Together we make a profound difference

A special Public Schools Month

BEST PRACTICE: Supporting public schools

HOW-TO: Partner with public ed

Opening day is April 6

Resources

Question of the month

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A special Public Schools Month

In 1920, during the first Public Schools Week, Masonic lodges throughout California stepped forward to demonstrate a unified support of public education.

Once again, California lodges are uniting to address a critical issue for public schools: Through the fraternity’s new partnership with nationally acclaimed literacy leader Raising A Reader, we are working to turn the page for child literacy in our state.

This year, we will build on our Public Schools Month traditions to emphasize the importance of literacy for our local public schools and communities.

As part of Public Schools Month programming, lodges will also celebrate National Literacy Month this April.

It’s one more way to address our strategic priority of philanthropy. It’s one more way to connect with our communities.

It’s one more way we’ll make a profound difference for public education.

For event-planning information, refer to the April Stated Meeting Materials.

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BEST PRACTICE: Supporting public schools

As part of the fraternity’s strategic priority to support public schools, the Masons of California have partnered with Raising A Reader, a nationally acclaimed literacy program. The program circulates high-quality books into student homes and encourages shared reading as a family activity.

Championing the importance of reading is nothing new to the communities of Lake Forest and Mission Viejo, where Saddleback Laguna Lodge has been encouraging literacy since 2000. It’s all part of the lodge’s public schools program.

Assistant Secretary Joseph Stout, who’s also a past master, explains:

Background
My wife and I are both long-time teachers. In the course of our careers, we’ve seen many awards recognizing academic success, but few for the social values that Masons espouse. So in 2000, Saddleback Laguna Lodge created a “citizenship award” for elementary school students in our community. Every year, the lodge recognizes students from kindergarten through sixth grade at a school ceremony. Students also receive a gift card to a local bookstore.

The beauty of the program? The funds go far, reaching more than 100 students every year - which means that more than 1,000 families now know our lodge. And beyond rewarding good behavior, the lodge is ramping up readership in the community.

The concept

  • The honorees: The citizenship award goes to students who demonstrate that they are trustworthy, helpful, courteous, and kind. We recognize 100 to 150 students each year.
  • The schools: Typically, six schools participate from two towns.
  • The judges: Teachers from each grade identify students.
  • The award: The lodge coordinates a special awards presentation ceremony at each school. A Mason presents each student honoree with a certificate, a letter to his or her parents, and a $15 gift card to a local bookstore - in front of hundreds of their peers.

The leaders

  • Point of contact: I reach out to school principals and secretaries (usually by email) and ask them to gather nominations from their teachers for student honorees. Each school compiles a list and sends it to me.
  • Printer: One lodge member prepares and prints all of the letters to parents and certificates.
  • Presenters: When it’s time to coordinate the awards ceremony, six lodge members - one per school - work with school principals to arrange the event. The same six members typically present the awards.
  • Audience: Other lodge members attend the ceremonies to show their support.

Cost and benefits

  • A little goes a long way: The program costs about $1500 a year for the gift certificates, plus printing materials. With that amount, we reach at least 100 students and their families.
  • Member-driven: When we faced a budget shortage a few years ago, members stepped forward to fund the program. One brother, who is a jeweler, contributed three necklaces for raffles; others contributed cash. It means that much to our lodge.

Program impact

  • Reward for good behavior: For many of these students, the citizenship award is the first time they’ve been recognized for the good choices they make every day.
  • Community contact: We use the letter to parents as an opportunity to educate them about the fraternity. In addition to explaining the award, we explain who the Masons are and why we admire good citizenship.
  • Raising readers: The book store gift card ties in with our fraternity’s emphasis on literacy and the Raising A Reader partnership. By allowing students to choose their own books, we think the award fosters a sense of excitement about reading.

In sum
Our citizenship awards lead to great community relations: We connect and communicate with our local schools and educators. Every year, we reach more families and raise a little more awareness about our fraternity. Since the program began, we’ve shown more than 1,000 youth that their community is proud of them.

For our lodge members, this is a wonderful complement to the Grand Master’s Project, and a meaningful way to support our public schools.

For more information, contact: Joe Stout, jstout3@cox.net

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HOW-TO: Partner with local schools

For as long as there have been public schools, Masons have supported them. Here in California, the fraternity has even made it a strategic priority.

