First Tech Robotic Teams Compete in the 2023 League Championships

First Tech Robotic Teams Compete in the 2023 League Championships

Carlsbad, California (Feb. 11, 2023) – Carlsbad and Sage Creeks high school’s First Tech Challenge Robotics teams competed in their respective League Championships. Sage Creek High School’s four robotics teams competed on Saturday at the Turing League Championship hosted by Sage Creek High School.  Carlsbad High School’s three robotics teams competed on Sunday at the Gauss League Championship at the Classical Academy High School.

The competitions included multiple robot matches with various alliance partners and a judging session where teams were assessed on their robot design, software, and outreach. The teams represented their schools and the district well with innovative robot designs, robust programming, and gracious professionalism. Way to go –  Carlsbad Robotics! 

The teams took home the following awards at their respective tournaments:

  • Winning Alliance Captain- Crow Force (SCHS)
  • Finalist Alliance Team- Botcats (SCHS)
  • Design Award 1st Place- Botcats (SCHS)
  • Motivate Award 1st Place- Buffalo Wings (CHS)
  • Innovate Award 2nd Place- Level Up (SCHS)

Crow Force, Botcats, and Buffalo Wings have qualified to advance and compete among the top 36 teams in the region at the San Diego First Tech Challenge Regional Championship to be held on March 12th at Pacific Ridge School.

A huge thank you to our team Mentors, Coaches, and community partner, Nordson Corporation for supporting the Carlsbad Robotics Program and these phenomenal students!



CEF Partners with CSUSM To Provide Gifts for ASES Students

CEF Partners with CSUSM To Provide Gifts for ASES Students

 Carlsbad Educational Foundation & Cal State San Marcos Partner to Give Carlsbad Students a Christmas to Remember 

Carlsbad, California (Dec. 15, 2022) – Kids Care, Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s after-school care program, has partnered with California State University San Marcos’ Human Resources Department to spread holiday cheer to all of the Carlsbad ASES students through the Angel Tree gift-giving program. Students in the ASES program are often low-income and live below the poverty line, this partnership has allowed us to support students whose families face financial hardships during the holidays.

Each student in the ASES program at Buena Vista Elementary School and Jefferson Elementary School created a wish list to hang on the Angel Tree in the CSUSM Human Resources office and receive a special gift on the day of the event.

On December 15th, Susana Martinez, CSUSM Human Resources Coordinator, and two of her elves personally delivered gifts to every student in the ASES program – bringing joy and laughter to every student they came across.

“I’m thrilled we were able to come together and provide a very Merry Christmas for our ASES students.” – Jennifer Rodriguez, Area Manager 

Enhancing quality and choice for Carlsbad Public Schools

Enhancing quality and choice for Carlsbad Public Schools

Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s $14.5 million investment helps elevate the education in Carlsbad Unified School District

When Christine Willis and her family moved to California in 2016, the public school system was last on her list of options for her daughter to enroll.

“We were afraid of California schools,” Willis said. “The reputation wasn’t really strong compared to our experience on the east coast.”

That skepticism shifted to enthusiasm when she found Aviara Oaks Elementary in Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD).

“I thought my daughter would be a number in a district of this size, but the education she receives goes above and beyond my expectations. The leadership and staff have personalized my daughter’s experience to meet our needs.”

Willis first noted the strengths of CUSD when she attended Science Day, a full-day science program funded by Carlsbad Educational Foundation (CEF) that brings STEAM concepts to life in ways not possible inside a classroom.

“Science Day at Aviara Oaks blew me away. I thought, ‘this doesn’t happen in public schools.’”

Since then, the quality of education keeps improving. Willis’ daughter is entering her junior year at Sage Creek High School and is thriving in the BioMed pathway. The family donates annually to Carlsbad Educational Foundation to help ensure impactful experiences are funded.

“I really believe in the work of Carlsbad Educational Foundation. I am a huge advocate of the programs the Foundation provides.”

Many of the district’s most recognized experiences, like elementary music class, BizTown, Science Days, high school musicals, and more are fully funded by the Foundation. Additionally, the district’s robotics leagues, Science Olympiad, and the high school Student Leadership Council are funded by CEF and managed by its staff.

What started in 1983 as a small, parent-led fundraising initiative has grown into a multi-million-dollar 501(c)3 that granted more than $1 million this year to Carlsbad Unified School District. In total, the Foundation has contributed more than $14.5 million, primarily for science, technology, and music programs.

Learn more about what we fund.

This article appeared in the August 2022 Carlsbad Business Journal.

Self-care for parents & students

Self-care for parents & students

By Tora Bueno, Parent in Carlsbad Unified School District

It’s challenging in life to push aside frustrations from unmet expectations or unresolved problems and be a consistent, present parent for our children.

In the book, The Body Keeps Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk, the author describes how the body has a memory for stress. Allowing for recovery from traumatic situations, or even the day-to-day happenings outside our control, is essential to maintaining a healthy balanced life.

We may have been suggested to try self-care, but have no idea where to start. Here are some suggestions for that may help you start a small, daily practice that can help you or your student.

Spontaneity helps.

Not all activities need to be organized. Allow time for play and incorporate activities like dancing to loud music, drawing, baking, throwing a ball. Taking part in any low-stakes fun with your loved ones is a form of self-care.

Take care of the basics.

