Meet Michelle McDonald – The Ultimate Dublin Public Education Difference Maker
Throughout this series, it has been our goal to shine a light on a myriad of adult volunteers that have made significant contributions at their respective schools and to the efforts of the Dublin Unified School District. As we move this project towards its conclusion, we are pleased to devote a post that will focus on a singular force of nature, Michelle McDonald.
All of our featured Difference Makers are making significant and relevant contributions to their respective school sites. However, it is somewhat unusual to meet an individual that has virtually “done it all” throughout her 15 year tenure as a parent volunteer. She and her husband, Jerry, have raised two children that have traversed through the DUSD ladder – Annie is presently matriculating through Santa Clara University (and was featured in a Life in College article) and Matthew is a current Dublin High School senior that will advance to Linfield College in Oregon. For those that may be unfamiliar, their family’s contributions to the advancement of this school district cannot be completely summarized or simply articulated.
Ms. McDonald attained a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from San Jose State University. Subsequently, she was able to match her passion for sports and journalism and over time has worked as a Writer for the Oakland Tribune, the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle. The latter assignment featured a focus on the Stanford Women’s Basketball beat that followed the Lady Cardinal through much of their NCAA successes. Since 2011, she has been a Contributing Writer to espnW.com – frequently reporting on global women’s sports.
All the while, Michelle has managed to function as a tireless leader and volunteer for a multitude of initiatives. Her articulation began at Frederiksen Elementary School under the innocent movement to help build a shade structure for the school site. Joining the PFC, she ultimately became the President of the PFC. Moving forward to Wells Middle School, she assumed greater responsibilities, including the management of the Annual Crab Feed and also accepted an elevated role in the PFC. As her children migrated to Dublin High, she inevitably took on roles of leadership in the PFSO and supported the Athletic Boosters organization at a high level. Additionally, she has performed in an instrumental role in multiple bond measure and parcel tax campaigns in support of the Dublin Unified School District. There has been virtually, no stone unturned.
So, where do you start with this type of person? OneDublin.org recently had the opportunity to sit down with Michelle and to gather thoughts on her journey and to receive her perspective on the state of volunteerism within DUSD.
OneDublin.org: As this school year is seemingly racing to its end, perhaps you’ve taken a moment to reflect. And, perhaps you have not. When you momentarily put your remaining volunteering responsibilities at Dublin High aside, please share a memorable anecdote from your years at Frederiksen Elementary School – the place where it all began.
Michelle McDonald: “Honestly, there hasn’t been much time to reflect yet. Senior year finishes with a lot of activities, and it’s probably best not to spend too much time pondering the “end” of anything at this point. It’s coming soon enough. But I do remember so many moments well from those days back at Frederiksen, but one in particular that I remember with great affection was the day my friend Catherine Brown (now a teacher at Frederiksen) assigned me to cook 500 hot dogs for Field Day. We dragged some gas grills to school and I sat out on the patio flipping hot dogs for 3 hours wondering how in the world I got there and also knowing there was no place I’d rather be. To be at school, watch my children and their friends actually experience their education on a regular-basis, was a gift. It still is.”
OneDublin.org: It has been our observation over time that you possess the knack for positively leading groups and initiatives. Yet, during our conversation, you stressed that “having fun” is a primary element for any project. Please share your general philosophy about volunteering and also serving in a leadership role.
McDonald: “I am a big believer in working on some of these big projects with a group of people who really want to be there and have a great time accomplishing something together. I have made some of my most precious friendships with people whom I have shared this volunteer experience. It is really a win-win, less work for everybody when lots of people pitch in, more memories for all of us and it’s the best way to make sure that some of these events live on. By not making them so big or so onerous that one person feels the burden of success of failure.
“I am more grateful that I can say for all of the groups of people I’ve worked with through the years and I hope I never hesitate to express that. Maybe that’s why some of these folks keep agreeing to say yes when I ask. Being a leader doesn’t mean having to do everything yourself. It doesn’t mean having to keep track of everything that’s been done on a micro level. It means being the person who is willing to see the bigger picture and allow people to share their passions and their talents. Frankly, I also don’t believe in drama. We are all volunteers and we are all doing the best we can. There is no merit to confrontation, or rudeness, or unrealistic expectations in these situations. I’d like to think I have been able to keep things drama-free.”
OneDublin.org: In March, you were honored to be inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame of Alameda County. Help our readers to understand how you gained inclusion into this exclusive group and what the honor means to you.
McDonald: “I had the honor this spring of being inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame thanks to the sneaky nomination of a group of friends, and my amazing sister Linda. They nominated me on the basis of my work covering women’s sports in the Bay Area and nationally for the past 25 years (eek). I am very proud of my work in journalism. It has been my privilege to shine a light on a lot of female athletes who don’t often get the spotlight pointed in their direction nearly enough. And I was very humbled to be in the room with some folks who truly have done their share to change the world, even a little bit. To think that I am viewed in that way is a little overwhelming. And I’m honored by it.”
OneDublin.org: Clearly, DUSD has been growing at an incredible rate over the past decade. But as you have personally experienced, it is the parent/guardian population that is the true “engine” behind executing enrichment activities and enhancing campus life. Speak to those that may have either been reluctant or were unsure how even get started.
McDonald: “High school is an interesting time when it comes to parents and their willingness to volunteer. My experience is that many parents believe their kids don’t want them around, and they stay away. But in high school, the scope of the volunteer jobs are as important as ever in terms of measurable and meaningful support to programs. Think about the significant commitments that are required by our band and music parents, our athletic parents. Our students depend on the money and the time and the commitment provided by parents all over our campus. You might think your kids don’t want you around, but when they see everyone’s parents around – working snack bars or gates, managing band review and fundraisers, they adapt. And you have an opportunity to truly make a difference. If you are unsure how to get started, get on the DHS website and look up “Volunteer Opportunities” under the Organizations tab. Find a job that fits your schedule or your interest and hop in. This campus is full of committed and fabulous people who are happy to have the help.”
OneDublin.org: After so many years of leading the charge at a few different schools, your youngest will graduate in June. However, we are suspecting that you will continue to offer your support to our schools. Articulate what you think that might look like in the future.
McDonald: “I will be around. I will show up and work snack bars and help out with events. But, the difference will be that I will have the luxury of coming when I want to, working around my own schedule. My role with Dublin Unified in Communications will keep me close to my “homes”, the schools where my children grew up, I made my best friends and we all have such fond, fond memories.”
OneDublin.org: Anything else that you would like to add?
McDonald: “I have no doubt that my experience in the last 15 years, and even my kids’ experience, has been changed by my participation in their education. I realize that no everyone wants to say yes to all the things I’ve said yes to over the years. But I wouldn’t trade those ‘yes’ experiences for anything.”
We are fortunate and pleased to present this profile. While a definition for “Uber Volunteer” may not yet exist, we are certain that Michelle may fit this categorization. Our schools and school district are grateful to our Difference Makers.