Canyon Crest Academy Foundation begins fundraising drive in honor of Carmel Valley school’s 10th anniversary

By Karen Billing

The Canyon Crest Academy Foundation’s fundraising drive is more important than ever this year as the accomplished school will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this spring.

CCA’s humble beginnings date back to 2004 when 364 students started in 19 trailers in a parking lot. Now CCA is a campus of about 1,800 students enjoying a full range of academic, art and athletic options made possible by the foundation, which, since its inception in 2004, has raised more than $6 million.

“The foundation is a beautiful collaboration of public and private entities, working together to make an outstanding educational institution,” said Anna Lillian, president of the foundation.

The foundation’s goals this year are to raise $900,000; increase donor participation; and create an awareness and excitement in the community about the school.

According to Joanne Couvrette, in her third year as executive director of the foundation, there is some misconception about the amount of money the school district actually receives from the state. She said the average revenue for California high school districts is $9,449 per student; over $1,000 more per student than the San Dieguito Union High School District receives.

The district’s budget crunching makes the foundation’s role that much more important, she said.

“What we’re doing is filling the gap and providing additional services the district can’t provide anymore,” Couvrette said.

Couvrette added that they would love to see new donors this year and participation from more school families.

“About 50 percent of our families donate now which is great but we hope to improve on that, especially because it’s our 10th anniversary,” Couvrette said, noting they always strive for 100 percent participation.

The foundation supports so many things at the school that it’s difficult to list them all, Lillian said, save to say that their funds “touch every student every day.”

The foundation pays for computers in classrooms; enrichment Envision day classes; the salary for the director of the career and college resource center; even graduation — the foundation is in charge of renting the stage, chairs and printing the diplomas.

The foundation also funds the Quest program, allowing young scientists to gain real-world experience and the school’s seven Conservatory programs, including advanced learning in cinema, dance, fine arts, instrumental music, vocal music, theater, and the new humanities Conservatory program this year, which focuses on mastery of research methodology and study of theology, civics, ethics and philosophy.

“The biggest chunk of what the foundation pays for is athletics,” Lillian said.

The school now has 21 different sports teams ranging from volleyball to roller hockey —since 2004 the school has been filling up its gym with league and CIF championship banners.

“It’s just amazing what the school offers for the students, the opportunities are immeasurable,” Lillian said. “It takes quite a bit of money to fund all of those programs and if parents didn’t pay for them, they wouldn’t exist.”

The foundation’s board is made up of 24 volunteer members, led by Lillian. They’ve added new positions this year to focus on sponsorships and business development, finding ways to creatively earn income.

Some of those creative income generators are selling Spirit Wear and eScrip in which a percentage of sales from local merchants go back to the school. They aim to partner more with local businesses, as Lillian says they can benefit from having a world-class school in their neighborhood.

The foundation also benefits from a weekly Farmer’s Market held on Thursdays in the CCA parking lot from 2:30 p.m. to sunset.

Farmer’s Market manager Raquel Pena has introduced unique vendors, movie nights and musical performances from talented locals, including CCA students. There will be new vendors and food trucks for fall, including the Mastiff Sausage Company food truck serving up craft foods such as coconut curry chicken sausage with sautéed red bell peppers and candied cashews.

“We want to make it a venue that people want to go to on Thursday nights,” Lillian said, noting it’s become a place where locals can pick up produce for the week, but also eat dinner and bring along the entire family.

In not even a full year last year, the market brought in $11,000 — Lillian said they’re aiming for $15,000 this year

“It’s bringing community awareness of the school and giving back to the community,” Lillian said.

The foundation is excited about several upcoming events, such as the inauguration of the school’s new track and sports field on Sept. 27 and several “Meet the Principal” events with new principal Karl Mueller. The events will be held in smaller, more intimate settings such as private homes and restaurants in different areas of the CCA community.

The Foundation is also holding a Raven’s Challenge in conjunction with the “Meet the Principal” events — the challenge is an effort to raise $50,000 by Oct. 1. That money will be used as funds to match donations made at the principal events.

Meet the Principal dates include:

Friday, Oct. 5 in Solana Beach, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 6 in Carmel Valley, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 11 in Rancho Santa Fe, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 13 in Del Mar, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 20 in Encinitas, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Locations will be posted on the foundation website at

The foundation also asks people to save the date for its big 10-year anniversary celebration gala event on May 16: “Across the Universe,” an Envision showcase featuring songs from The Beatles.