Maintain a regular sleep schedule with eight to nine hours of sleep, stay hydrated, strive for a healthy diet, incorporate movement into your day (walking is excellent), get outside, cut down on screen time, value and strengthen social connections, and lastly, find a reason to laugh. 

Practice gratitude.

Share “three good things” either at mealtimes, in the car, or when your family is all together. Each person lists three good things that happened that day and also “happy and crappy” (or whatever words your family is comfortable using) in which you acknowledge both good and bad that happened, making space for both and making sense out of it all.

The Roman philosopher Cicero called gratitude “the mother of all virtues.” It helps to remember the good in our lives and, maybe even more powerfully, the good that we do. Andrew Huberman, a neurologist and ophthalmologist at Stamford University, cited gratitude studies in scientific literature which showed that when the good we do is mirrored back to us by third parties our wellbeing is significantly enhanced. Try switching up the gratitude practice by acknowledging good done by others and see how it feels.

Find your why.

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’,” wrote psychologist Viktor Frankl in, Man’s Search For Meaning. Frankl’s Logotherapy theory suggests that meaning is the motivating force that drives humans to pursue connection, education, wealth, and more. But in school, education is often a ‘one-size-fits-all’ and students may not always leave with an understanding of their ‘why’. Scott Schimmel’s YouSchool aims to help fill in the motivation gap and guide people of all ages with a special focus on teens and recent graduates to build a meaningful life.

Try a break from the news and social media.

Reliving the horrors of war in Ukraine or a minute-by-minute account of a mass shooting is a sort of trauma by proxy. It takes us out of our current moment, our bodies, and our reality. Try a total phone detox or check the news once, briefly, and then turn it off for the day. After experimenting, find a routine that works for you and stick with it. There is nothing like a detox to show how strongly something is affecting our well-being.

What to Do with Your Kids this Summer (or anytime really)

What to Do with Your Kids this Summer (or anytime really)

By Tora Bueno, Parent in Carlsbad Unified School District

I listened to Dr. Lisa Damour’s podcast episode, How Should Kids Spend Summer 2022?, and wanted to share her wonderful suggestions. Each of them struck me as evergreen for maintaining good mental health year long, but so much easier to implement in the long days of summer.

Get Adequate Sleep

Non-negotiable. According to Dr. Damour, elementary school children need 11 or more hours of sleep per night, middle schoolers 10 hours, and high school kids 9 hours (here are the CDC guidelines). What the recommendations suggest is a lot more than we clock in our household, and I thought I was a good guardian over my family’s sleep.

One strategy to help sleep cycles is to always wake up at the same time every day. (It’s easier than regulating bedtime). If I am awake at six I try to be in bed around 8 or 9 p.m. I ban all screens an hour before bedtime and don’t let my middle schooler have his phone or Nintendo Switch in his room at night. Seeing my son’s friends messaging one another on video games and social media at all hours of the night, even on school nights, makes me realize they are not ready for devices in bedrooms yet.

Learn Something New

One effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is that social distancing requirements and school closures limited children’s exposure to new experiences and peer interaction. Dr. Damour suggests going to YouTube where literally anything can be learned, from how to fix a sink, to juggling, to learning a new instrument.

I can attest to this as my son taught himself guitar by watching Marty Schwartz tutorials after getting a guitar for Christmas (you can pick up a used instrument on OfferUp for relatively little money). My daughter has become a proficient vegan baker thanks to TikTok. A beginner’s mind is highly prized in eastern philosophy and there is truly nothing like being a beginner to heighten awareness, clear your mind, and open your ears. It’s hard to try new things so I am including this article for inspiration.

Take Safe Risks

Surf, dirt bike, canyoning, kayaking, bouldering, camping, skateboarding. Dr. Damour says safe risks build resilience in children (and ourselves) against anxiety and fear. Learn to be comfortable with discomfort.  She recommends the books, 50 Risks to Take with Your Kids, by Daisy Turnbull Brown, The Daring Book for Girls, and, The Dangerous Book for Boys. I would add, Unbored, by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen, a gorgeously illustrated book my family has owned and loved for more than a decade.

The Goodreads review of Turnbull’s recommendation, 50 Risks to Take with Your Kids, writes: “It’s about nurturing independence and resilience, teaching kids to recognize and assess risks themselves, and readying them to take on life and all that it brings. And it’s about having fun and connecting as a family along the way.”

On a personal note, I have struggled with fear and anxiety my whole life and I will attest to the value of taking safe(ish) risks and trying something new. I recently took up surfing. I rarely go out willingly and always come home feeling spent and calm. Something about taking an actual risk with actual danger has stopped my circular thinking about perceived or possible dangers. Also, being in nature and with my family with low expectations of looking cool and a constant beginner mind has done wonders for my mental health.

Meet New People

Try introducing your child to kids outside their own age. In the parenting book, Escaping the Endless Adolescence, (hands down my favorite), authors Claudia Worrell Allen, Ph.D, J.D. and Joseph Allen, PhD, delve into how teenagers used to mix with people of all ages on a regular basis. Summer camp, a job, or volunteer work is a great place to meet new people and mingle with a variety of different ages.  This helps broaden their minds and perspectives on life. Carlsbad Educational Foundation has summer options for all students, from grades TK – 12.

This comes back to the third suggestion, be comfortable with discomfort when trying something new. The pandemic has made many people’s lives more insular than they once were and meeting new people shakes us out of our shells.

Be of Service

Dr. Damour urges us to make our children contribute beyond themselves. This is something the book, Escaping the Endless Adolescence, hits on as well. Helping others helps us feel better. It gives our lives meaning and, as Dr. Jordan Peterson and philosophers and psychologists throughout the ages have said, meaning makes life bearable.

Dr. Damour suggests small things: craft cards for people in hospitals, help an elderly neighbor with yard work, or ask your children to plan and cook a dinner once a week. I already shop and cook with my daughter, and this summer I will teach my son how to choose produce and make a balanced meal from scratch.

The lovely thing about Dr. Damour’s list is that we can combine any of the above tips to improve the quality of our life. Baking for charity, for instance, might hit suggestions 2, 4, and 5. Damour also mentions Rob Lieber’s book, The Opposite of Spoiled, about teaching children how to save, spend, and give money. Overall, Dr Damour says to let go of the agenda and enjoy each other’s company in the moment.

Her last tip for parents and guardians is to think about what would make us, the adults, feel good this summer. Fill yourself up too and have a great summer!

Aviara Oaks Robotics Team is 1st Runner Up

Aviara Oaks Robotics Team is 1st Runner Up

From Linda Dee, Robotics Coordinator

POWAY, CA — The  FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Championships were held over the weekend with 100 teams competing from Southern California (LA, Orange County, SD).

Carlsbad Unified School District was represented by Armstrongs (grade 7) and the Nevergreens (grades 7 – 8). Both teams are from Aviara Oaks Middle School.

The Nevergreens earned the 1st Runner Up Award at the Poway Championships and will advance to the FLL Razorback Open Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas  May 19-22, 2022 where 80 teams from around the world will compete.


In addition, the Nevergreens received a nomination to compete in the Global Innovation Award (GIA). Only 200 teams are nominated in the US, and only 20 teams advance to the Global Innovation Award judging in June.

The competition was a hybrid format. Robot design and project presentations were recorded and pre-submitted. Q&A judging for robot design, project, and core values were in person. The robot game competition was also in person.

CEF Ribbon Cutting and Open House

CEF Ribbon Cutting and Open House

Commemorative event honors our current and past leadership

Carlsbad, California – Local leaders helped Carlsbad Educational Foundation officially open its new headquarters on Sept. 23 and celebrate its success in granting more than $1 million to schools in the Carlsbad Unified School District this year to help fund music, robotics, science labs, and more. Board Chairman Michael Zepeda and CEO Laura Pitts cut the ribbon alongside the Foundation’s current and former board members and staff.

Who: Leadership from Carlsbad Educational Foundation, including its CEO, Board Chairman, and CEO of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce.

Where: Carlsbad Educational Foundation – 5650 El Camino Real, Suite 101, Carlsbad, CA 92008

When: 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 23. Ribbon-cutting and photos at 5 p.m.

Why: Carlsbad Educational Foundation committed more than $1 million in grants to Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) for the 2021-22 school year. Grants awarded fund elementary school music teachers, the after-school robotics program for students in grades 4-12, full-day experiences at Jr Achievement’s BizTown and Finance Park, and more. This event honors the 70+ current and past board members whose leadership helps the Foundation provide CUSD this critical funding.

Five tips to improve social-emotional wellness

Five tips to improve social-emotional wellness

By Tora Bueno, Parent in Carlsbad Unified School District

School closures and social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of having a practice to deal with life’s inevitable transitions. People of all ages suffered from abrupt lifestyle changes, but children especially were subject to a loss of freedom and peer support. To help children’s social and emotional growth, it’s helpful to learn how to develop resiliency.

In a panel discussion with experts in the medical and educational fields, panelists introduced resources for parents to support students’ social-emotional needs. The panel consisted of educator Carol Van Vooren, doctor and former CUSD student Alison Estrada, school social worker, educator, and mother of five Jenée Peevy, and Scott Schimmel, CEO of YouSchool and father of three.

Whilst acknowledging that every child is an individual and there is no one way to address social and emotional needs, panelists took the concept of resilience and asked “how can we not just bounce back from adversity but actually grow from it?”

Become Resilient Amidst Adversity

Step 1: Grieve the Loss

First, make space to acknowledge, assess and grieve a situation before moving on to “what’s next”. Then, by rallying internal and external resources, asking for help and following through on our needs we can help children to grow from the weight of stress rather than buckle under it.

Step 2: Model Right Action

Next, we need to know what we are dealing with. How can we learn more about what our children are feeling and experiencing? The panel agreed that modeling is the first step. In order to help our children, we have to start with ourselves. By modeling good self-care and asking for help ourselves we show our children how to reflect on their own inner lives and how to care for themselves. We can learn to cope individually, but also by reaching out for help when we need it – hopefully our children will see and learn to do the same.

Step 3: Name the Experience

Starting with our speech and expression, many of us have automatic responses when asked how we are feeling: “fine”, “good”, and “bad”. Finding more precise language for feelings goes a long way toward a more nuanced awareness of our emotions. Even emojis are constantly spawning more refined iterations that can help us express our feelings better. We must practice going beyond the usual answers, get curious about what we feel, and find more precise language to express it.

It is important that we help our children by asking questions and becoming better listeners. This includes mirroring back to our children what we understand from them, giving our kids an opportunity to refine what they are telling us, and also for us to improve our own listening skills. Language, cognition, and emotions are linked like beads on a thread. Refining our language around difficult emotions helps us to process and locate our sense of agency.

