Where is Live Oak? It’s where the 2nd annual Jack Rabbit run is happening Sunday … and you’re invited!

The Jack Rabbit fundraiser at Shoreline Middle School in 2022.
(Via Ryan Hoffman / Live Oak Education Foundation)

Ryan Hoffman and his wife settled in Live Oak in 2007, but were concerned about the quality of the schools for their kids when they saw the rankings on a widely referenced school-rating website. That’s why he became an active member of the Live Oak Education Foundation, which fundraises to “ensure Live Oak kids have just as many opportunities as students in the surrounding communities, and enter high school with comparable skills and experiences to their peers.” Now, he’s helping run the second annual Jack Rabbit “FUNdraiser” on Sunday, April 16, at Shoreline Middle School.

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A local radio contest once asked, “Where is Live Oak?”

One answer centered on geography: “41st Avenue to the Santa Cruz Harbor and from Highway 1 to the Pacific Ocean.”

Other responses varied, but my favorite was: “Where the neighbors know each other and the kids play outside.”

Live Oak residents have sandy toes and work-worn hands, and we take pride and comfort in our compassionate community. The “work hard, play hard” mentality prevalent along the Central Coast is popular here, and it is because we work to earn it that we also take time to balance our efforts with conscious appreciation for the beauty in our surroundings.

In my mind, Live Oak is at the heart of Santa Cruz, which explains the popular “I (heart) Live Oak” bumper stickers designed by the Live Oak Education Foundation (LOEF). It is the ”heart” of this area that first drew my wife and me to this region in 2007, and when we decided to begin our family, it stung when folks said, “Live Oak is great, but where will your kids go to school?”

The public Live Oak School District (LOSD) traces its roots back to 1872 and has approximately 1,900 students, 60% of whom are classified as socioeconomically disadvantaged and 30% as English-language learners. These real-world statistics influence test results, which contribute to GreatSchools.org rankings of 5 out of 10 and 6 out of 10 for the schools my children now attend.

When my wife and I first saw these ratings, we were concerned.

We toured the campuses, spoke with principals and teachers, and listened to the families enrolled at Del Mar, Green Acres and Live Oak Elementary Schools, Shoreline Middle School, Tierra Pacifica Charter and Ocean Alternative. We also became involved with the Live Oak Education Foundation, which was established in 2014 to raise money to ensure that students in the Live Oak School District have enriching opportunities in the visual and performing arts, the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and positive play.

The Live Oak Education Foundation is based on equity, the belief that all kids, no matter their race, socioeconomic background or neighborhood deserve every opportunity afforded to their peers.

Many people do not know that while kids who live in the Live Oak community attend elementary and middle schools in the Live Oak School District, they attend high school in the Santa Cruz City Schools district, which has had an active education foundation for nearly two decades that has supplemented that district’s investment in academic, arts and wellness programs across all grades. The LOEF fundraises in support of the LOSD to ensure Live Oak kids have just as many opportunities as students in the surrounding communities, and enter high school with comparable skills and experiences to their peers.

Every family has different needs and priorities for educating their children. I have learned a school is so much more than a single-digit score, and I’m so grateful for the educational experiences my family receives through the LOSD.

The Jack Rabbit fundraiser at Shoreline Middle School in 2022.
(Via Ryan Hoffman / Live Oak Education Foundation)

And here is some good news: Live Oak is demonstrating our work ethic and showing our values through our actions.

In 2016, local voters renewed a parcel tax to support school libraries, art, music, science and physical activities. Also in 2016, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Cruz County opened the Live Oak Clubhouse at Shoreline Middle School, and there is a new Santa Cruz Public Libraries annex under construction at the Simpkins Family Swim Center. There is a positive momentum building, a progress that is palpable.

We are planning a party to celebrate these advances and fortify community connections, and you’re invited!

On Sunday, April 16, the Live Oak Education Foundation is showing the strength of our Live Oak hearts and demonstrating our commitment to our local public schools with the second annual Live Oak Jack Rabbit 1-mile “FUNdraiser Run” and celebration of student art.

After COVID delayed the inaugural run planned for March 2020, we had a blast for our introductory event last year: Over 100 runners raised nearly $4,000, and we recognized creative Live Oak School District scholar artists.

The 2023 Jack Rabbit event promises to be bigger and better, and everyone is welcome to join at Shoreline Middle School. Waves of 1-mile races will take place from 9 a.m. to noon on the Simpkins field track.

A distinguished panel of judges will select student art for recognition and Palace Arts and Office Supply awards. The Shoreline Middle School band and White Hawk Indian Council are scheduled to perform, and local gyms (Fuel PHitness and Group Open Air Training) will offer free fitness classes.

Collective Santa Cruz is curating a pop-up merchant marketplace with art, jewelry and gifts for sale, and there will be food trucks, a community partner expo featuring great local nonprofits, and more!

Ryan Hoffman has two children, who both attend school in the Live Oak School District.
(Via Ryan Hoffman)

In answer to the question, “Where is Live Oak?” I’ve learned that Live Oak is where you’ll see neighbors helping each other move a couch or fix their car, volunteering their time to improve their local park, or sharing veggies from a productive garden patch.

We know we live in a special place, and that our kids attend great public schools. If we’ve learned anything from the current challenges and difficulties of the past several years, it is that we are stronger together, we all play a role, and when united by a common goal, we can achieve great things.

I look forward to showing you Live Oak on Sunday at the Jack Rabbit event!

Ryan Hoffman has been a runner since he discovered racing across the playground to the back fence as a child. He has lived in Live Oak since 2007, is a Live Oak Education Foundation board member, a proud papa to two LOSD students, and is grateful for the special place we are lucky to call home. For more info on the run, email him here.

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