A New Model for Civic Funding?

by Tonie Hansen

If you want to start a conversation about how to fund public services, close the wealth gap, or help children compete in the global economy, there might be no better place to start than with the neighborhood around Ocala Middle School in San Jose, California.

Ocala Middle School
Ocala Middle School

The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara region – the heart of Silicon Valley – is the country’s richest metropolitan area. Its median household income of $90,737 leads the nation. Yet amid a global technology boom, San Jose – like many cities – is struggling to fund public schools, maintain roads and parks, and discourage gang activity.

Places like Ocala Middle School – where 62% of the students are struggling in math, 48% are struggling with literacy, and 56% are English language learners – are more than just places where those resources are needed.

Despite these challenges, spend time with students and educators like Ocala Principal Oscar Leon and you’ll learn that this is a place where an investment now will help students stay in school longer, and the families around Ocala grow stronger.

Rolling Up Our Sleeves

This is where NVIDIA comes in. Since 2001 we’ve taken the money we would spend on a holiday party and invested it where we live and work. The annual event, called Project Inspire, has become a tradition in Silicon Valley.

See also – Project Inspire: Why Ocala Middle School Matters

At Ocala, that means NVIDIANs and their families will work alongside families from the neighborhood to transform the school’s academic and athletic facilities.

Project Inspire: our annual tradition.
Project Inspire: Our annual tradition.

The campus will get a fresh coat of paint, inspirational murals, an expanded teaching garden, an updated teachers lounge, a new courtyard and revamped sports facilities – including new infields, outfields, bleachers and more for the school’s four softball fields.

The $500,000 in goods, materials and time NVIDIA is spending to transform a middle school in one of San Jose’s poorest areas has triggered various government and non-profit agencies to pool additional resources totaling nearly $1 million for the 2013-2014 school year.

While NVIDIA puts the physical infrastructure in place, support from the city and local school district will establish after-school and community programs and even more physical improvements.

The stories of the students and staff at Ocala have inspired us.  We know our investment is one that’s worth making.  Now we’re hoping our work will help inspire others.