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APRIL 26, 2024


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OCTOBER 5, 2023 As we embark on another school year at Hamilton, we are delighted to usher in a diverse array of programs sponsored by Rise Scholars. These initiatives are thoughtfully designed to empower all students to reach their full personal and academic potential. We are very excited as we welcome the students back, reengage with our dedicated volunteers, and rekindle vital relationships across our campus. We want to express our deep gratitude and appreciation to each of you for your unwavering support of Rise! It is your support that enables us to continue making a profound impact on the lives of the children we serve.

Before sharing updates on our programs, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all of you who joined us in April for the Hamilton Have A Heart Fundraiser. Your presence transformed the evening into a heartwarming and immensely successful event for Rise Scholars and ultimately Hamilton School. Your willingness to share in our passion for student success and your overwhelming generosity inspire us beyond words. Addressing and eliminating the Opportunity Gap, which affects many children in our community, remains at the core of all Rise programming. Over time, as trust and relationships flourish, we witness the transformation of lives.

Hamilton Chess

When we last convened, we celebrated the Hamilton Chess Team's extraordinary achievement – their inaugural trip to Nationals culminated in a fourth-place team finish (out of 52 teams) and an Individual National Champion! The enthusiasm for chess has never been higher, as evidenced by the strong interest during our Summerhawks 2023 summer school program. Over half of the 140 students enrolled in our summer enrichment program expressed a desire to be part of the Chess Team. Looking ahead, we have plans for Nationals in Atlanta and, for the first time, Chicago, for the Girls Nationals, under the leadership of Coach Abel Talamantez.  Following SummerHawks, our girls' team received an invitation to the FEMChess tournament in Fremont, where seven of our girls competed, with two participating for the first time. The girls won 2 of the 3 sections of the tournament. [Press Release]


SummerHawks (Our 5-week Summer School)

We are thrilled to report that Summerhawks 2023 was our largest, most robust, and most impactful summer program to date. With record attendance, a dedicated teaching staff, small class sizes, a dynamic and challenging curriculum, and strong participation from high school and adult volunteers, we couldn't be more pleased with this year's program. Initially designed to combat the typical summer slide in academic skills, Summerhawks has evolved into a place where students not only maintain but also thrive in their academic pursuits. Equipped with a growth mindset, our average student improved their math proficiency by a full grade using the IXL Math Platform and gained a third of a year in ELA in just five weeks. Furthermore, in a survey, 95% of students expressed their intent to return next year. We extend our gratitude to the Novato Unified School District for their recognition of the importance of summer programming by funding Summerhawks 2023! (Detailed SummerHawks Report)


RISE Interventional Tutoring

The Rise Interventional Programs, under the dedicated leadership of Amy and Kirby Wilcox, will continue to provide vital support to students in grades 2 through 5 this year. What sets this program apart within RISE is its focus on early intervention. We collaborate closely with Hamilton teachers to identify students who are performing below or far below grade level in reading and math. These identified students thenwork one-on-one or one-on-two with trained adult volunteers, to bring their performance up to grade level by the end of 28 weeks.

Because of the attention the tutors provide and the specialized and proven reading and math curriculums they deliver, the results of these programs have been outstanding. In the past two years, 93% of our 52 RISE in Reading students and 73% of our 43 RISE in Math students have advanced 1.5 - 2 grade levelsannually. 100% of the students have developed more self-confidence in their reading and/or math skills. Hamilton's dedicated teachers and administration heartily endorse these programs which the students love!


In addition, for the first time, during Summerhawks, recognizing the pivotal role of early education, we included rising second graders and introduced an adapted version of our Rise in Math and Rise in Reading Intervention programming. The enthusiasm for learning the children displayed was truly infectious!


If you are interested in dedicating two hours of your time once a week to young students, please do not hesitate to reach out to Amy or Kirby Wilcox. The number of volunteer tutors directly determines the number of struggling students we can serve. 


