did handstands. All of it, one big expression of joy and exhilaration for the arrival of a big, green field primed for pure play and freedom. The students of Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Daly City made it abundantly clear just how much fun they were having at the opening ceremony of their brand new Field of Dreams.
The 11,000 sq. ft. turf field was installed through the collaborative efforts of America SCORES Bay Area and the extended Woodrow Wilson school community. That community spreads wide, reaching from the school’s kids, families, and teachers to the Daly City Police Department, the Daly City Police Athletic League, the Jefferson Elementary School District, Daly City Supervisor David Canepa, and the Woodlawn Foundation among other donors. The SCORES after-school based youth development program at Woodrow Wilson Elementary has been made possible in part by funding from Kaiser Permanente and US Soccer Foundation.
This Field of Dreams got a powerful kickstart from a Woodrow Wilson Elementary parent, then the parent of a kindergartener. Attending a PTA meeting in late 2016, Aaron Rashba listened as then principal Brian Allen described their school as the sole school in the district without a green space for kids to play on. This seemed both striking and solvable to Rashba. “From the back of the room I started googling and looking up different organizations that do soccer. I found America Scores Bay Area and got in touch with CEO Colin Schmidt. We talked about their amazing program and I knew this had to happen,” Rashba explained, adding, “I also learned we needed to raise a lot of money to make a field happen.”
Rashba works as a nonprofit fundraiser professionally and understood that the key would be to start strong. Woodrow Wilson has a vibrant community with seventy-two percent of students on free and reduced lunch. Rashba knew he would have to reach beyond the community to get the project off the ground. Through a series of connections, he got in touch with the Woodlawn Foundation. That proved to be a critical link. “They gave $30,000, which was the first big gift for the field,” Rashba said. “We were thrilled to get that, and from there it became a team effort. And this is a team that cannot be stopped.”
And so began a collaborative effort that brought everyone in the Woodrow Wilson community and beyond together to make a brilliant new field come alive, one that would provide green space not only for Woodrow Wilson students but for the entire neighborhood. The PTA rallied and formed a committee to steer the fundraising Fallfest. Principal Sara Rich, stepping in after Principal Allen’s departure, reached out to an array of stakeholders: the Daly City Police, the Daly City Police Athletic League, the Jefferson Elementary School District, and Daly City Supervisor David Canepa, all of whom kicked in funds to propel the project forward. And taking the effort over the top and past the finish line were the powerhouse fundraising efforts of the Woodrow Wilson Elementary students and families, who raised $7000 through a schoolwide walkathon. Every single student walked.
Looking out over the sea of students at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Daly City Mayor and former Woodrow Wilson Elementary Wildcat Juslyn Manalo celebrated the students for their contributions. “What’s really special is that each and every one of you took a part in this. You showed us that together we can make a difference. It takes everyone working together to make something magical like this happen.”
To fourth-grade teacher Lynda Mcnesby-Flynn, the view was profoundly hopeful. “I asked my class what it looks like looking out from our classroom onto the field, and they said it makes them feel peaceful, relaxed, and happy,” she told the crowd. That sense of possibility was echoed by Principal Sara Rich, a former America SCORES coach herself, and the engine behind the debut of the afterschool SCORES program at Woodrow Wilson last year. “The kids have a space to be together, a space that’s green, a space that the community gets to enjoy. People are coming to play on it and picnic on it in a way that’s far bigger than just soccer. It’s a community space. And now we’re going to build a garden. It’s gotten us to think differently and bigger. Our teaching has gotten better because we’re thinking differently and are more open to new ideas about how to fully take advantage of this great new addition to our school.”