Center School District STARS organize benefit dinner for Martinez

Courtesy photo Students pose for a photo during a benefit dinner for Center School District staffer Steve Martinez.

CENTER — A benefit dinner was held on Thursday, Sept. 7, to help with medical expenses for Center School District staffer Steve Martinez, who was diagnosed with cancer.

Katrina Ruggles organized the dinner with the help of the STAR program.

“Steve handles all our discipline support for our teachers and students,” Ruggles said. “He is a really kind, helpful leader and mentor for our students and staff. He is an overall beloved member of our school community. He has had cancer for a while now. His cancer had gotten better but then it came back. He is getting some treatments, but it’s pretty expensive. We really wanted to support him.”

Ruggles has been running the STARS program for about 20 years now. The program has adult leaders that mentor high school students, who in return mentor middle school students.

“The groups meet for various things, and they do leadership and development and mentoring services. The students all talked and wanted to host this chili supper for Steve. The idea was just wonderful, so we went ahead and made it happen,” Ruggles said.

Ruggles said she has a great set of leaders that help run the program and organized much of the dinner.

“I have Camille Villa. I have Josselyn Duran. I have Genesis Escalon. We also had Sharon Valadez. These are our STARS leaders. They got the kids well organized and put all of this together,” Ruggles said.

Ruggles said the chili supper was a success. The cafeteria made the chili, but the program paid for all the ingredients. Ruggles said that the cafeteria and staff put in the time to cook and prepare the chili.

Ruggles said that they raised over $3,000 for Martinez.

“We had a great turn out. We made $3, 299. We did pretty good. We did the chili supper, and we also took donations for dessert. The youth brought dessert; and some of the school staff brought dessert, it was really good,” she said.

Ruggles said the youth worked hard on everything for the dinner.

“They put their hearts into it,” Ruggles said. “They brought all the stuff to make, and they worked together, and they also helped cut up everything alongside the cafeteria staff. They were just chopping away. They got it all out there. They were serving chili, just working really hard, cleaning tables, and cleaning up. They made it all happen alongside all of us. It was an awesome collaborative event.”

Ruggles said that the Center Viking youth club was also involved. The club paid for all their kids to eat.

“We had all our athletes come. We tried to get all our athletes in, since it was game day for them, too. I think it all went well,” Ruggles said.

Ruggles thanked the STARS leaders for helping make the dinner happen.

“I want to also thank all our kids for showing up and working so hard, too,” Ruggles said. “I think this is a testament to their love and appreciation for Steve, and what an important role he plays at our school. Anybody that knows Steve, loves Steve. We are thankful to our staff and everyone that helped. We are looking forward to the day that Steve is feeling better and is well. We hope that he is able to put this all behind him. We hope this support really helps him with that journey.”