After-school coordinator from OC is one of state’s expanded learning leaders

Sandra Mendoza presented with award

Sandra Mendoza (center) of Raymond Elementary School in Fullerton is congratulated by OCDE Expanded Learning Project Liaison Suzanne Hill and Program Specialist Manuel Mejia after being presented with the 2021 California Expanded Learning Leadership Award in the Emerging Leadership category.

An after-school program coordinator from the Fullerton School District has been honored for her efforts to provide high-quality expanded learning opportunities for local students and families.

Sandra Mendoza, who is based at Raymond Elementary School, is one of just four recipients of the 2021 California Expanded Learning Leadership Award. The winners were announced last week by State Superintendent Tony Thurmond.

Mendoza was recognized in the Emerging Leadership category. Here’s what the state had to say about her work:

“Sandra is an After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program Site Lead/Site Coordinator at Raymond Elementary School and has enjoyed every moment of it since coming into the role in 2011. Sandra loves seeing her students’ faces as she arrives on campus and they are already shouting her name across the blacktop. She makes sure to acknowledge and validate them, and little do they know how their excitement positively impacts the start of her day. In her fifteenth school year with the Fullerton School District, Sandra and her team continue creating and facilitating opportunities for the students and love seeing them engaged and excited to be in the ASES Program.” — California Department of Education

According to the state Department of Education, the California Expanded Learning Leadership Award is aligned with Lights On Afterschool, a national campaign that celebrates after-school programs for keeping children safe and inspiring them to learn while helping working families.

“Research has shown that high-quality expanded learning programs create the conditions for students to develop caring relationships with program staff from their own neighborhood and who look like them,” Thurmond said. “The expanded learning program offers a safe place emotionally and physically.”

“The California Expanded Learning Leadership awards celebrate these four amazing individuals for their hard work and dedication to support students in expanded learning programs,” the state superintendent said, “especially during the pandemic.”

Closing the opportunity gap

The other award winners are Scott Payne of the Hemet Unified School District, Martha Pena of the Oakland Unified School District and Beth Pine of the Fort Bragg Unified School District. Payne was recognized in the Visionary Leadership category, while Pena and Pina were honored in the category of Inspirational Leadership. 

Citing studies that show expanded learning programs improve student attendance, cut dropout rates, reduce juvenile crime and boost overall academic success, state officials have underscored the importance of closing opportunity gaps for students who need additional support beyond the instructional day.

Through California’s new Expanded Learning Opportunities Program, $1.75 billion has been earmarked to “holistically support students before school, after school and during intersession,” according to a news release from the California Department of Education.