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Mom wins $10,000 for Mattos Elementary

By Miriam G. Mazliach

March 30, 2012

Known for being the only Science Magnet elementary school in Fremont, Mattos recently had an unexpected surprise of a different sort. Sandy Nevels, an enterprising mom who likes to enter contests for fun, won $10,000 for Mattos, the school her son Alex Paloma attends.

Nevels is the Grand Prize winner of the “Nice Job, Mom: We Rock!” contest to benefit music education in schools, sponsored by Stremicks Heritage Foods/8th Continent Soymilk. (

Mattos’ 500 students, their teachers, several district office and School Board members assembled into the Multi-use room on March 13, for the special check presentation. Principal Tammy Eglinton welcomed the crowd stating, “Even though Mattos is a Science Magnet campus, parents are also concerned about music education here as it helps students perform better in all subject areas. Studies have proven this out.”

She indicated that the funds would be used to purchase a whole sound system to be used by their music, theatre and after-school band programs.

As Eglinton introduced Sandy Nevels, the entire student body expressed their gratitude with loud congratulatory applause. Greeting her onstage were Grammy award nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, the celebrity spokesperson for this national promotion and Dave MacDonald representing Stremicks Heritage Foods, who presented Nevels and the school with its $10,000 check.

MacDonald added, “We’re a family company with a commitment to schools and it’s nice to give something back.”

Sara Bareilles, best known for her popular recordings: “Love Song,” “Gravity,” “King of Anything,” and “Never Gonna Get Over You,” among others, told the students that at the age of six she began playing piano and singing and still does today even at the “ripe, old age of 32!” She added, “Thanks to 8th Continent for gifting the school with this awesome prize!”

Bareilles remarked on the need for the arts and their importance to young people. “As a creative person, the music experience has propelled my life.” She mentioned various camps, activities and arts foundations that focus on areas such as music. “They all make a difference to kids by helping them make friends, find enjoyment, become accepted, validated and acknowledged.”

This beneficial gift for Mattos Elementary would not have materialized if not for the efforts of Nevels and the generosity of the sponsor. Nevels had actually entered the contest online back in March 2011, and followed the entry directives to submit tips on what makes her a rock star mom, in 50 words or less. Her tip was: “I involve my son with living a healthy lifestyle. We go to the Farmers’ Markets together, exercise daily, and I introduce him to new foods/drinks (such as soy milk). We cook and prepare meals. Involve your child with everyday activities. Grow a garden and harvest it.”

Winners were determined by company representatives and by the public, who voted for the entries online.

Nevels first heard back from the company on July 12, 2011, when they left a brief message on her answering machine. At the time, she thought she was a runner up. Initially, when she didn’t see a confirmation in her email, Nevels checked her Spam folder, which contained the official email letter letting her know that she was indeed the Grand Prize winner.

“As soon as I read the first line of the email, I screamed and then jumped up and down with excitement that I’d won,” she said. “I read aloud to my husband and son, about what I had won. My son’s eyes lit up; he was so happy and laughed. He couldn’t believe it.”

Besides the $10,000 donation to the school, Nevels also won roundtrip airfare for two to Los Angeles with hotel accommodations and two VIP all-access tickets to see Sara Bareilles in concert this past July at the legendary Greek Theater. She went with her son Alex and they had the chance to meet and greet Bareilles backstage and enjoy limo service to and from the concert and hotel. Additionally, Nevels and Alex both received video cameras and autographed music memorabilia.

Four runner-up finalists from Dallas, Utah, Florida and Boston also received a prize package and donations in their names to the schools of their choice.

Apparently, the contest entering “bug” caught Alex as well. In 2010 he won $1,000 towards arts education to purchase art supplies for his school, in a “Draw Your Own Sun” campaign, also sponsored by Heritage Foods/8th Continent Soymilk. (

“I’m just glad that I was able to help Mattos out, to get their speaker system or other things to help benefit the school and be used for many years to come,” said Nevels. “I’ve received many thanks for the donation and I’d like to say, it was my pleasure and you’re very welcome.” And, Nevels added one more tip, “I always say you can’t win if you don’t enter!”

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