RISE Athletics

The Athletics programming continues to make a significant impact on our campus. Offering both formal and informal opportunities to engage in team sports and enhance skills, our athletics programs instill the values of teamwork, goal setting, and the crucial connection between effort and achievement in Hamilton students. Athletic Director Neil Caynan has successfully cultivated a vibrant program in a short span, attracting coaches and students to participate in a variety of sports year-round. After-school sports, including Girls and Boys Soccer, Girls Volleyball, and Cross Country, have already commenced. Basketball season is just around the corner, and a full slate of activities, including Girls and Boys Soccer and Track and Field, awaits in the spring. Our sports clinics during lunch have proven to be exceptionally popular, with skill-building opportunities starting as early as second grade. Developing skills and participating in team activities not only enhances the student experience but also contributes to their success as they transition to high school.


Mentor Hamilton

With the start of the new school year, we eagerly anticipate the continuation of our invaluable mentoring relationships and the formation of new ones. It is truly remarkable how a positive, caring, and consistent relationship can profoundly impact the lives of our students. While we have many exceptional young individuals seeking mentors, unfortunately, we do not have enough mentors to match them with. If you wish to make a meaningful difference in a child's life, mentoring is a fulfilling opportunity. Just one hour a week, whether during lunch or after school, can make a significant impact, and the rewards are mutually beneficial. We invite you to reach out to Catherine Pace at if you are interested in becoming a mentor.

In closing, we are excited to be part of the journey in these students' lives. We take pride in knowing that they are beginning to be well-prepared for success, armed with the right mindset, and a commitment to hard work. With our continuing commitment to these kids, we believe we can reach our high expectations for academic achievement.  We stand ready to support them in any way we can and could not be prouder of "our" students.

The impact our RISE community is making, with special thanks to volunteers and donors, is truly amazing.  Thank you for being such a vital part of life changing engagement for Hamilton Students.  Please feel free to reach out to any of us.


With gratitude,

RISE Board of Directors

Michele Huff:

Jay Ferguson:

Amy Wilcox:

Tammy Pedersen:

Mike Thomas:

FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2023


October 2022

Please join us for a night filled with inspiration and community at the 2023 Hamilton School 'Have a Heart' fundraiser! The event is Friday, April 28 6:00 - 10:00 pm at the beautiful Embassy Suites in San Rafael. The evening will include drinks, dinner, silent and live auctions, and a fund-a-need for our programs. Your support will help to change lives. Mark your calendars now!


If you are unable to attend, but would like to donate, please click here.


Thank you for all your continued support! YOU and the rest of our donors, volunteers, and friends, are why we can do the work we do to impact students' personal and academic growth.



FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2022


March 2022

Please join us for a night filled with inspiration and community at the 2022 Hamilton School 'Have a Heart' fundraiser! The event is Friday, April 22nd at 6:00pm at the newly renovated Embassy Suites in San Rafael. The evening will include drinks, dinner, a silent and live auction as well as a fund-a-need for our programs. The fund-a-need for our popular programming is aimed at reducing the wide opportunity and achievement gaps for students at Hamilton. With budget reductions across the Novato school district, recent Covid disruptions, and our predominantly low-income environment, our students have a real need for help! Your support will help to change lives.


After a three-year hiatus due to Covid, we are so excited to finally be together once again to celebrate our community and to raise funds for Hamilton School and the RISE Scholars programs.  


We would love for you to join us! Click here to register. Early bird pricing is $35 per person through April 1st, so get your tickets today! You can also help us expand our community of volunteers, friends, and donors by hosting a table of 10 for $350, which you can purchase online just like individual tickets. This is a great opportunity to introduce friends to our programs.


If you are unable to attend, but would like to donate, please click here.


Thank you for all your continued support! YOU and the rest of our donors, volunteers, and friends, are why we can do the work we do to impact students' personal and academic growth.


March 2021

A year-ago at this time our collection of opportunities specifically for Hamilton School students was deeply embedded in the lives of children. Working closely with Hamilton Administration and supported by so many of you as volunteers and donors we were impacting literally hundreds of lives by bringing opportunities to grow, build important skills, to simply participate and to have fun.


And then it just stopped. 


What were we doing a year-ago? The Chess program was seeing up to 140 players a week and excited about working again with the Mechanics Institute in bringing a county wide tournament to the Hamilton Gym. With this, our second Tournament of the year, we were on our way to becoming THE chess program in the region. The mentor program was buzzing with activity, 150 kids meeting weekly with their mentors, and important relationships were building. Our plans to expand Athletics were alive, Summerhawks and Summerbridge were far along in planning with excited teachers and students already committed for the summer. Plans for the Have A Heart Fundraiser were complete, invitations in the mail and we were so looking forward to reconnecting with you all to celebrate a heartwarming impactful year. 


