Roche Bros. Co-founder Gives $1 Million to School Program
October 15, 2001
Author: Benjamin E. Saunders, Ph. D
Wellesley, Mass. – Boston-area philanthropists Patrick and Barbara Roche have made a ground-breaking gift of $1,000,000 to support the ongoing work and expansion of the Reach Out to Schools: Social Competency Program, also known as Open Circle, based at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Patrick Roche is Vice-Chair of the Board of Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Inc.
“Thank you for allowing us the privilege to be involved with such a great program, and we thank God for giving us the means with which to commit,” Mr. & Mrs. Roche wrote in the letter accompanying their pledge.
Pamela Seigle, Executive Director of the Open Circle Social Competency Program, acknowledged the importance of the Roches’ contribution. “This gift comes at a critically important time,” Ms. Seigle said. “Now more than ever we understand that children need to feel that they are a part of a supportive and safe school community. It’s on this under-pinning that academic schooling rests. The recent terrorist events—and the uncertainty we all share—make it even harder for children to feel secure. Open Circle provides a vehicle to address children’s needs and to support their emotional growth and learning. This gift will make it possible for us to grow from a local success to a national one.”
Mr. and Mrs. Roche are long-time supporters of the Open Circle Program, which is a leader in addressing the need for social and emotional learning in schools. The core of the Program is the Open Circle Curriculum (kindergarten-5th grade), which integrates research findings in child development with the best teaching practices. The curriculum’s holistic approach involves training the adult role-models in a child’s life to teach and embody essential skills children need to become engaged, thoughtful citizens, and to enjoy healthy relationships and productive, fulfilling lives. Through a class meeting called Open Circle, students learn and practice communication, self-control, problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Over time, the sense of trust and safety that's established in Open Circle creates a context in which children can address real life issues of importance to them. Since September 11, the Program has heard from teachers and principals that Open Circle has given them the forum and skills they need to listen to their students and to address their questions and fears in an open, compassionate and helpful way.
Selected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Panel on Safe, Disciplined & Drug-Free Schools as a program to be promoted nationally, Open Circle has trained more than 4,000 teachers and reached over 200,000 students in public, private, parochial, urban, suburban, and rural schools in New England and New Jersey.
The development of the first Open Circle Curriculum was supported by a gift from Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Inc. in 1990, and since then, Roche Bros. and the Roche family have been steadfast and generous supporters of the Program.
“From the beginning, Pat and Barbara have been our ‘angels,’” Ms. Seigle said. “Pat responded enthusiastically and generously when I first approached him about supporting our fledgling violence prevention program, and he and Barbara have continued to demonstrate their commitment over the years. The support of Roche Bros. Supermarkets has always had special significance for us because of the alignment between its corporate mission -- which is literally the Golden Rule -- and the way we try to work with school communities.”
“Pat and Barbara have also been generous with their time, “ Ms. Seigle added. “After I gave them a binder full of thank you letters from students, teachers, principals and superintendents, Pat mentioned to me that one of the letters included an invitation to visit a third-grade classroom. He and Barbara wanted to accept the invitation. We searched our database for the name Pat mentioned, expecting it to be a teacher, and we couldn't find it until we finally realized that the invitation had come from a student, Cameron Pinnell, in Framingham, MA.”
“In Open Circle we talk about positive leadership and problem solving,” Cameron wrote. “It is lots of fun having Open Circle in school. I hope we keep doing it for a long time, maybe even for the rest of my years in elementary school or maybe even the rest of my life! Well… the part of it that I spend in school anyway. I would like to invite you to visit our Open Circle. We have it every day at 1:45. If you come, you can see how we work together as a team.”
“We drove from Marshfield, MA, to visit Cameron’s Open Circle,” Mr. Roche said. “We had the chance to hear the third-graders talk about what they have learned in Open Circle and why it’s important to them. The students also had a chance to ask us questions, which ranged from ‘Do you get your food free?’ to ‘Why if you're in a grown-up business do you care so much about Open Circle and kids?’ I replied that how we learn to treat and be with other people is a big determinant of our success in all aspects of our life. This is not just kid-stuff.”