Published February 23, 2024

The atmosphere at the Burlingame Community Center was alive on February 15th as close to 200 educators, community leaders, and advocates came together to attend this year’s Summit for Partnerships in Education. Organized by the San Mateo County Office of Education, Thrive Alliance of Nonprofits, and Stanford Haas Center for Public Service, the summit brought together equity-minded leaders from across San Mateo County to learn, discuss, and collaborate on ways to achieve racial justice through partnerships in schools and communities. 

The day began with opening remarks from Marco Chávez, Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services at the County Office of Education, who underscored the role partnerships and collaboration play in disrupting inequitable practices and creating opportunities for all students to succeed. He shared his personal story of how, despite facing many barriers while growing up in a family of immigrants with limited income in East Palo Alto, he was offered opportunities throughout his educational journey that led him to be successful and become one of the top educational leaders in the county. 

Deputy Superintendent Chávez’ story and words of hope gave energy for the rest of the day as attendees engaged in thought-provoking discussions, attended informative workshops, and networked with others interested in fostering a more equitable education system. The summit offered 10 engaging presentations from a diverse group of San Mateo County community leaders and professionals who are actively dismantling the preschool-to-prison pipeline, building community schools, empowering youth development, and implementing other strategies to address racial equity gaps in education.

A key highlight from the summit was spotlight presentations on the Pacific Islander Community Partnership, ‘Anamatangi Polynesian Voices, Samoan Solutions, and other community-based organizations and programs actively serving Pacific Islander communities, who often face barriers in navigating education systems and opportunities. One of the presentations was from Samoan Solutions’ President and Founder Epi Aumavae, who shared how she leveraged her longstanding community network and relationships to launch a Pacific Islander Arts, Media, and Entertainment Career and Technical Education Pathway at San Bruno Park School District’s Parkside Intermediate School – the first of its kind in the region. From the pathway sprang Tama’ita’i o Pasifika, a student group that performed multiple traditional songs and dances from Samoa, Tahiti, and other Pacific Islander countries throughout the event, adding to the energy and celebratory atmosphere of the day.

When the event concluded, many walked away full of ideas and new connections as well as with a renewed sense of shared purpose to improve outcomes for students who are historically – and currently – underserved in the county. The summit will return next year to help attendees deepen the connections and collaborations they made this year and continue the county on a path toward racial equity.