Step 4: Try Asset Mapping

Another tool is asset mapping or wellbeing networks. This involves writing and asking questions. Write your name in the middle of a piece of paper and start to ask yourself (or your child) to think about one problem they have and consider what assets and resources you (or they) have at their disposal for dealing with the problem. For instance, a teen that is feeling down on themselves and worried about their future could begin by writing down their interests, what their strengths are, the names of friends or educators who are supportive of this gift or interest, and before you know it they have a page full of ideas, positive reinforcements – assets.

Step 5: Let Your Child Be Heard

Beyond language and expression, try not to impose or guess what is going on with children. Avoid “are you upset because X did Y to you and that makes you feel insecure?” Better would be, “Why do you think this is happening?” or “How does this make you feel?” Stay curious, show empathy and care, and practice good listening skills.

The paradox is that we grow in resilience by meeting and dealing with life’s challenges. The quality we want comes from experiences we don’t want. Resiliency is a muscle we can all help our children strengthen. The danger is that if they feel too much pressure, or don’t find the support they need when it’s needed, it can feel like something is breaking. The more we work on building up their arsenal of tools and practices the more mentally and emotionally flexible and strong they will be.

Reaching for the Stars and Beyond

In September 2020 the Carlsbad Chamber launched its second annual Rising Star of the Month program to honor local area high school seniors for demonstrating character, integrity, love of learning, involvement in school and community activities and the ability to overcome challenging life circumstances without compromising their education. And despite COVID-19 moving the entire program to Zoom, nearly 40 high school seniors from four different high schools were honored.

The Rising Star of the Month program has quickly established itself in the Carlsbad community for the impact it brings each month. “The opportunity to identify and honor a student as the Rising Star is one of the highlights of my month every time,” shared Bryan Brockett, Principal at Carlsbad High School. “The Rising Star’s focus on students who have overcome adversity to impact their school and community is particularly meaningful, because it shows students that we recognize the efforts that it takes to be successful and validates the hard work that these students do.”

The Carlsbad Educational Foundation was founded in 1983 to raise private support for public education. They have contributed over $10M to public schools in our community throughout that time. They have been a sponsor for both years that the Rising Star program has been in existence here locally. “Hear one persevering story of a Rising Star and you will forever be impacted,” said Laura Pitts, Chief Executive Officer of Carlsbad Educational Foundation. “These honorees demonstrate what it means to have resilience, what it looks to like to overcome obstacles, and what it takes to give generously in spite of hardship. We’re fortunate to have these young leaders in our community and it’s an honor to help them succeed.”

Rosemary Eshelman is the Student Services Specialist for the Carlsbad Unified School District. She witnessed the program first-hand when it first arrived in Carlsbad. “The Rising Star Program is such an amazing way to highlight high school students who have persevered to achieve their goals,” stated Eshelman. “It is also a wonderful way to bring the community together through sponsors and showing these young people that they have many people encouraging them to succeed. It is a win-win for Carlsbad.”

After witnessing the program, Eshelman recommended that the Chamber apply for a grant from the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation to get support. The Carlsbad Charitable Foundation became the title sponsor in 2020-21. Estella Mitrani, the Coordinator for the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation stated, “The Carlsbad Charitable Foundation is proud to support this program. The impact it brings to Carlsbad to honor these students is so valuable.”

The students who are honored each month are selected by the high schools themselves. The Chamber shares the mission statement of the program and the schools take the initiative from there. Brockett shared, “Each month I go back to the mission of the program to see which criteria our candidates meet; I really think that this gives us a diverse group of honorees throughout the year, which only makes the program stronger.”

Brockett concluded by sharing, “I know I speak for all the schools involved when I say how much we appreciate the efforts of the Chamber and program sponsors in recognizing an amazing group of students each month.”

At the end of the school year, those students who were honored throughout the year as Rising Stars of the Month, are then eligible to apply for the Rising Star of the YEAR scholarship. This year the Carlsbad Chamber was able to honor nine exceptional students. They were all recognized for making a difference in their home, school and community. Each of the nine Rising Stars of the Year were acknowledged last month with a $1,500 scholarship. A short description about each student is listed here to introduce them to you. To get a better idea of their impact, go out and view the recording of our scholarship celebration.

Karen Antonio (Carlsbad High School) has been an active member of MANA since 7th grade. MANA helps Latina women go to college, something Karen never imagined for herself. But she has learned that great leaders have vision, and now she is passionate about helping others in low-income situations succeed. In the fall she will attend Cal. State San Marcos and study Childhood Development and Psychology. She plans to be a child psychologist and/or teacher.

Carter Blom (Sage Creek High School) has bled Sage Creek green and gold for four years. As the leader of the Bob Squad, Carter has led everyone in school spirit. His leadership helped Sage Creek win the 2020 KUSI Battle of the Fans. Carter has always believed in leading by example. He will attend Baylor University in the fall and major in Sports Business.

Chiara Frank (La Costa Canyon High School) moved to the Carlsbad area just a couple of years ago, but has made a large impact in a short amount of time. Not only did she join Speech and Debate and help lead a “Be the Change” food drive with Feed America during the pandemic, but she also brought Michelle Obama’s My School Votes program to LCC. Over 300 students attended virtual presentations on the importance of voting. Chiara was also a huge advocate for student mental health and helped save Wellness Wednesdays when the district contemplated discontinuing them. Chiara will attend UCLA in the fall and plans to study microbiology and education.