And to cap it all off, last March we officially formed our non-profit, Rise Scholars - a new name with the same important mission! 

Then the pandemic hit, and while our daily impact on the lives of so many kids was put on hold, we at RISE stayed busy. Our most important decision was to shift from a daily interaction with the kids and instead focus on the most pressing needs of Hamilton Community families. Our fund-a-need efforts in the interim focused on food, clothing and shelter for the most impacted families. Our network of volunteers and donors, YOU, even in the chaotic and unpredictable times, generously supported our effort to care for the community…thank you, thank you, thank you! 


Once the community began to stabilize, we, as an organization, took advantage of being on the sideline by forming our board, refining our mission, and exploring ways to improve our tool box helping Hamilton kids become the best they can be. We are very excited to share with you the addition of our new reading and math program dedicated to second grade reading and math proficiency. Championed by Board member Amy Wilcox and her husband Kirby, the program is based on the highly successful East bay program, "Children Rising" , and will be introduced on campus this coming fall semester. This program recognizes the critical importance of having grade level reading skills by the end of second grade to the long-term academic success of students. And, this is another terrific volunteer opportunity for you to engage with kids in a meaningful way.

With Summerhawks put on hold, we looked to our returning instructors, supported by a College paid internship, to help us reimagine our summer curriculum. These talented College students, who one year earlier inspired our Summerhawks kids, did a terrific job and we will be incorporating their work when Summerhawks returns this summer. 


We are always immensely grateful for your volunteer time and treasure. We are optimistic about the opportunity to reengage with the kids at Hamilton over the coming months because, well, we couldn’t do what we do if we weren’t at the very least optimistic! But we can’t do what we do with your continuing help. If you are interested in helping us provide opportunity to the kids at Hamilton, you can sign up to volunteer here and you can now donate online via this website. You might also notice a new way to give. We now accept donations of stock! Donating highly appreciated stock may include significant tax advantages, so please contact Jay Ferguson should you have an interest.  


The light is at the end of the tunnel, and we are beginning to regain our footing! Kids are getting back to school, and we are making plans to join them! Our on-line virtual chess program could begin outdoor sessions soon, Summerhawks and Summerbridge, barring surprises, will be in session, safely, this summer, and ways for Mentors to meet with Mentees are close at hand. Piece by piece we are reengaging. By fall, we are optimistic, we will be impacting hundreds of lives once again. 


It is difficult to keep the faith when away from the kids. Bureaucracy and the harsh complexity of life can obscure the simplicity of what we do. We engage with kids, offer them opportunity in a positive, growth environment. And in return? We are inspired.


December 2020

Because of YOU, we were able to give each of the 150  families $100 in gift cards to Safeway and Target.   We were also able to provide beautiful, warm, new coats to all the children that needed one and handwritten cards filled with well wishes.  We gave out approximately, 300 of the 360 coats that you all donated.  Wow!  We loved seeing all of the beautiful coats you purchased. (see photos)  The remaining coats will be kept on campus and will be given to any students that need one this winter.  


Additional friends of Hamilton provided breakfast bags, toys, books, cookies, and scooters for 8 lucky drawing winners.  The event was put on by Liz Feingold and Emy Macal at Hamilton School and was staffed mainly by the administration and their families.  It was incredible. This is a huge statement about the school and how they care for their families and community.


We distributed the coats individually to each family.  As the cars drove up, one of us went to the car and asked about coat sizes and even preferable colors.  At first we thought we would just pick one out for each student but the flow was moderate and we were able to give them choices and even have the kids try them on outside the car.  Stacy, a teacher at Hamilton, was helping and she told me she felt like she was doing "Say Yes to the Dress!"   The kids absolutely LOVED the coats and the parents were extremely grateful.  Stacy was telling me that because of COVID they leave the doors open in the classroom so the students are cold.  These warm beautiful coats will be essential to their ability to learn.


