Growing Connections Through the Berkeley Half Marathon

244_BPSF-HalfMarathon_20131124The Berkeley Public Schools Fund has been an official charity for the Berkeley Half Marathon since the race’s first year in 2013. We love this community event—it gets better every year! Team Schools Fund has been comprised of about 80 runners each year, runners who are passionate about education and supporting schools throughout BUSD.

Our 2014 Team Schools Fund raised over $37,000 and included a sponsorship from Magoosh. Half of the money raised went directly to PTAs of schools represented by our runners, and the other half was used to support Cooking and Gardening Strategic Impact Grants, including a Districtwide grant to support Gardening Curriculum and the Growing Leaders program at Willard Middle.

Growing Leaders' logo, designed by Willard students.
Growing Leaders’ logo, designed by Willard students.

This past year was an especially exciting year for Growing Leaders, which is a program that teaches students gardening, cooking, ecology, and business skills while providing mentorship, internship, and summer job opportunities. To help fund the gardening program at Willard, students partner with BTA students to sell meals twice a month to the local community through These dinners-to-go are sourced entirely from the Willard garden and neighboring businesses; all meals are cooked by students as well. Through Growing Leaders, students learn about inventory, invoicing, contracting with outside businesses, marketing (they even designed their own logo!), and customer service.

In May 2015, we honored Growing Leaders Director Matt Tsang as a Distinguished Educator at the Schools Fund Spring Luncheon. When we interviewed him about his work before the event, Matt said one of his main goals with Growing Leaders is to give students autonomy. “How do your decisions pay off? We want these students to be responsible and thinking beings. This program creates real life situations with cushions that allow students to make mistakes and grow,” Matt explained.

Directing funds raised from the Berkeley Half Marathon to Growing Leaders and other gardening projects in the District was a natural fit. Both the Berkeley Half and Growing Leaders promote healthy choices, an appreciation for nature and the outdoors, and a sense of personal responsibility in relation to community. Tsang spoke of his commitment to “creating connections” for students; through Growing Leaders he is connecting middle school students to high school peers to lifelong skills. The Schools Fund is proud to continue that line of connection all the way to our team of community runners through the Berkeley Half Marathon.

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