Bennett Hochner (Sage Creek High School) has been passionate about making an impact in Carlsbad for a long time. At school Bennett was a Link Crew leader who helped 9th graders acclimate to high school. He has volunteered for several years at Agua Hedionda Discovery Center with trail maintenance. And his Sage Creek Genius Project identified over $1M in unclaimed funds for local area businesses and organizations. Bennett will attend USC this fall and major in Business Administration.

Aiko Lozar (Carlsbad High School) is so passionate about storytelling that she created a new Student Production Club at Carlsbad High. As part of this club, she wrote her own play entitled “Love is Blind”. After winning awards for the script, the play was professionally produced. Now, the Student Production Club is helping others write, direct and produce their own creations. In the fall Aiko will attend Chapman University and major in Film Production. She plans to be a Film Director and create films for under-represented voices.

Nolan Mejia (Sage Creek High School) responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by creating Grocery Grab, a free food delivery service for senior citizens in Carlsbad. This service delivered over 10,000 grocery items during the pandemic. Additionally, over $2,500 in tips came in from grateful seniors, and these funds were given to the COVID Response Fund. Nolan is also the President of the Latino STEM Club, aimed at encouraging more Latinos to go into STEM professions. Nolan will attend Stanford in the fall and major in Management Science & Engineering. He plans to lead a biotech company to help improve our quality of life.

Bella Niems (Sage Creek High School) lost her grandfather to COVID last year, which profoundly affected her. She responded by serving others. Bella was a Community Coordinator for Grocery Grab, to help bring food directly to seniors in Carlsbad. Additionally, after seeing the rise of homelessness in Carlsbad, she created Holidays for Homeless. She raised over $2,000 that she used to give blankets, food, socks and more to local homeless. In the fall Bella will attend USC and major in Business Administration. In the future she plans to become the CEO of a nonprofit.

Ismael Vera (Carlsbad High School) came to the United States the summer before his 8th grade year. He did not know one word of English. Now, only 5 years later, he not only is an honors student, he has become the lead supporter for new students coming here from all other cultures. His incredible work ethic coupled with his engaging smile have served him well. He plans to attend Mira Costa Community College in the fall, then transfer to Cal State San Marcos to major in Marketing. Ismael intends to go into International Business.

Kami Zablan (Sage Creek High School) has excelled at bringing out the best in others throughout her life. She has been a leader in Link Crew, Generations of Children, Fast Fashion and more. Her bend toward community service has been evident from the beginning. She will attend UCSD in the fall to study Human Biology. Kami intends to go to Medical School and become an OB/Gyn so she can assist the underserved populations of our community.

Congratulations to all our Rising Stars of the Year. We look forward to seeing your star shine brightly in the future and we hope you bring your light to Carlsbad and San Diego North County.

This article appeared in the August 2021 Carlsbad Business Journal.

Foundation approves $1 million to support local schools

An upended school year has yet to deter the great schools that are at the foundation of this great community.

Students and teachers learned valuable lessons from adversities caused by distance and hybrid learning models. We, at Carlsbad Educational Foundation, learned something too.

We have a new appreciation for educational experiences offered in Carlsbad that help students realize their potential and pursue their dreams.

Nolan Mejia, a 2021 Sage Creek alumnus headed to Stanford University this fall, credits Project Lead the Way (PLTW) for inspiring his passion to pursue biomedical science:

“This program made my career goals clear: empower the community with medical tools to transform healthcare. In the future, I aspire to lead a biotechnology company that creates groundbreaking medical devices that improve people’s quality of life.”

As we prepare for the year ahead, Carlsbad Educational Foundation approved more than $1 million in funding for Project Lead the Way and other programs that provide hands-on experience in music, science, technology, engineering, math and the arts.

We’re excited to bring back experiences like 2nd-grade robotics, K-8 Science Days, 5th-grade BizTown, 12th-grade Finance Park, elevated science labs, and designated elementary school music teachers.

Every student of every age benefits from these programs, and these experiences are one reason why Carlsbad’s graduates are prepared to become influential leaders and successful adults.

Thank you for the help from generous donors, the partnerships with Carlsbad’s business community, and the thoughtful adaptations made within Carlsbad Educational Foundation.

We’re excited to start this school year and return to what we’ve missed with even greater appreciation!

To learn more about programs exclusively funded to the Carlsbad Unified School District from Carlsbad Educational Foundation, visit

This article appeared in the August 2021 Carlsbad Business Journal.

Get to Know CEO Laura Pitts

Get to Know CEO Laura Pitts

We asked our new CEO Laura Pitts to answer a few questions for you to get to know her better! Learn where she’s from, who inspired her path in leadership, and where you’re most likely to find her in Carlsbad.

Where are you from and how did you get to Carlsbad?

I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and attended the University of Michigan. After graduating, I moved to Chicago, where I lived for about 10 years. A career change brought me to California 12 years ago.

What’s an ideal weekend for you?

Waking up early with my family, grabbing a great cup of coffee, and heading out for an adventure to the beach or hiking in the mountains.

Who or what most influenced who you are today?

My field hockey coaches and teammates. I had great coaches both in high school and at college who taught me about work ethic, pushing limits, overcoming adversity, and how to be a good teammate. These lessons have guided me in both my personal and professional life.

What inspired your career path in education?

