Jan Marholin

Jan Marholin: Acclaimed educator ready to take off as CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Clara Valley

February 17, 2012
Santa Paula News

For Jan Marholin, the new CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Clara Valley, it’s all about the kids and building relationships to benefit their future.

When asked why she joined the club, the retired educator and school principal said, “I like the river valley, I liked working in Fillmore,” where she was principal of San Cayetano Elementary School. “I built up a lot friendships, relationships and I liked the kids... I knew in my heart this was a perfect transition because it was a way to continue working with kids so they all benefit” in a way that, although away from a classroom, still offers numerous opportunities to enrich and better young lives.

Many in the community will meet Marholin - who took over the top club spot from Sheila Tate who stepped down in January - at Saturday’s “Love Boat - Voyage of Dreams” dinner auction saluting Valentine’s Day. Noted for educational, management and organizational skills, Marholin has non-profit board experience and understands the need for both community and business relationships.  

The club has already come a long way: Tate was appointed CEO in December 2009 when the club’s finances were in turmoil and its future bleak. She succeeded a CEO who was abruptly placed on administrative leave after announcing the club facilities would be closed, a move made without the board of directors’ knowledge or consent.

“Sheila Tate ferried the club through some difficult times,” said Police Chief Stephen MacKinnon, president of the club’s Board of Directors. “Now the club is financially stable while providing great programs to a larger membership. Jan will now be able to take the Club to the ‘next level’. Her combination of organizational skills and community commitment we know will result in many exciting things to come for the club.”

Marholin is known as a prolific grant writer, and has already established relationships with many foundations. “One thing I really feel is important is visibility and perception” of the club and its kids, and Marholin plans a steady stream of news releases highlighting activities. “I want people to see all the good things we do,” while she implements the vision she has for each club, known as “The Positive Place for Kids.” 

“I’ve always been excited about making a difference for kids and making them excited, finding that mutual passion. I’m for thinking outside the box,” sharing her own love of science and technology and finding “how our kids can get the most out of life... we want them to have good writing skills and good speaking skills. I look forward to working with the excellent staff we have at our clubs, and look to them to take our kids to the next level.”

There are about 1,400 river valley kids involved in club activities, including the Santa Paula Elementary schools’ ASPIRE program.

A San Diego native and UCSB graduate who holds a Masters degree, Marholin was an educator in and out of the classroom for 37 years, starting her career in Carpinteria. 

At one point in her career, a new principal “gave me a camera that was duct-taped together” and directed Marholin to receive cable television production training from Cox Communications. Her interest and expertise was so strong that Marholin soon was serving on several education boards for Cox and public access television.

At San Cayetano School she instituted Character Counts into the school curriculum to honor youth demonstrating responsibility, honesty and treating others fairly. Marholin also introduced programs targeting alternative goals and encouragement to girls to be whatever they want to be. 

Under her leadership the school became one of only 25 NASA Demonstration Schools in the nation that included visits from minority and women astronauts. In addition, the students and teachers studied outer space and some of the latter attended NASA Texas-based workshops.  

The grant for the program was highly competitive, and Marholin said students became involved in all aspects of space travel. “It was a program that excited the kids about science and math and mechanics, technology... another exciting aspect of it was showing the kids that space is not just the astronaut,” but those behinds the scenes - who create the food and who design the trays they’ll eat from to operational seating design - that make space exploration possible.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a person who hasn’t been excited about space... aside from football I think the biggest event they ever had in Fillmore was the night we had Astronaut John Bennett Harrington” speak. “It filled up the middle school auditorium,” said Marholin.

She is looking forward to such exciting programs at the clubs, especially as she admits to being “fascinated by the professionalism of the staff.... It’s all not fun and games, it’s stimulating, it’s enrichment and we want to build some more curriculum into the projects the kids are doing.”

A Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer visiting her school commented the students robots “’are what I do - but my robots are bigger.’ And when you think about it, robots are engineering, science, technology and math... there’s a lot of education in that - and it’s fun!”

Marholin is very familiar with the workings of nonprofits, having been a board director for the Carpinteria Education Foundation and Girls Inc. Throughout her career she also worked with a variety of nonprofits and was notably successful in securing grants. That’s why when she decided to retire from education, Marholin “knew I would want to join a nonprofit, that my skill set would dovetail perfectly with a nonprofit... and especially one that serves kids.”

Marholin’s innovative thinking and devotion to getting things done to benefit kids has garnered her a long list of awards and recognitions. And she is well aware of the “old strategy of using community and businesses and how perception is everything... if you’re going to involve others you must validate and highlight their partnership with you. A strong merging with you and your organization makes a stronger link in your shared passion, which makes for a stronger organization.”

Marholin is pleased that the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clara Valley “Is on such firm financial footing - the previous CEO Sheila Tate and the board have done an amazing job” of reviving the club’s bank account and spirit. It’s all about the fundamentals of building relationship with partners and with club kids: “People will support you,” she noted, “if there is a relationship that becomes a partnership that involves communication and appreciation that you validate every day.”

For more information on the club or to see if reservations are still available for Saturday’s “Love Boat” diner auction, call 805-525-7910.

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