By Karen Billing
New Del Mar Schools Education Foundation President Amy Caterina hopes to help the fundraising organization make big strides this year and she means that literally. One of her plans for this year’s efforts includes a community-wide 5K race in December, getting the community out running to support district’s extended studies curriculum of art, music, PE, science and technology.
“I think it’s going to be a fabulous event,” said Caterina, noting that she’s already working with the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board on the event and Ocean Air parents have taken the organization reins. “We are really excited to add this event.”
Caterina has some lofty goals to get the foundation running stronger than it ever has before.
“My overall goal is that we set up an organization that can effectively raise $5 million a year,” Caterina said. “I realize that sounds aggressive, but we live in a financially unstable world and we need to be prepared to continue to provide our children with the best education.”
Caterina has had two children attend Del Mar Hills School—her oldest daughter now attends Canyon Crest Academy and her son is an incoming fifth grader.
She comes from a 20-year background in public relations and investor relations, and for the last seven years she has been working with non-profits on consulting, including the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and the San Dieguito River Park.
While she has always donated to the foundation and been an active school volunteer, the decision to get more involved came from a dramatic life change. Almost five years ago, Caterina was diagnosed with stage III cancer and had to undergo painful treatments with significant side effects.
“While I was recovering, I could only think about my children, not my job or my career,” Caterina said. “ And when I recovered, I knew that I wanted to do something meaningful for them. And helping DMSEF raise more money for education was my meaningful action.”
She felt like her background in non-profits could bring invaluable experience to the table and help the foundation build its fundraising base.
“I asked myself ‘Why not do it?’” Caterina said, “And I think it is an important message to all parents. We care. We have a choice. Let’s make the most of it!”
It’s easy just to say that the ESC program is valuable but Caterina would like to find a way to measure those benefits.
She spoke to one former student who said she saw a huge benefit from her science lab instruction in grade school once she entered a high school science class at CCA. The student felt that she was prepared over some other students without that same lab experience.
“It did give her an advantage. It’s also an advantage in art class, she knew what a horizon line was and perspective,” Caterina said. “She said it gave her much more confidence in terms of being successful in high school programs. I think probably that’s the message that’s most important.”