SAHS PTO Hosts Power of an Hour St. Augustine High School Fundraiser

Parents, teachers, alumni, and supporters showed up for an hour of socializing and to listen to the needs of St. Augustine High School at the Jackets Power of an Hour SAHS PTO fundraising event at the White Room Rooftop in downtown St. Augustine. SAHS is a school that is the pride for many throughout the St. Augustine community, and jacket pride took center stage amongst the beautiful rooftop setting with the Matanzas River and the Lion Bridge as a backdrop. 

St. Augustine High School teachers at the Power of an Hour PTO Fundraiser at the Whiteroom Rooftop
SAHS Track head coach Joshua Morton, English teacher Emily Szatchneider, science teacher Cathi Rivera, English teacher Angie Lykins, SAHS band director Jonathan Peters, and Spanish teacher Suzanne Stauble at the Jackets Power of an Hour fundraising event at the White Room Rooftop.

"St. Augustine High School is the first and the oldest high school in St. Johns County," said Jen Stevenson, SAHS PTO president. "Our little high school is what started it all, and our buildings are a little older, we don't have the facilities, we don't have the technology, so every penny that you donate to the PTO truly does go back to the school, it goes back to our staff and it goes back to our students."

Jen Stevenson, SAHS PTO president and PTO vice president Jennifer Sartiano
Jen Stevenson, SAHS PTO president, and SAHS PTO vice president Jennifer Sartiano.

Each person paid a $20 fee at the door, and five projects were presented for a vote.

"Every single entity of St. Augustine High School had the opportunity to present a project," said PTO vice president Jennifer Sartiano. She explained that they narrowed it down to five projects and that some projects could be funded elsewhere such as through SAC or through the PTO outside of this fundraising event. "There's a lot of generous people in this community, and there's a lot of people who put hands on things and share their treasure and their talents with us."

St. Augustine High School, Fl Fundraising Needs

Five projects were presented to the group to receive the funds raised.
  • Jacket Pride Messages Around Campus 
  • New Band Uniforms
  • Media Center Coffee Cafe Launch 
  • Expansion of Book Collection 
  • Track and Cross Country Conditioning Equipment

St. Augustine High School dean Ranick requested funds for branding at the school in the shape of jacket pride messages throughout the hallways. "Jacket pride is a real thing. You can go into classrooms, you can go to sports, to the arts, and you can sense that. Graduation, you can sense that. Those kind of things are what makes St. Augustine the high school. Walking the halls, you don't see that anywhere ... Once a jacket, always a jacket. Those things aren't visible. It gotta be visible in the hallway."

The track boosters brought crops for their presentation, and parents listened attentively, as the team pleaded their case for funding. "Our specific request centers around providing mobile strength training equipment," says Jeanne Barton, president of the St. Augustine Runners Booster Club. "It would serve two extremely important aspects. To increase their performance and to decrease the risk of injury. Having this equipment available to the coaches will assist and integrate it into their daily use into these programs providing every single athlete there with the same benefits."

Tracey Barber, vice president of the St. Augustine Runners Club, added that "Some of the items at the top of our list are yoga mats, foam rollers, hand weights, jump ropes, kettlebells, and resistance bands. While these may seem like simple items, their benefit is definitely powerful."

Track head coach Josh Morton Power of an Hour fundraising event at the White Room Rooftop in downtown St. Augustine
Track head coach Josh Morton talking about the need for new mobile conditioning equipment.

Track head coach Josh Morton, a former jacket running track and field at St. Augustine High School, said that his years as a personal trainer before returning to St. Augustine High had made him more knowledgeable about the things besides running that are helpful. "The definition of speed as a coach we're looking for is, who can put force into the ground the quickest. We have a lot of kids who are really quick, but we lack the force into the ground. Not because we don't have a gym, but because there's a lot of sports and it's hard to get in there. Our track and cross country teams having this opportunity to get this stuff done outside of the gym would be huge." 

