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The Sarah Samaniego Perspective, President of the Sharyland ISD Education Foundation

Uniting Community and Education

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Sarah Samaniego. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
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Roberto Hugo González

In education and community service, few shine as brightly as Sarah Samaniego, the current president of the Sharyland ISD Education Foundation. On a celebratory evening at the Texas Regional Bank Mission branch, I had the opportunity to dig into the heart of the foundation’s mission and the passionate individuals behind its success. Samaniego, with 13 years of dedicated service on the board and now in her inaugural year as president, marks a significant milestone—the foundation’s 20th anniversary.

Samaniego’s journey with the foundation spans over a decade, showcasing her deep commitment to the community and the educational sector. “It’s a lot of work,” she admits, quickly highlighting the foundation’s flexibility. Based on availability, board members can contribute to various capacities. This adaptability has fostered a dynamic environment where members can engage deeply with the foundation’s activities through grant reading, scholarship evaluations, or fundraising.

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As president, Samaniego confronts visibility and awareness challenges, striving to amplify the foundation’s impact and the essential support it provides to teachers, students, and the district. “The biggest challenge is just making sure that people know about what we do,” Samaniego explains, emphasizing the foundation’s role in supporting educational excellence and student success.

The foundation boasts 24 active board members and five honorary members, each serving one-year terms with the opportunity for renewal. The board’s composition is the foundation’s community-centric approach, inviting business leaders, parents, and past parents to contribute their insights and energies. This ensures diverse perspectives and a strong connection to the community’s needs and aspirations.

At its core, the foundation is a fundraising entity driven by the dedication and generosity of its members. “We’re primarily a fundraising board,” Samaniego states, highlighting the volunteer nature of their work. The foundation supports various initiatives through donations, from teacher grants—which range between $35,000 to $65,000 annually—to scholarships, leadership programs, and recognition events for outstanding educators and students.

A noteworthy collaboration with the STAR Scholarship Fund, part of the L&F Distributors brand, exemplifies the foundation’s impact. Over seven years, this partnership has facilitated nearly $400,000 in scholarships for students and staff, bolstered by the foundation’s fundraising efforts, such as its golf tournament. “What’s great about that is our golf tournament raises the funds for that. And then whatever we put into it, STAR Scholarship Fund comes in and matches those donations,” Samaniego shares, underlining the power of community and corporate partnerships in advancing educational opportunities.

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Through dedication, adaptability, and strategic partnerships, the foundation supports the immediate needs of teachers and students. It fosters a culture of excellence and generosity that will undoubtedly shape the community’s future of education. 

Continuing our inspiring conversation with Samaniego, president of the Sharyland ISD Education Foundation, I uncovered the profoundly personal motivations that fuel her commitment to the foundation and the unique community of Sharyland. Beyond her official title, Samaniego shares her life as a devoted mother and wife, emphasizing the integral role of educators in the more extensive parenting ecosystem. “I am a mom… and it’s a lot of work, but what’s great is that it gives me all the time to invest in the amazing people helping me raise my children,” she reflects. This perspective highlights the mutual relationship between families and educators, emphasizing the shared effort in nurturing the district’s youth.

Samaniego’s journey from El Paso to Sharyland via Cincinnati, Ohio, has given her a unique viewpoint on community dynamics. Describing Sharyland ISD as “the biggest little town,” she captures the essence of a community that, despite its size, harbors immense pride and a deep-seated belief in the value of education. This pride is not just in the academic achievements but also in the nurturing environment that the educators provide.

Texas Regional Bank: A Pillar of Support

The partnership with Texas Regional Bank exemplifies the community’s collaborative spirit. Initially represented by Cesar Suarez and now by Lincoln Talbert, the bank’s involvement with the foundation verifies the local business community’s commitment to education. Their participation, from attending meetings to providing financial support, reflects a larger trend of local businesses playing a crucial role in educational development.

Dr. Maria M. Vidaurri

Samaniego admires Dr. Maria M. Vidaurri, the retiring superintendent, praising her as a “girl boss” whose leadership has significantly impacted the school district and the foundation. Describing her as a mentor and friend, Samaniego highlights Dr. Vidaurri’s accessibility and responsiveness, qualities that have fostered a strong relationship between the foundation and the district. This relationship, Samaniego believes, has been crucial in integrating the foundation’s work with the district’s mission, ultimately benefiting the students.

As our interview concludes, Samaniego reflects on the foundation’s principles and her predecessors’ legacy, expressing confidence that future leaders will carry forward the passion for making Sharyland a special place for education. Her story vividly illustrates the power of community engagement in education, where every stakeholder, from parents to business leaders, contributes to shaping a nurturing and supportive environment for the next generation.

Samaniego’s journey, marked by dedication, partnership, and leadership, celebrates the Sharyland ISD Education Foundation’s achievements, and stresses the profound impact of collective effort in enriching educational experiences. 

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