I have always loved working with kids and spent most of my summers in college babysitting and coaching youth field hockey. My first job out of college was working at a tutoring center. I absolutely loved seeing the pride in students’ faces when they were able to accomplish something new. I remember one student who came to us for help with reading. As his reading improved, he transformed into a confident, happy boy. When I moved to California, I had the opportunity to transition into higher education and witnessed the same type of transformation for adult students when they accomplished things they did not think were possible.

What are some of the things that make the Carlsbad educational system unique?

Carlsbad has endless opportunities for students. What I find so inspiring is the various types of experiences that students can have in Carlsbad. There is something for everyone here. Students can excel in science, music, performing arts, or athletics.

Outside of the office, where are we most likely to find you?

Running around after my two crazy boys. We are always out exploring new parks, playing at the beach, and trying new restaurants for our ‘pizza Friday’ family tradition.

Worried About COVID-19 Learning Loss?

Summer program helps kids get back on track

Carlsbad, California – Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s summer childcare program for TK- sixth grade students has a revamped curriculum and activity schedule to address concerns that students experienced academic and social-emotional learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

An $18,000 grant from the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation is funding additional curriculum development, student materials, and staff training specifically designed to help kids catch up over the summer.

Carlsbad Kids Care Summer Adventure

  • Available June 14 – Aug. 20
  • Jefferson Elementary School and Poinsettia Elementary School
  • Open for drop off and pick up 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • For students entering transitional kindergarten through sixth grade this fall
  • $199 per week (early bird sign up through May 31)
  • $225 per week if you sign up June 1 or later

“Kids Care has a critical role in stemming COVID learning loss and summer slide,” said Carlsbad Educational Foundation Chief Executive Officer Laura Pitts. “Summer Adventure expands how we deliver curriculum-focused activities throughout the school year to include activities that emphasize teamwork, communication, and collaboration with peers while engaging them in core subjects like math, reading, and writing.”

Carlsbad Kids Care Summer Adventure features thematic activities that engage students socially, creatively, and academically. Lessons are age appropriate and designed to incorporate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) and literacy curriculum with fun and interactive crafts, games, and outdoor recreation. Students enroll one week at a time and themes change every two weeks.

Kids Care is an affordable, licensed childcare provider for Carlsbad working families that operates every weekday during the school year for Carlsbad Unified School District families and every weekday in the summer for families with elementary-aged students (students outside Carlsbad Unified School District may enroll in the summer program). Summer Adventure is managed by Carlsbad Educational Foundation and all proceeds go back to Carlsbad Unified School District to fund enriching educational experiences.

New CEO to Lead Strategic Reorganization and Community Partnerships

Laura Pitts Demonstrated Leadership Style, Effectiveness as Interim CEO

Carlsbad, California – Following a nationwide search, Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s board of directors has selected a proven leader in the educational field to serve as its new chief executive officer. Laura Pitts joined the foundation in 2019 as director of operations and educational programs and for the past six months has served as interim CEO.

“Even in her short time as interim CEO, Laura demonstrated a natural ability to foster collaborative relationships and align the foundation’s resources with the most important needs of the Carlsbad Unified School District,” said Board Chair JR Phillips.

While serving as interim CEO, Pitts helped the board of directors complete a bold new strategic plan and restructured the organization to meet the emerging needs of the school district’s 11,000 students and their families.

“As a mother of two boys who will soon enter elementary school, I understand the importance of providing the very best educational experience possible through the public school system,” said Pitts. “Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s partnership with the Carlsbad Unified School District has an opportunity to become the national model for effective private investment in public education.”

Prior to joining Carlsbad Educational Foundation, Pitts served as campus president for Brightwood College (formerly Kaplan College). She earned an M.B.A. from Purdue University Global and a B.A. in organizational studies from the University of Michigan. During her time in college, Pitts was a student-athlete, helping her team win the Division 1 Field Hockey NCAA Championship.

# # #

About Carlsbad Educational Foundation

Carlsbad Educational Foundation (CEF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in 1983, to raise private support for public education and contribute to the enrichment of nearly 11,000 students in the Carlsbad Unified School District. Since its inception, the foundation has contributed more than $10 million in funds to Carlsbad public schools, primarily for science, technology, and music – programs that would not be possible in California’s current school funding environment. 100% of donations go directly to support the Carlsbad Unified School District because CEF’s operating expenses are covered by student enrichment programs and Kids Care, a comprehensive before and after-school K-5 childcare program. 

Laura Pitts, Chief Executive Officer
Carlsbad Educational Foundation

Summer Adventure & COVID Learning Loss

Carlsbad Kids Care Summer Adventure has increased funds to enhance its full-day program with an elevated academic focus to address COVID learning loss. The Carlsbad Charitable Foundation’s $18,372 grant was awarded to help the cause.

Funds will be used on curriculum development, student materials, and staff training. Kids Care emphasizes art and science in its traditional programming. Math, reading, and writing will also be included and taught in a fun, active, and engaging way.

Learn more about the weekly themes, activities, and schedule by watching the video below and visiting 

FTC Robotics Teams Advance to Regionals, Win Awards

On Monday, March 29, FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics held its San Diego Region Awards Ceremony. Three Sage Creek and two Carlsbad High School robotics teams qualified to compete in the regionals! They also won some other important awards, including the Motivate and Think Award. Watch a recording of the ceremony online. 

