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John Muir Middle School Receives Prestigious Project Cornerstone Award

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As an educator with nearly three decades of experience, John Muir Middle School Assistant Principal Jodi Edwards-Wright can instinctively notice the telltale signs of a successful, smoothly-running school. And last fall, during one of her regular walks through the hallways, she detected one of those trademark signifiers.

“Over the years, I’ve come to associate certain sounds with schools—the sound of musical instruments coming from band or students playing sports on the blacktop or field—that are kind of like the white noise of education,” said Edwards-Wright, who is in her first year at John Muir Middle School. “One day, I heard students playing our new musical instruments in band, and I watched our kids check out balls, pick their own teams, and start enthusiastically playing team sports at lunch for the first time this year, and it almost made me well up. I was thinking to myself, ‘that’s how a school should sound.’”

With that uplifting experience fresh in her mind, Edwards-Wright noticed the 'Call for Nominations' from Project Cornerstone and decided to showcase the effort and hard work of the staff at her school and nominate John Muir as an 'Asset Champion'. An annual honor now in its 25th year, Project Cornerstone recognizes local schools and institutions that support a “mission to foster a network for young people to grow into healthy, caring, and responsible adults.”

Edwards-Wright was familiar with the award, having applied for one of the honors while at Leigh High School in the Campbell Union High School District. While she knew it was a competitive process, she also had a keen understanding of what the award organizers were looking for in a school, and she had a good feeling that John Muir would fit those criteria. A few months later, those instincts were validated. John Muir was named one of the three recipients in the “Caring School Climate” category, recognizing schools “transforming their campuses into caring communities.”

Project Cornerstone has been quantifying data for 20 years about how 'assets'--such as students having trusted adults in their lives, a quiet place to study, and being involved in activities or sports--are often the strongest indicator of future success. Instead of focusing on deficits such as suspensions or chronic absences, Project Cornerstone encourages institutions to focus on building opportunities that inspire and motivate students to come to school and connect.

“Compassionate communities create an environment where individuals have social support and can find encouragement and assistance during times of need,” said Councilmember Pam Foley. “John Muir Middle School is not only providing the necessary space for students to feel valued and respected, but the students are also learning to foster welcoming environments for others as they move through their schooling and into their future careers.”

Eli Carlson, a seventh grader at John Muir, said he’s learned a lot during this latest school year, a growth he attributes to the teachers and faculty at the school.

“I’ve definitely learned to be more responsible,” said Carlson. “I think last year, I might not have been the most responsible person. This year has taught me to be more focused. I know that if I want to do fun stuff, I have to make sure that I get my homework done. And my teachers have been so supportive and helpful in preparing me for that kind of work.”

“This award was really about focusing on what support structures we have in place for our students,” said Edwards-Wright. “They wanted to know what assets we have that will make people more successful. And I think we proved that our dedicated teachers and educators emphasized that approach.”

“It's a moment of great pride that John Muir Middle School is being honored with the 2024 Asset Champion award in the middle school category,” said San José Unified Trustee Brian Wheatley. “This recognition is a testament to our staff's unwavering commitment to fostering a positive school culture where students feel safe and empowered. Their dedication is not only shaping young minds but also making our community a better place for our future leaders to thrive. Go Falcons!"

As a result of the Project Cornerstone award, Edwards-Wright and other members of the John Muir Middle School team will attend a special “2024 Asset Champions Breakfast” this Friday from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. at the Santa Clara Convention Center’s Mission City Ballroom. Themed "Celebrating 25 Years: Building a Community Movement," the event will showcase awards and a keynote address by NFL Hall of Famer and Forever Young Foundation co-founder Steve Young.

“I think we’re all very excited to attend this breakfast,” said Edwards-Wright. “We were able to get some complimentary tickets and a few donations so a large group of us could attend. It should be a great time.”

In addition to attending the breakfast, the John Muir team participated in a video montage for the award, highlighting all the great work happening at the school.

“This is a tremendous honor for our school, and I think these kinds of awards are great for morale and for instilling a sense of pride in what we do every day,” said Edwards-Wright. “We still have a long way to go, and we aren’t resting on our laurels, but I think it’s important that our teachers and educators receive the recognition for all the hard work they’ve put into this school.”

Seventh grader Maria Contreras said she was happy to see her school recognized with the Project Cornerstone Award.

“I really like the environment in the school right now,” said Contreras. “It’s very calm, and the teachers are all so nice. The principals and the vice-principals are super helpful, and they’re always willing to listen. It’s just a good feeling to be part of this school.”