Community Support Fills Financial Gap for Phoenix Rising


If it costs $13,000 to educate a child under 13 years old at a private school, why in the world would a school only charge $4,200 for tuition?

Because, Executive Director Aaron Rodriguez of The Phoenix Rising School asserts, children need access to a great education despite the costs, and when a community supports students in a strong, well-rounded education model, the community benefits as a whole. The deficit is made up with private dollars from individuals and business sponsors who support the mission of the school. And fundraisers.

Rodriguez is also the school’s chief financial officer so it was with a happy heart that he witnessed a record-breaking $120,000 flow into the school’s coffers at its biggest fundraising event of the year last Saturday night.

Everything about the evening, during which there was a lot of good humor and fun, was a validation of the work he started three years ago when The Phoenix Rising began.

Last year, there were about 70 silent auction items on the tables, Rodriguez said. But this year, there were more than 100.

“Year after year I am inspired by the expansion of support from the community,” he said.

One of the reasons for the school’s success may be the work of its board of directors, which Rodriguez said is diverse. Some of the directors are parents of current students, parents of alumni, and folks who don’t have any children in the school.

Cindy Schorno is one of those on the board and Rodriguez said she is a valuable member, being one of the older families in the area and such a strong supporter. So strong, in fact, she put her renowned Schorno auctioneer skills to work Saturday night. Brother Dan Schorno, a world champion auctioneer himself, even took a spin on the dais to auction off a few items during the evening.

And in classic Schorno fashion, the pair were able to charm, joke, sweet-talk and otherwise coax the bids out of people who were already happy to give. With the assistance of Jamie Honey, Cindy Schorno, who knew pretty much everyone in the room, created a personal experience for all of them.

Some of the items up for bid included hand-crafted pottery, a gift certificate from Giorda E., a lunch with the Ice Chip Grannies, a cruise, a Seahawks package, a trip to Whistler, British Columbia, and a photography party with Barbra Kates for five families.

There were three unusual items that garner close attention at any auction. One was “An Evening to Die For!” which was a VIP visit for up to eight people to the Thurston County Coroner’s Office. Value listed as “Priceless.” Also, up for bid was a lunch for two with Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza for “an experience of local law enforcement without any jail time.”

For those interested in Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, a Tartan napkin from a private session with a student was donated specifically for the auction. A certificate of authenticity was provided by JZ Knight and the napkin sold for more than $1,000.

Partway through the live auction, a short movie was presented of the students of Phoenix Rising and how it has graduated students who have been tapped as leaders in the public school system and have maintained exemplary grade point averages. Rodgriguez was proud to announce there were about 180 people at the auction, but about 300 more supporters who were not there that evening.

He said it is important to remember the minute a child is born they are filled with potential. Phoenix Rising wants to nurture that potential.

Cindy Schorno held the “cashdown,” which is a way for people to donate cash without actually bidding on anything. She announced JZ Knight pledged $45,000 to the school and followed by working her down from pledges of $10,000 and lower. The cashdown event surpassed the previous year’s pledges by a respectable margin.

“This is how we change the world,” Cindy Schorno said.

Auction Chair Heidi Smith said the use of the Campbell and Campbell Building in Tenino “worked well for our needs.”

“So many people came together to make this happen and all of the guests seemed happy to be there and to support us in whatever way they could,” Smith said. “We got a lot of comments on the building.”


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