2021 FTC San Diego Region Awards:

Sage Creek High School

8097 Bobcats

  • Connect Award – Winner
  • Regional Championship Advancement

9261 Level Up

  • Motivate Award – Winner
  • Innovate Award – 3rd Place
  • Regional Championship Advancement

10809 Crow Force

  • Think Award – Winner
  • Regional Championship Advancement

Carlsbad High School

5015 Buffalo Wings

  • Think Award – Winner
  • Regional Championship Advancement

9049 Robopuffs

  • Motivate Award – Winner
  • Connect Award – 3rd Place
  • Regional Championship Advancement

FIRST Tech Challenge is a national program for high school students, grades 9 – 12. In teams, students are challenged to document a season of building, designing, programming, and testing complex robots to be used in competition.

Different teams learn to work together through an alliance-based competition system designed to be competitive, respectful, and fun. Teams not only create a robot each season – they also bond, learn, and grow together.

The 2020-21 FTC season was adapted to a virtual format because of social distancing guidelines as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

FTC Coach and Carlsbad Educational Foundation Board Member Al Lewis explains in the video message below how students overcame the challenge of meeting remote and not seeing team members in person.

Learn more: 

AOMS Science Olympiad Advances to State Competition

Author: Megan Holland, AOMS Science Olympiad Advisor

On February 27, students from Aviara Oaks Middle School’s Science Olympiad teams logged on and prepared to compete in the Science Olympiad Regional Competition

The AOMS theme for this year’s Science Olympiad season, ‘Stranger Things,’ was fitting, given the virtual practices and now virtual competition. It was a strange year and things felt a bit upside down.

Throughout the changes, however, our students stayed dedicated to the program and did their best. They coordinated with their partners beforehand to test their knowledge and stayed dedicated to virtual practices leading up to the competition.

Many of our team members scored in the top 30. Overall, we achieved 10th place and qualified for the state competition!

Our state competition will be April 3, just as students are starting Spring Break.  

One of our five teams of students will compete and we will face off with schools all over California. The students competing include: Arianna Sharifi, Jacob Dougherty, Hope Ryan-Retzlaff, Marianthe Dresios, Varni Reddy Badveli, Zaiden Dee, Danielle Dee, Garv Sharma, Sathvik Kambam, Henry Saint, Madison Le, Yash Patil, Meera Mor, and Matvey Pugachev. 

Many of these students have been dedicated to the program for the past three years, and stayed involved when the competition got canceled because of the pandemic at the end of the 2019-20 season. 

Every year, more than 70 students at AOMS (grades 6-8) participate in the Science Olympiad program.  Five teams are eligible to compete. Students choose among 23 events that reflect the ever-changing nature of genetics, earth science, chemistry, anatomy, physics, geology, mechanical engineering and technology. 

After five months of studying their event (with the help of our volunteer coaches – many of which work at ViaSat), students compete with schools all over San Diego. February’s competition was among the ‘stranger things’ this year. All practices and the competition were virtual. 

Thank you to all our coaches that help put this on, the Carlsbad Educational Foundation, ViaSat, and the Carlsbad Unified School District for providing these opportunities for our students. 

If your child would like to participate in the future, look out for information for the next year’s season. We would love for you to join!

Learn more: 

Art Supplies Fully-Funded for Students

At the end of December, art teachers faced a hard reality.

The money needed to supply individual art packs to students had run out – and there were still six
months left in the school year!

For a student, like sophomore Catherine Laube (shown in video above), these supplies inspired her to learn and added a tactile way for her to engage in the virtual classroom.

It was vital to provide art packs for students in the new year.

Because of you, art packs are now fully funded for the remainder of the year.

You answered the call to help our teachers and students.

Whether you donated an art pack, to another program, or to the Carlsbad Unified School
District’s greatest need, your help made a difference in the life of one student and the work of our
every teacher in our district.

A special thank you to our community partner, Erickson-Hall Construction Co., for their
generous support to fund art packs.

Art created by students using art packs:

Project Lead the Way 2020-21 Presentations

Sage Creek High School students in the Engineering Design and Development pathway at Sage Creek High School completed their Project Lead the Way presentations on Monday, March 1, 2021.

The presentations are a culmination of 12 years of the students’ education in the Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) and as participants in the programs granted by the Carlsbad Educational Foundation. From Foundation-funded programs like robotics, Science Olympiad, science teaching assistants, and beyond, these projects show the amazing work CUSD students can accomplish.

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a non-profit organization that develops hands-on, project-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curricula for use by elementary, middle, and high schools. Sage Creek High School offers students the Engineering and Biomedical Sciences pathways.

Donor impact through the Foundation provides students with a $50 budget to prototype a product for class. Students start with product specifications, build the prototype, and then self-evaluate against the specifications.

PLTW teaches technical skills through product development within a real-world setting. All PLTW programs are aligned to the Common Core State Standards for Math and English Language Arts, as well as Next Generation Science Standards.

More than 100 universities and colleges have partnered with PLTW to administer professional development, support schools throughout their state, and give academic credit for selected PLTW high school courses.

For more information on Project Lead The Way, visit the PLTW website.

Watch the student presentations on the YouTube Playlist.

Five Tips to Help Navigate Transition!

Our expert panel from January’s Community Talk, ‘Navigating Through Transition: How to Cope Successfully with Change,’ shared personal experiences that helped them deal with change.

Five highlights from the discussion:

“A way to keep kids motivated is to create a space that allows them to be creative and helps remind them what they are working towards.”

