Monterey Herald: Pacific Grove student helps choir club become class

By Claudia Meléndez Salinas, Monterey Herald

For the past few years, the choir at Pacific Grove High has just been a club, a group that meets on Saturdays for the love of singing but with no school credit or funding.

Parents and students had to rely on grants to be able to provide a stipend for the teachers, but this year, the grant ran out. If the choir was to continue, another way to pay the instructors would have to be found.

Enter Olivia Cain, 17, a senior who loves music, volunteers to provide services to the homeless, and has made the choir one of her endeavors for the past three years. She’s created a website for it, wrote a grant, and this year, she shepherded a proposal to transform the choir club into a class.

That way, the club can get money from the district to pay the teachers and the students who attend can get credit for it.

“We created what I would call a hybrid class,” Principal Matt Bell said. “Basically, the chorus still would meet the same times they’ve been meeting, on weekends and after school. The time almost equates (to) a regular class, and we’re going to grant the chorus credits for graduation and it will appear on their transcript.”

The proposal to make the club into a class will be heard Thursday during the regular meeting of the Pacific Grove Unified School District. Board members have already shown their support, Bell said.

“They encouraged me to regularly flag the chorus to see if there’s an interest and have enough kids” join, he said.

Cain has been singing with her church choir since she was 2 or 3, she said, so her interest in music runs deep.

But she’s also been a Girl Scout since the first grade, so turning choir into a class had an added incentive. It could be her project to earn a Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve.

“You submit an application online,” Cain said about the process to earn the award. “They send you an email telling you whether or not it’s approved. You’re assigned a mentor to get to work on the project. You have to spend a minimum of 80 hours on the project.”

Cain has made two presentations about the proposal to district’s board of trustees. If her proposal is approved, she will submit the paperwork to earn the final recognition from the Girl Scouts.

“Only 5 percent of Girl Scouts get the award,” she said.

Not as many girls earn the organization’s highest honor because their interest wanes as they get older, Cain believes. But she wanted to make it a priority.

“Girl Scouts has been a great experience for me. Our troop has shrunk and changed, there’s only three members now, but it’s a great group of girls,” she said.

Earning the award while making an impact on her school is an added benefit.

“I feel pretty honored to have this experience, both as president of my club soon to be class,” she said. “I hope choir can continue to grow and change and not be limited by club status.”

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