By Marissa Garcia, Santa Barbara Education Foundation

Learning starts in the classroom. But not just for students, for parents too.

As a parent volunteer in a kindergarten classroom, Kate Parker found herself in love with learning how to help five-year-olds read, understanding why teachers teach the way they do and bonding with other students’ parents.

“My kids were just an entry point,” said Parker. “Once you’re involved, you see that all children have important and often different needs.”

Parker’s volunteer experience launched her journey as a leader in education as she became the PTA President for two years at Adams Elementary School. However, her passion to help one school turned into more than a decade long commitment to building a strong educational system for a stronger community.

In 2006, she was elected to the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education, where she provided a parent’s point of view for 12 years.

During her time on the Board, Parker helped open access to advanced placement courses for all students, increase English Learner reclassification and develop an Ethnic Studies requirement.

“My overarching goal has always been to serve the South Coast and make this piece of paradise someplace that families will come to and stay knowing there’s a great K-12 public education system here and a great community college,” said Parker

As of last December, Parker decided her advocacy was needed at a higher educational level and now holds a spot on Santa Barbara City College’s Board of Trustees.

“The work does not stop, now that I’m at SBCC, there are so many brand new students each semester, trying college, looking to advance personally and professionally,” said Parker. “I see new challenges in how to best serve students, staff, local residents and businesses.”

At the 2019 Hope Awards, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation will honor Parker for her continuous work in improving the school experience for learners of all ages.

Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s Hope Awards will be held on Thursday, April 25 at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and includes a silent auction and reception featuring fine food and beverages from local restaurants, wineries, and breweries.  Tickets can be purchased at

Santa Barbara Education Foundation promotes private support of Santa Barbara’s public education system, serving over 15,000 students in 22 schools. For more information, visit