Leah Baker, Panelist
School Counselor at Carlsbad High School and Educational Liaison with the San Diego County Office of Education Foster Youth Services.

“The more compassion we have for each other, the smoother this transition will be.”

Jill McManigal, Panelist
Co-Founder of Kids for Peace, a nonprofit that empowers kids to create peace through service, acts of kindness, and The Great Kindness Challenge event.

“Take this time of isolation for personal growth. Learn a new skill and get closer to a family member.”

Nolan Mejia, Panelist
Sage Creek High School Senior and founder of Grocery Grab, a free grocery shopping service to senior citizens and other at-risk groups to reduce the risk of being exposed to Covid-19.

“Some things that can help internally could be breathwork, meditation, exercise, and journaling.”

Kevin Kirk, Panelist
Former Navy SEAL and founder of the Make a Wake Foundation, a nonprofit that teaches students (grades K-6) the power that just one positive action can have on the world.

“Do something for someone else when you are feeling stuck.”

Scott Schimmel, Moderator
President of The YouSchool, which creates curriculum for students and training for teachers and parents to help children build successful and meaningful lives.

– Hosted by the Carlsbad Educational Foundation in Partnership with the Carlsbad Unified School District’s Parent University –

Navigating Through Transition: How to Cope Successfully with Change

In partnership with the Carlsbad Unified School District and Parent University, the Carlsbad
Educational Foundation presents its second panel webinar – Navigating Through Transition:
How to Cope Successfully with Change.

Join our panelists on Tuesday, Jan. 26, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., as they share personal
experiences navigating through transition and learn about resources to help you cope and
navigate through changes related to the pandemic and life’s inevitable transitions. Registration
for this webinar is free.

Introducing the Panel:

  • Scott Schimmel, Moderator – President of The YouSchool, which creates curriculum for
    students and training for teachers and parents so that all kids have what they need to build
    not just successful but meaningful lives.
  • Kevin Kirk, Panelist – Former Navy SEAL and founder of the Make a Wave Foundation,
    a nonprofit that teaches students (grades K-6) the power that just one positive action can
    have on the world.
  • Nolan Mejia, Panelist – Sage Creek High School Senior and founder of Grocery Grab, a
    free grocery shopping service to senior citizens and other at-risk groups to reduce the risk
    of being exposed to Covid-19.
  • Jill McManigal, Panelist – Co-Founder of Kids for Peace, a nonprofit that empowers kids
    to create peace through hands-on service, global friendships, thoughtful acts of kindness,
    and The Great Kindness Challenge event.
  • Leah Becker, Panelist – School Counselor at Carlsbad High School and former Mental
    Health Specialist with EMQ Children and Family Services and former Educational
    Liaison with the San Diego County Office of Education Foster Youth Services.

The Carlsbad Educational Foundation is presenting this panel webinar as part of its
#MoveForwardTogether campaign, launched in response to the Covid-19 health and economic
crisis. The first webinar, “Supporting Our Students’ Social-Emotional Needs During the
Pandemic,” was hosted in September. The conversation and additional resources to support
social-emotional needs are available online.

Register for the free webinar, “Navigating Through Transition: How to Cope Successfully with
Change” by visiting

To support students and public education in Carlsbad during this most challenging time, visit Every dollar donated through the Foundation will address evolving
challenges and new needs in our schools caused by the pandemic.

Your investment will also help ensure many critical curriculum-based programs in Music,
STEAM, and Innovation are provided and adapted to align with the CUSD’s learning models.
For more information visit

To watch a recording of Community Talk, click here.

Leadership Transition at the Carlsbad Educational Foundation

Dear Friend of the Carlsbad Educational Foundation,

We are writing to share news of leadership transitions at the Carlsbad Educational Foundation.

After over ten years of highly productive service to CEF—first on the Board of Directors and then as CEO since 2015—Michelle Ginn has resigned her role at the foundation to pursue other opportunities. We are proud of all that we have accomplished for the benefit of our public-school students during Michelle’s tenure.

Under her leadership, the foundation achieved significant milestones, including an increase in program funding from $500K to more than $1.1 million annually to benefit Carlsbad Unified School District students. The foundation has invested in systems, infrastructure and business operations that have fueled significant increases in profitability and expanded corporate engagement. In addition, Michelle’s focus on strengthening collaborations with CUSD and in the community enabled CEF to introduce more impactful signature programs and raise the foundation’s visibility as a model for educational partnerships.

Over the past seven months during the COVID-19 global pandemic, CEF programs and business model have been faced with unprecedented challenges. During this time we secured additional funding through loans and grants that have kept the foundation on strong fiscal footing so that we can continue to serve Carlsbad students now and in the future.

Michelle notes that “All of these accomplishments provided the fiscal stability, vision, and connections to serve even more Carlsbad students across all grade levels and at all schools with an array of opportunities in music, STEM, and innovation. Sharing Mission Moments and visiting school sites to see CEF programs in action have been incredibly rewarding leadership experiences for me. The introduction of the CEF Student Leadership Council in 2016 has been the most rewarding experience of all. Working with and mentoring students directly and witnessing their personal growth as leaders has been amazing.”

During this leadership transition, Laura Pitts will be serving as Interim CEO. Thank you for your continued support of the foundation and our 11,000 students.


Board of Directors

Carlsbad Educational Foundation

View the Letter to the Community Here>>