The Lonely Island is a comedy troupe made up of three guys from Berkeley. I find them pretty damn funny. As a strange coincidence, their name always makes me think of my step-brother and his buddies who were putting out a local cable access show in the 1990s called The Lonely Boys, and a big group of them lived in a den of filth and iniquity that they called Monkey Island. Anyhow, these three guys, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone, (pictured second from the left, directly above) all attended Berkeley High School in the mid-90s, and their parents are all super active in the Berkeley Unified School District, and as a result, they did a pretty cool thing for my school (district) yesterday. (To be fair, we knew about it a while ago, but yesterday was the big “reveal” as it’s called in these days of reality TeeVee.)
Here’s how it went, and how my students were directly involved in it all.
Doritos® has a contest called Crash the Super Bowl and this year they asked The Lonely Island to create a commercial spot and opened up another spot to the public submissions. Contestants would compete to create the best advertisement they could, and they could win $1,000,000 and the chance to work with The Lonely Island guys. In a show of true Berkeley spirit, The Lonely Island decided that they would forgo their spot to allow for two winners. This resulted in a record number of submissions and Doritos® decided to acknowledge the charity of The Lonely Island by donating $250,000 in their name to the charity of their choice.
The charity of their choice? Berkeley Unified School District.
At about the same time that all this was going down, the SLC in which I teach got a commission to design a public art installation for the Berkeley Streets Alive! Program. The commission was to design artworks to cover three large utility boxes in the vicinity of the campus with a theme of sustainability. Initial interpretations of the theme led to some of the more predictable ideas, recycling, fair trade, organic habits, etc. (it is Berkeley, after all). But upon further consideration, our fearless Artistic Master, Ms. Stahl, helped the kids reach a little deeper and come up with a new angle on sustainability that focused on the role of education in sustaining ourselves and our community. The idea grew into the concept “Looking back to see our way forward” as a way to celebrate the amazing alumni of Berkeley High School and to reflect on the innumerable ways that a strong public education can be parlayed into success and contributions to our community and society at large.
Approximately twenty of my senior students worked in total collaboration to complete the twelve sepia portraits that are shown in the poster above. For four to six weeks, the students worked together, working on multiple portraits, to complete the beautiful images you can now see against a bright peacock-blue backdrop with brief bios (also researched and written by my kids) on the three utility boxes in the city of Berkeley. They are truly beautiful. [Pictures coming soon – they are on a camera at school…]
So last night, under the watchful eyes of CNN our commission was unveiled and we got the official Giant Check – presented logically in front of the image of The Lonely Island, who were represented by their moms… how cool is that? [Samberg’s mother is retiring this year after a distinguished career at John Muir Elementary School, and all of the parents have been long time supporters of the arts at BHS.] The money came at a perfect time for our arts program as we were in desperate need of a theater tech and theater improvements. It was a really fun thing to see the kids get recognized, to see the fruits of their labors on display, and to remember that you can always give back.
That is true sustainability.
Quiz: How many of the people pictured in the twelve portraits can you identify?
The Lonely Island, for your enjoyment: