Bonham Middle School Science teacher and parent Mr. Jason Siptak, his wife Michelle Gorham, and fellow parent Frederic Allegrini enjoy the cocktails created by Michael Campbell at the King William Manor. Photo courtesy of Hugh Donagher.

What every school really needs is friends. Much has been written about the challenges in our education system today, particularly in inner city schools. As San Antonio seeks to revive its urban core, to make it a place people want to live, there is a continued concern: “What about schools?”

Thanks to dedicated teachers, administration and staff, Southtown has an excellent, high performing K-8 Dual language school in the form of Bonham Academy, recently profiled on the PBS show, “One Square Mile.” Yet, it’s still an inner city school beset by cuts in education funding.

Read more: “Bonham Academy: A Parent-Driven Success Story.”

In 2009, a group of parents and neighbors recognized the need for an independent organization that could raise funds and support those programs the school district would not be able to provide. Thus, the Friends of Bonham was born.

Bonham kids enjoying the Battle of Flowers parade from above on Commerce St. Photo courtesy of Cherise Rohr-Allegrini
Bonham kids enjoying the Battle of Flowers parade from above on Commerce St. Photo courtesy of Cherise Rohr-Allegrini.

A school does not function in isolation, and does not serve only to educate those kids who attend it. It is part of the larger community in which it resides.

Recognizing this, the Friends of Bonham makes the most of its bustling Southtown location by bringing together community leaders, educators, business leaders, neighbors and parents to support continuing programs and to introduce new ones.  These relationships have proven invaluable for the students and the community as a whole.

Friends (of Bonham), parents, and neighbors enjoying food prepared by Bonham Bobcat, neighbor and local business owners Freddy and Tiffany Cruz of Señor Veggie. Photo courtesy of Hugh Donagher.
Friends (of Bonham), parents, and neighbors enjoying food prepared by Bonham Bobcats, neighbors and local business owners Freddy and Tiffany Cruz of Señor Veggie. Photo by Hugh Donagher.

The Friends work closely with the school faculty and administration to identify top priority needs. In the previous academic year, Friends of Bonham donated $7,600 for guided reading textbooks in English and Spanish and $1,360 for Springboard English Textual Power Handbooks for the middle school.  They’ve sent teachers to science curriculum training sessions and supported visits by favorite children’s authors.

In past years, Chinese teachers have come once per week to teach the kids Mandarin.  In 2010, the Pace Foundation donated a playscape for which the Friends raised funds to move and install at Bonham. In collaboration with the PTA and King William Association, the Friends supported ArtSmart, a program from the Southwest School of Art. When your kindergarten kid comes home excitedly talking about the physics of color, you know she’s truly getting the best education possible.

Truly living up to its philosophy of community connectedness, local businesses and neighbors have been particularly generous in hosting fundraisers for the Friends. These have included a wine tasting at Tre Trattoria, a tango dance class at Southtown Yoga Loft, a concert at Blue Star Brewery and cocktail parties at King William Manor with the well known bartender Dr.  Michael Campbell, formerly of Liberty Bar, and a Roaring ’20s event at the Triangle Building. And not just parties: the famed Doña Mary Trevino of El Mirador hosted a cooking class; egg roll and tamale-making classes have also taken place in the homes of Southtown neighbors.

Principal, teachers, local leaders and parents gather for the FOB Roaring 20s gala. Photos courtesy of Angela Martinez
Principal, teachers, local leaders (including Rep. Mike Villarreal, left) and parents gather for the FOB Roaring ’20s Gala. Photos courtesy of Angela Martinez.

Bonham Academy’s location in Southtown means that the San Antonio River is in our backyard. The school and the Friends make the most of this by bringing the river into the classroom through art, science and literature.

To join the focus on the river with the city’s SA2020 focus on health and fitness, the Friends group is hosting the First Annual Shake it! 1k/5k  on March 22. The race will start and finish at Blue Star Arts Complex, running along the beautiful Eagleland and Mission Reaches of the San Antonio River.

Kids can walk or run the 1K for $1. Early Registration for the 5K is $25 before March 15, $30 after March 16.  The Friends of Bonham welcome participants of all ages and abilities.  Many sponsorship opportunities are available.

As the City of San Antonio continues its progress towards the Decade of Downtown, the Friends of Bonham will continue to make the School of Downtown a thriving, public, well-rounded educational environment.

 *Featured/top photo:  Bonham Middle School Science teacher and parent Mr. Jason Siptak, his wife Michelle Gorham, and fellow parent Frederic Allegrini enjoy the cocktails created by Michael Campbell at the King William Manor. Photo courtesy of Hugh Donagher.

Related Stories:

Bonham Academy: A Parent-Driven Success Story

Faith Convening: Connecting Church, Community to Schools

Pass it On: Top 10 SAISD High Points

Jefferson Education Leadership Council: A Roadmap For Community Engagement

My Passion: Teaching Inner City Kids

A Future SAISD Parent’s Christmas List

Cherise Rohr-Allegrini

Cherise Rohr-Allegrini

Cherise Rohr-Allegrini is an infectious disease epidemiologist and consultant. She is currently the San Antonio Program Director for The Immunization Partnership. Dr. Rohr-Allegrini was the Pandemic Flu...