We find it hard to express enough gratitude for all of you through words.  These families, this time, these kids, it's hard. Every time we ask, you come through.  Because of you, these families feel loved and cared for during an unprecedented time in our lives.   You were there for the food drives, the school supply drive, and now this.  Please know that we are incredibly grateful for each and every one of you.  Your kindness and outpouring of generosity is making a difference at a time when the need to make positive impacts on the world is at an all time high.  So, a huge thank you on behalf of us and all of the families that feel your love.



August 2020

WE KNOW IT WAS A HUGE ASK BUT YOU DID IT!  A HUGE THANK YOU to all of you very generous people out there.  Mentors, Friends, Donors, Volunteers, Parents, you all came together and made this happen.  Thank you so very much.  The teachers and students were thrilled with the packets the students received at the beginning of the school year.  For the first time ALL the students have the supplies they need to be successful in class.  As you can imagine for a teacher this is a relief.  

We are thrilled that we as a community were able to provide school supplies for every child at Hamilton School as they reentered in the fall. This was even more important now with concerns about COVID. Each child having supplies that they leave at school is essential. 


The COVID-19 crisis has hit our families harder than most.  Many parents have lost their source of income and all of the families have their children home due to school closure.  Some families are doing okay, but many are really struggling to provide even basic needs. We were able to provide food and supplies through school lunches, a weekly farmers market, and our recent food/supply drive (see below).  Our families feel so blessed to have such an amazing community helping them.  

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June 2020

Hamilton Families Receive Community Support


Novato, CA…Over 150 Hamilton K-8 School families received generous support of food, toiletries, clothing and supplies from the Mentor Hamilton volunteers!


When it became known that school was out until June, Mentor Hamilton volunteers shifted gears from coordinating mentors and students during the school day to putting out the call that Hamilton families needed help. They gathered and distributed much needed food, diapers, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. for families affected by the pandemic.​For those families in the most dire financial situations, they were able to help with rent and bill support. This was all made possible thanks to the help of many volunteers, individual donors and a very generous donation by 2K, a locally based video game publisher. Many of these families have health problems, immigration problems, and family problems that were exacerbated by their loss of income and the difficulty of providing for their family when their small children were not allowed to go to school.


Mentor Hamilton recently formed into a 501(c)3 registered nonprofit called RISE Scholars, allowing for the tax deductibility of donations and a more expansive mission. It is RISE Scholars’ mission to help every Hamilton School student realize their full potential by providing an array of thoughtful and targeted enrichment opportunities supporting personal and academic growth through the encouragement of a growth mindset, a positive attitude, and achievement.


The efforts of Mentor Hamilton/RISE Scholars volunteers are now focused on collecting school supplies for all students at Hamilton K-8 School.School supplies are an expense that is difficult for many of families in good times. 




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Marin Catholic student, Thea Falvey, coordinates MC family donations essentially doubling our supplies.


 January 2020

Hamilton Knights


 (Novato, CA)… How many Knights are at Hamilton School?If you go into the chess room at lunchtime, you’ll find 88 Knights, 44 students and 22 chess boards.For the last three years, Hamilton School has supported a lunch time chess club that has expanded to competitive chess after school. 


It all started with volunteers Jay Ferguson and Michele Huff wondering about what it would be like to start a chess club at Hamilton.“Chess is such a great skill to have and to play well,” commented Jay. “The game teaches many important life-long skills.” Michele Huff added, “Research has found that focus and developing a growth mindset are a few of the benefits from playing chess.”Curious how it could work at Hamilton, they spoke to another Marin school, and were given numerous chess boards and pieces.There was no turning back now!

Starting with 4th and 5th graders in 2017, the program started at lunch time.  Eager students learned to play chess while eating their lunch.  During nice weather, they took the program outside and the students would play chess at the lunch tables.  This drew more interested students so the following year the program expanded to include 3rd through 8th graders.  None of the 3rd graders knew how to play ... yet.  And this year the program includes 2nd graders.

However, the real Master behind the chess club is Carla Heredia, a Women’s Grand Master who played for Ecuador in the Women’s Chess Olympiads in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018. She has also represented Ecuador in 40 countries. Funded by an anonymous donor, Carla began working with the students in the fall of 2019 and added a competitive element to the program.“We want the students to have fun while learning chess,” says Carla Heredia, the Grand Master who recently joined the Hamilton team.


