The Lonely Island trio, all BUSD alumni, are now depicted on a utility box outside Berkeley High’s main entrance. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The Berkeley school district will spend the $250,000 donated by Doritos by way of The Lonely Island, a music group made up of three BUSD alumni, on theater programs at both Berkeley High and Willard School.

At an informal ceremony held outside Berkeley High’s main entrance Friday evening, two representatives from Doritos presented a giant check for the quarter of a million to outgoing BUSD superintendent Bill Huyett. On hand to represent The Lonely Island trio — Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, who met at Willard and all attended BHS — were their mothers: respectively Margie Samberg and Suellen Ehnebuski, and Akiva’s godmother, Susan Stone. Schaffer’s brother Micah was also in attendance.

Margie Samberg said she could never have imagined the day would come when she would see her son contributing to what constitutes the single largest donation ever given to the Berkeley school system. But, she said, she was not surprised. “It’s who they are. They believe in giving back.” Ehnebuski said she believed the young men’s upbringing in Berkeley and in its schools had been a significant factor. “It afforded them an awareness about being part of the community and the importance of education,” she said.

A representative from Doritos presents a giant $250,000 check to BUSD. Looking on (l to r): Susan Stone, Suellen Ehnebuski, Micah Schaffer, and Margie Samberg. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Samberg, who is about to retire after working for 20 years at John Muir Elementary School as a working with deaf children, added that, having grown up around educators, her son had a particular appreciation of teachers and their role.

Last night also saw the official unveiling of three artworks by the senior class of Berkeley High’s Arts and Humanities School. All painted on city utility boxes as part of the joint City of Berkeley-Earth Island Institute’s  “60 Boxes Project”, one of the paintings immediately outside the school’s main entrance depicts the “class of 1996” members of The Lonely Island.

Berkeleyside broke the news in January that The Lonely Island had chosen to direct the $250K they had earned as part of a Super Bowl contest to their old schools.

For Crash the Super Bowl, Doritos invited consumer-made ads, one of which aired in a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl. The Lonely Island were originally going to create their own Doritos ad, but decided instead to give their air-time to a second consumer-created ad. By doing so, they gave up the chance for a $1 million prize to charity if their Doritos ad took the number one spot on the USA Today Ad Meter. In return, Doritos, which is part of the Frito-Lay division of Pepsico, announced it would give $250,000 to The Lonely Island’s choice of charity — Berkeley Unified. When Berkeleyside contacted the school district in January, officials knew nothing about the impending gift.

Some of the students from Berkeley High’s Berkeley High’s Arts and Humanities School who have decorated three utility boxes near BHS as part of the Earth Island Institute’s “60 Boxes Project”. Photo: Tracey Taylor

$100,000 of the total donation will be spent on re-instating the position of a Technical Theater Manager at BHS’s Berkeley Community Theater. This job, which also involves teaching, will eventually allow the school to be able to rent out the theater and build revenue. $50,000 will be put in a BHS capital equipment fund, and $25,000 will go towards repairing and maintaining broken seats in the theater. The remaining $75,000 will be spent to upgrade the Metal Shop Theater at Willard Middle School.

Separately, The Lonely Island have donated $10,000 from their own funds towards the $15,000 needed to fund a scoreboard for Derby Field which, on June 9, is to be inaugurated as a BUSD sports field named after the late baseball coach Tim Moellering.

The three alumni knew Moellering, a history teacher and baseball coach who worked for many years in the district, and who died in January 2011. “Andy was close to Tim,” said his mother Margie Samberg. “He played baseball and knew him socially. He went to his house before he died to say farewell.”

A Berkeley Field of Dreams close to reality after 15 years [04.04.12]
$250,000 for Berkeley schools thanks to Lonely Island [01.30.12]
City project will transform utility boxes with vibrant art [06.22.11]
Call for baseball field to be named after late Tim Moellering [01.21.11]
Teacher and coach Tim Moellering passes away [01.20.11]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...