Continuing an initiative that began in February, the Long Beach Century Club finalized a donation to each of the 23 middle schools in the Long Beach Unified School District last week. During a socially-distant meeting of the schools’ principals, Century Club president Keith Polmanteer, alongside a handful of club members, presented $500 checks that will go directly to middle school sports programs. The entire donation totaled $11,500.
The initiative was spearheaded by second vice president Mike Fillipow, who was able to distribute checks to five schools back in February. However, the pandemic derailed plans to deliver checks to the remaining 18 middle schools in the district, meaning the money given out last week was intended to be for the 2019-20 school year.
“The Century Club has always done this for the high schools and colleges, but we support middle schools too, so if we have the money, why not do it for them, too?” Fillipow explained. “It’s $500 that can only be spent on sports. Not on P.E. or anything like that. It must be spent on uniforms, tournaments, referees, etc. That’s kind of our only requirement.”
Fillipow said that the club has plans to make an additional round of donations for the current school year, which should take place some time over the next few months. Lisa Ulmer, the Middle School Sports Coordinator for LBUSD, put into context the impact of the donation on the schools’ athletic programs.
“This is a huge benefit to middle schools and K-8’s, because it basically doubled their budget,” Ulmer said. “Schools usually get $450 per year to update uniforms and equipment, and purchase other things that the school would keep, so this more than doubled it. This gives every school more opportunity to provide quality uniforms, good equipment, and things that their school may need. This is a huge bonus for our schools.”
The impact of the donation will be felt all across the city, and a few of the principals in attendance spoke up to offer their appreciation.
“It’s going to be really helpful. We’re always needing uniforms and equipment at Franklin, so this will really help our kids,” said Franklin principal Wendy Sowinski. “For some of our kids, sports is what really motivates them to keep their GPA up so they can participate. It motivates them in other ways; not just sports, but it helps academically.”
At Stanford Middle School, principal Suzanne Caverly already has the funds earmarked for a specific program at the school.
“We already have plans for it,” she explained. “We try to rotate our sports through any funds we have. Last year, we bought a bunch of volleyballs and this year we’re going to use that check for track & field. They have their eyes on a new high jump setup, so that’s what we’ve been thinking about using it for.”
The donation will not only go toward providing a better athletic experience for current and future middle school students, it can also be used to celebrate athletes who had their seasons cut short in the spring.
“Last year, because there were no celebrations at the end, we might do something retroactive for the kids that did participate last year, and use the money towards awards or things like that,” said Hudson principal Thomas Espinoza. “Sports is a big part of middle schools. It builds the culture and climate of your school, so we’re really appreciative of the Century Club.”