Published On: February 24, 2022
Home>Community>Fremont High School Press Release

For Immediate Release

For more information Contact: Luke Hohmann, 408-529-0319

FirstRoot and the Sunnyvale Rotary Club put the decision making power and money into Fremont High School teen hands to change the community for the better

The Sunnyvale Rotary Club and FirstRoot have launched an innovative community program at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, CA that will permit youth to identify ways to improve the Fremont school community and will then fund the winning proposals on their behalf. The Rotary Club will donate seed funding of $2,500 to sponsor the initiative and finance the proposed ideas.

The Rotary/FirstRoot collaboration provides youth with opportunities to learn by doing — working with real budgets and recommending actual community improvement projects. Overseen by the Rotary Club’s youth services director, the initiative is the first of its kind to be adopted by a California nonprofit organization. In addition to teaching financial literacy, the program promotes civic engagement among today’s youth, who will be tomorrow’s voters and leaders.

“We are very excited about sponsoring this groundbreaking curriculum in our community,” said Sunnyvale Rotary president, Barry Vickrey. “The FirstRoot app makes it easy for our youth to learn how economic decisions are made and financed in local government. This is project learning at its best and is a sample of how democracy works.”

The easy-to-use FirstRoot platform will allow the Rotary Club to launch the program in just a few minutes. Then, it invites selected youth participants to engage securely, as it is compliant with Federal and State Privacy Laws including Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). From there, youth participants can suggest ideas and develop proposals in the app to solve real problems and create new civic opportunities.

“Adults worry that young people will suggest impractical ideas; in reality, the opposite is true,” said Luke Hohmann, CEO and founder of FirstRoot. “Our experience is that students know exactly what their schools need, and they have thoughtful, creative ways to solve problems. I’m certain the same will be true with the young people of Sunnyvale.”

The program will be managed by Jeff Kakes, a Social Studies Teacher/AVID Teacher at Fremont High School. Students in the Fremont leadership organization will be primarily responsible for producing the program.

“This is the second Participatory Budgeting program we’ve produced at Fremont”, said Mr. Kakes. “The first time the students chose to purchase a new bulletin board for posting flyers and more outdoor seating. I am looking forward to what they will decide to fund this time”.

Rotary International is a non-political and non-religious organization of 1.2 million members, dedicated to bringing together business, professional, and community leaders to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace. The Sunnyvale Club is home to 60 members serving Sunnyvale and Santa Clara County.

FirstRoot is a Benefit Corp that supports schools, governments and nonprofits using Participatory Budgeting (PB), a democratic process in which young people are given real money to invest in their schools and communities collaboratively. Endorsed by the United Nations, PB is used by thousands of schools worldwide to teach financial literacy, civics, and design thinking.

To learn more about Rotary International please go to To learn more about FirstRoot go to