The chess club held its first tournament in December 2019. Over 30 students from Hamilton participated along with another 25 students from across the county. Another tournament is scheduled for April 18, 2020, at the Hamilton Gym.The long-term vision is to make Hamilton a recognized home for scholastic chess in the county and beyond.

“Here at Hamilton, we want to provide opportunities for students to develop skills and discover their passions,” said Steve Hospodar, Hamilton School Principal. “One opportunity is the chess program at Hamilton school. It teaches skill, perseverance and sportsmanship while having fun at the same time.”


The chess program is funded solely through donations. An individual anonymous donor funded Carla Heredia's entire salary.Through their fall grant process, School Fuel was able to provide $5,000 to the Hamilton chess program. The Marin County Board of Supervisors also provided $1000 to the program.



September 2019

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Hamilton Chess is pleased to announce the hiring of Women’s Grand Master Carla Herdia as our full time chess coach thanks to the continued generosity of a donor that believes in the power of teaching chess to children.  Carla hails from Ecuador where she represents her country in the Chess Olympiads, has played tournament chess in over 40 countries, and is a graduate of Texas Tech, attending the school on the strength of Chess Scholarship. “We are beyond excited to work with Carla in further challenging our Hamilton chess players and look forward to establishing a competitive chess tradition at Hamilton”, commented Jay Ferguson, Director of Chess. 


Fluent in Spanish, and a kid at heart, Carla is a great fit for our program offering Hamilton kids a chance to experience a new opportunity here on campus and beyond as we participate in tournament play. 


Welcome Carla!                         Learn more here:


November 2018


Jonnathan Rodas, in his second year as a Hamilton Cross Country team member finished 1st place in the 8th grade Marin County Cross Country Championship race with the best time of the day among all the runners from all of the county schools.  Jonnathan is the fastest middle school cross country runner in the entire county for 2018!  Congratulations, Jonnathan!! Jonnathan will be attending San Domenico High School as a freshman in fall 2019.

In addition to Jonnathan, the entire Hamilton Cross Country team represented Hamilton very well at the County Cross Country Championships yesterday.  The results were as follows:6th grade boys: Anthony Cetti and Max Kujawa finished in the top 25 of 109 6th grade runners from the 22 county schools. Sanaa Wiley ran well against the 7th grade entrants from the same schools. Jarel Espina, Isaac Garcia-Velasquez, and Kevin Estrada finished in the top 30 of 84 8th grade runners from the same 22 county schools. 


April 2018

Our amazing community contributed over $100,000 in order to provide a 5 week academic summer program for the 4th-8th grade students at Hamilton School.  We partnered with Bay Area Community Resources (BACR) and "SummerHawks" was created. SummerHawks is a fun and engaging place where our students currently in grades 3-7 will exercise their brain and bodies during the summer.  The John Hopkins Study on Summer Learning found that students who do not participate in intellectual activities during the summer lose up to 2.6 months of Math fluency.  It is about the same for reading.  Low-income students experience greater summer learning losses than their higher income peers.  The achievement gap in reading scores between higher and lower income students grows during the summer.  If a child is already behind this can be devastating.  We believe that it is incredibly important for all our students at Hamilton to participate in a program that will enhance their Math, Reading, and Writing skills while inspiring them with other activities like Robotics, Coding, and Chess.  There will be many other activities including Athletics, Cooking, Art, etc.  This program costs us approximately $100,000 to put on for 100 students.  

Thanks to the generosity of our community and grants from School Fuel and The Marin Community Service Fund we are able to put on this program.





September 2017

We did it!  A big thank you to all!  At last year's fundraiser the Mentors, Parents, faculty, and friends of Hamilton came together and raised enough money to purchase two beautiful new vans! They have made so much possible for Hamilton School. 

A message from Steve Hospodar, Principal of Hamilton: Oh, the places we will go.… and we have!  It’s hard to believe that we ever functioned without vans in the past. They have been a game changer for all of us. They have taken our kids to wrestling meets in San Francisco, cross country events at Stinson, band concerts at Six Flags, and even to San Quentin on a field trip, just to name a few. Through your generosity we have removed obstacles and evened the playing field...a heartfelt appreciation to all of your from all of us.

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