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By Henrietta J. Burroughs      Follow East Palo Alto Today on
March 24, 2015                        Facebook    Twitter         Blog
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Sal Khan with event winners and participants
                             Photo by Henrietta J. Burroughs
Sal Khan, first row, second from right, is shown with
the student winners and with some of the other participants
in the LearnStorm awards event at the Costaño/San Francisco
49ers Academy on March 13, 2015.

One could feel the excitement upon entering the room.  More than a hundred students were gathered in the gym at the Costaño/San Francisco 49er Academy cheering. They had much to cheer about. They were gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of ten of their classmates.

The celebration in the gym was such a big event that Sal Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy was present to announce the winners of the first LearnStorm Monthly Cup, an online, academic learning competition. Ten students from the 49er Academy were among the 20 top ranked-8th graders in the entire competition.

Cheers erupted throughout the gym as each winning student's name was called. Khan, personally presented each with an award. Through their individual achievement, the ten students enabled the 49er Academy to rank among the top schools over the past month in the Khan Academy's LearnStorm math challenge program.

The LearnStorm program, itself, is a three-month learning competition that is designed to build students' math skills through their online participation in the program.  Students from grades three to 12 can participate and earn points by mastering math skills and other academic challenges. Students form teams at their individual schools and their school competes against other schools in other cities.

The winning 49er Academy school team included in numerical order: #1-Mariam Aholelei, #2-Jalin Bryant Smith, #7- Alejandro Causor, #12- Frances Lopez, #13- Alexis Lopez, #14 -Juan Cortez, #15- Vake Fonua, #16- Winita Uhatafe, #18- Zariah Stevenson and #20- Joseph Paulo.

The week of March 13, the day Khan presented the 49er Academy awards marked the fourth week of the pilot LearnStorm program, which already has more than 48,000 students participating from 1,500 Bay Area schools

Khan said that he was "really excited to see so many learners challenging themselves in math, proving that you really can learn anything if you set your mind to it."

Khan was joined at the 49er Academy event by Michele Sharkey, executive director of the San Francisco 49ers Academy; Scott Adams, the government affairs director for Comcast CA; Joanne Pasternack, the director of the San Francisco 49ers Foundation; Jesse Lovejoy, the 49ers museum director; Gloria Hernandez-Goff, the Ravenswood City School District Superintendent; Gina Sudaria, the principal of the Costaño School and other school district teachers and administrators.

The 49ers Cheerleaders were even in attendance to lead the student pep rally with the team mascot, Sourdough Sam. The students cheered in unison every chance they were given.

The jubilant mood during the occasion was also felt by representatives of the organizations that were present. Isaac Durand, who is on the Khan Academy's communication team, said, "We are so excited about 49ers Academy's achievements in LearnStorm and the school's representation on our leaderboards."

The leaderboards, to which Durand referred, show the school rankings in the LearnStorm competition and they can be seen here.

On the day of the school festivities, Google announced a program, through DonorsChoose.org, to support participating schools with over 50% students eligible for free and reduced lunch by donating Chromebooks and other tech devices.

Chromebooks, stored in Chromebook carts, were given to the school's students the day of the LearnStorm program. Google's donation of Chromebooks was matched by the San Francisco 49ers and the 49ers Foundation.

Comcast also announced that it will provide six months of free home internet service, through a program called Internet Essentials, for any student who is eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program. Families, with students from schools that are currently enrolled in Internet Essentials, will also receive 6 months of complimentary internet service.

David L.Cohen, Comcast's executive vice president, said, "We're thrilled about the combination of Khan Academy working with Internet Essentials to ensure that all students can learn math online and at home. Congratulations to the 49ers Academy for their performance in the first month of LearnStorm. Keep up the great work."

To get more information about the LearnStorm competition and the partnering organizations at the following links: Khan Academy; the LearnStorm competition; the Google donation program, DonorChoose.org; Comcast's Internet Essentials. The Internet Essentials program can be contacted by phone atl 1-855-846-8376 or, for Spanish speakers, at www.InternetBasico.com by phone at 1-855-765-6995. See a 49ers video of the event here.


Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of this article, can be reached by email at epatoday@epatoday.org