Amid the Ruins, New Beginnings: Intel Joins Community Effort to Rebuild After School’s Arson Fire

When a school burns to the ground it tends to stir our own childhood memories of where we went to school, what we learned and the teachers who taught us, and of schoolmates we shared with in the classroom and on the playground. When the cause of the school fire is arson, it also tends to galvanize the community, rallying in concert to ensure that the impacted students and teachers can quickly return to the joys of learning, and forget the scars left by the fire.

Intel has a long history of supporting the advancement of education — from kindergarten to graduate studies — but recently we had a chance to lend a hand, literally from the ground up, for the community of Merritt Trace Elementary School in San Jose, California. Trace is one of the largest elementary schools in the San Jose Unified School District, with almost 800 students; more than 64% of the students are Latino and 60% of Trace’s students are in the free or reduced lunch program.

Just two years after a portion of the school was rebuilt another section burned down in an arson caused fire on July 5, 2010. With just six weeks before the start of the current school year, school district officials scrambled to clean up the debris, put up portable classrooms and help teachers get situated in their new surroundings. The community pitched in — including Intel with a donation of $5,000 — to help the district raise $100,000, the cost of the deductible for the school’s insurance.

Then Intel employees stepped in to help. A group of about 40 Intel Involved volunteers spent a morning helping the Trace Elementary teachers, including those not impacted by the fire, set up their classrooms. The highlight was when employees surprised the Trace teachers – 24 in all – with a $1,000 gift card to replace teaching materials lost in the fire. You might have thought the teachers had just won the lottery – each of them was so thankful. Many of the teachers had tears in their eyes, and so did many of the Intel employees. There were plenty of hugs to go around as you can see in this video.

As moving as the volunteer effort was to the Trace teachers, it was equally meaningful to the Intel volunteers. Some Intel employees shared that this was ‘their best day at Intel’ or that ‘they were so appreciative to work for a company that enables them to give back to the community.’ “The amazement, tears and gratitude made me feel very proud that I work for a company that would do that,” said Intel volunteer Katie Haas.

Now the school year at Trace is underway, but the school’s library still needs to be rebuilt; another team of Intel volunteers is waiting in the wings to help with that project when school leaders are ready to proceed. These simple acts are part of a widespread and sustained effort to help the Trace Elementary community.

There’s still another way to make a difference. Trace is in a competition with other schools across the U.S. to receive half a million dollars. Click here to learn how your simple act can make a big difference for Trace.

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