Year round, here are some of the ways California lodges make a profound difference for public education. Which tactics can your lodge use?

Volunteer

  • Tutor students or read to young children after school
  • Help in a school computer lab or library
  • Offer to paint a playground, plant a garden, or help with time-consuming tasks such as stuffing envelopes
  • Participate in Principal for a Day program
  • Provide lodge space for special student-parent meetings or ESL classes
  • Talk with school administrators about other creative ways to volunteer
  • Atascadero Lodge No. 493: When the elementary school across the street decided to replace its playground, the lodge got involved. They used a member’s tractor to remove old equipment, then volunteered several days of manpower to help install the new playground.

Donate

  • Ask a teacher for a “wish list” of classroom supplies, then donate or raise money to purchase them
  • Ask the school librarian to provide a list of desired books, and donate or raise money to purchase them
  • Purchase advertising space in school yearbooks
  • Donate or raise money to buy instruments for the school music program
  • Fund an after-school program
  • Fund a school field trip to the state capitol
  • Vesper Lodge No. 84: The lodge donated nearly $9,000 to provide equipment for an after-school science program for middle school students. The students went on to discover a rare cave opening on Mars, which NASA is considering for additional research. Read more in California Freemason online.

Rally the community

  • Hold a community fundraiser to benefit the school
  • Organize a community book drive
  • At the beginning of the school year, ask local businesses to donate backpacks filled with supplies
  • Lodi Lodge No. 256: The lodge collected books from its town and neighboring communities and collaborated with a local used bookstore. The month-long book drive collected 1,326 books, which were distributed to every classroom in a nearby elementary school.

Sponsor and judge academic contests

  • Essay contest
  • Poster contest
  • Speech contest
  • Short story contest
  • Science fair
  • U.S. Constitution tournament
  • Spelling bee
  • Point Loma Lodge No. 620: Every spring, lodge members head to the local high school to help with an important rite of passage for graduating seniors: Members spend a full day watching students present their high school portfolios - a summary of their achievements over the past four years.

Award excellence

  • Reward “most improved” students at a lodge dinner for families
  • Establish a bike reward program
  • Present U.S. Savings Bonds to student leaders
  • Work with principals or school district leaders to honor a Teacher of the Year
  • Award college scholarships
  • Give citizenship awards to students who exhibit good classroom behavior
  • Huntington Beach Lodge No. 380: Every April the lodge hosts a dinner and awards ceremony for the most improved students from nearby middle schools. They pack the lodge hall with community members to show students that their hard work is recognized and admired.

Have we forgotten something? Email suggestions to communications@freemason.org with How-To: Partner with public ed in the subject line.

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Opening day is April 6

The smell of fresh-cut grass. The crack of a bat connecting with a ball. The feel of a new leather glove.

This year your lodge and Masons4Mitts can give the joy of baseball to thousands more at-risk youth, helping them thrive in a safe and nurturing environment.

Through an innovative, non-competitive baseball program, the Junior Giants provides safety, health, and character-building skills for underprivileged youth ages 5 to 18. Every year since 2009, regional teams of Northern California lodges have raced to fund the greatest number of mitts for the program, one $20 donation at a time.

Since Masons4Mitts launched, Northern California lodges have given 5,700 young Junior Giants their very own mitt. At the same time, you’ve built fellowship between districts and raised public awareness of the fraternity.

You’re about to begin your biggest season yet. Starting April 6, go to masons4mitts.org to support your team.

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Resources

By partnering with Masonic Assistance, you can make sure that your fraternal family knows where to turn when they need support. This section is designed to help.

Since the formation of the first Masonic lodge, Freemasons have vowed to care for each other’s widows. Today, needed support can mean social programming in addition to more traditional forms of outreach. Sometimes it’s hard to know what kinds of support your sweethearts need.

There’s an easy way to find out: By asking them.

This month: Template sweetheart survey
Once a year, customize and send this survey to lodge widows. You’ll find out straight from the source how to improve your sweethearts program. You’ll also be sending an important reminder about Masonic Assistance support services.

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Question of the month

Last month we asked how many community events your lodge hosts per year. Of the 181 who responded:

66% - One to five
11% - Five to 10
4% - More than 10
19% - Don't know/Zero

The most common type of community event - cited by 76 percent - is in support of public schools.

Here’s your next question.

 

 

 

 

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