St. Augustine High School English teachers Angie Lykins and Emily Szatchneider at the PTO fundraiser at the Whiteroom Rooftop
St. Augustine High School English teachers Angie Lykins and Emily Szatchneider speaking at the PTO fundraiser at the White Room Rooftop.

The media center had two requests. SAHS English teacher Angie Lykins explained "The first project is a coffee cart for the media center. Our students are used to using the place for testing, and we want to change the culture of that. I actually had a student come to me a few days ago, showing me a book that she had checked out from the media center. She said 'Look I didn't even think it had books to be checked out' ... she's a junior. They love coffee, coffee brings them together, and it creates a positive environment."

For the second media center project, "Mrs. Haddix wants to go ahead and expand the graphic novel collection," explains English teacher Emily Szatchneider.

Jonathan Peters, the band director at St. Augustine High School brought his wife Melissa Peters, an alumni of the St. Augustine High School band program as well as SAHS band booster secretary Colleen Rackcliff to help with the presentation.

"We're asking for assistance in purchasing new uniform tops for our band program," said Jonathan Peters, and he explained that the current uniforms are more than 15 years old, where "the average life span of a band uniform is between 8 - 10 years. At this point, our uniforms are starting to fall apart. In addition to that our uniforms are quite thick, made out of material that is heavy, meant for durability of course, but now with the advancement of technology and how materials are made, we're trying to get a new uniform that is better for our students, more comfortable when they are out marching during the half time shows."

Inequity was the word of the night, as parents and teachers all drew comparisons to how it is difficult for St. Augustine High School to compete with the new schools being built in the northern end of the county. In addition to new, advanced facilities, examples were also provided by parents, coaches, and educators, and one specific example was mentioned of how one school in the northern end of the county, which has only been open seven years, had just received their third set of band uniforms.

The examples were many, and it seems that the difference in demographics and the extreme growth in the northern end of St. Johns County mean that not only is St. Augustine High School losing teachers, but the disadvantage continues to increase, which means that jacket pride may no longer be enough to compete with the rest of the county. What was once the first high school in the county, is now looking more like the high school that is last on the funding list. 

As for the Power of an Hour funding vote, the band uniforms won the funding from the night. It was "a needed upgrade after a decade and a half," says SAHS PTO vice president Jennifer Sartiano. "They were elated for their students that put so much heart into sharing music at parades, competitions, sports, and community events. Over 80 kids are in band, and the numbers have been increasing over the last several years. Band boosters had already raised half the funds. One vote proved stressful for attendees as each project was greatly needed and impactful. The funds raised last night is a small piece of the Jackets Power of an Hour initiative. It's the unity of seeing how small actions collectively make a huge difference. Communication is always king, and the residual effects of last night is where the beauty lies."

2022 Funding Needs St. Augustine High School Florida

Even though the Jacket Pride messages did not win the vote, Jacket Pride was the clear winner of the night, because parents, alumni, and teachers all talked about SAHS being the high school in St. Augustine. Teamwork, unity, and jacket pride will take St. Augustine High School far, but as can be seen in the lack of representation in county-wide award ceremonies, it seems that the funding inequity and the loss of experienced teachers to the newly-opened schools in the north put St. Augustine High School and its students at a clear disadvantage. 

The oldest schools in St. Johns County come with a long history, and a sense of community that can be hard to find, but parents will need to speak up in school board and commissioners' meetings and write to their local school board members and commissioners to ensure that the aging schools in St. Johns County school districts are not forgotten and neglected. 

If you would like to help support the St. Augustine High School PTO and some of the funding needs raised at the event, please visit the SAHS PTO website, or you can donate directly at the St. Augustine High School PTO Store.

To support the PTO and its endeavors you can also follow the SAHS PTO on Facebook and the SAHS PTO on Instagram, where you will get updates about everything related to St. Augustine High School. 

*This piece was originally posted on the West Augustine News Connection on January 21, 2022.

You can find more St. Augustine High School news pieces here. 

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