San Ramon Chamber of Commerce honors DV’s Kelsey Wengel and Erin Ku


Peter Ku

Dougherty Valley art teacher Kelsey Wengel, left, and junior Erin Ku, right, respectively received the title of “Educator of the Year” and the “Outstanding Teen Citizenship Award” on Dec. 4.

Dougherty Valley art teacher Kelsey Wengel and junior Erin Ku received the title of “Educator of the Year” and the “Outstanding Teen Citizenship Award,” respectively, at the 2018 San Ramon Chamber of Commerce’s Business and Community Awards Dinner on Dec. 4. Both earned recognition for their extensive work within the community of San Ramon.

“The Business and Community Awards event is an opportunity to thank and give appreciation to individuals who have made a significant difference and contribution in our community,” San Ramon Chamber of Commerce Chair Gina Channell stated with Embarcadero Media.

Wengel received the award for her work on the “Everyone Is Welcome Here” project hung in many SRVUSD classrooms. The sign features a digitally created sunrise and the nominal phrase “Everyone Is Welcome Here” to communicate the accepting environment that SRVUSD condones.

She collaborated with the Dougherty Valley and California High School Fine Art Departments to create the sign. As SRVUSD’s Visual Arts head, she delegated this task to other art teachers, including Nancy Iler from Dougherty and Jennifer Bible from Cal.

Wengel believes that the award is “the community’s response in saying ‘Thank you for [the sign].’”

Wengel also contributes to the community through her roles as a fine art teacher and as SRVUSD’s Visual Arts head.

“Part of this art lead position is just to get students’ artwork out into the community, so incorporating their work in galleries and through city venues and volunteering. That’s an active part of my job,” Wengel said.

As an art teacher, it is Wengel’s goal to inspire her students to understand the importance of art and creativity and just how necessary they are in life.

“I hope that my teaching of them is something that they come back to throughout their life at different points,” Wengel said.

This “Educator of the Year” award was a big moment not just for Wengel but also for her entire department. “My biggest takeaway from accepting that award was that it was recognition for the arts. I didn’t take so much of it as recognition to me … I felt more proud that it was for the arts’ being acknowledged,” Wengel said.

While Wengel’s award shines light on the arts, Ku’s award brings awareness to female empowerment and giving to those in need.

Inspired by her grandmother, Ku was moved to highlight the struggles women face everyday and to directly help those in need. Founded in 2016, her organization “Uplift” fights domestic abuse and sex trafficking (The D.A.R. Project), promotes a positive body image (PROJECT ALLURE), advocates for wider health care (Project Planned Parenthood), confronts rape and sexual assault (The #MeToo Project) and seeks to empower female youth (PROJECT YOUTH). Ku has led several fundraisers to donate to several Bay Area-centered charities focusing on women’s rights.

“The fact that I am bringing this issue into the little bubble that is San Ramon [is important] because not many people know how privileged we are to have great education and living conditions, when just 30 minutes away, there’s a terrible environment for women,” Ku explained.

Although Ku believes there is much more to be done with her organization, she is very grateful to have the City of San Ramon recognize her as an Outstanding Teen. Through her award she has received more support through donations to help her campaign.

Ku reveals, “That idea of bringing up women as a whole together, not just individually, but collectively is an idea that I want to emphasize not just in Dougherty, but [in] San Ramon.”

Ku hopes to continue her efforts even after high school, planning to pursue a business degree in college in hopes of one day opening a non-profit organization focusing on women’s rights.

Without a doubt, both Ku and Wengel have striven to improve San Ramon, each in their own way.

Wengel hopes that students “make time for [art] because they need it, and we need it throughout our whole life. Creativity is our fuel.”