June 2021 – Lifelong Edina resident Julie James claims a unique relationship with Edina’s Creek Valley Elementary School.
For starters, she spent her own happy K-5 years there – in hindsight, the first baby step toward a rewarding career in education. After teaching in Bloomington and Eagan, she ended that journey right where it began: as a kindergarten teacher at Creek Valley. When her own children came of age, James also joined the school’s PTA as a member and, eventually, co-chair.
As a student, teacher and parent leader, James has always circled back to an important conclusion. “Edina Public Schools are such a great vehicle to build community. ... I don’t think we have anything in Edina that can foster a sense of community quite as well.”
James retired from Creek Valley in 2014. Unbeknownst to her at that time, however, it would not be her last opportunity to test her hypothesis.
“I became involved with the Hornets football program not long after,” she explained. “This happened because my oldest son, Dan, was named a varsity team captain during his junior year at Edina High School.” Consequently, James became what Edina High School terms a Captain’s Parent for the 2014-2015 school year.
“Captains’ Parents have a broad administrative role behind the scenes,” she continued. “We support the program through fundraising, scheduling community events, arranging team photos and apparel, and whatever else the coaching staff needs.”
While the responsibility caught James by surprise – football players aren’t ordinarily named captain until their senior years – she took to this new role with alacrity. “I am a Type A person. I thrive on bringing process to projects, and that is exactly what was called for.”
Coaching staff took note. After she reprised the Captain’s Parent role for Dan’s senior year, they asked her to stay on with Hornets Football as the program’s Director of Operations.
In that new capacity, James supported all four high school football teams – comprised of 160 players, about 30 coaches, and more than 300 parents. Her chief duties included scheduling facility needs for the entire district and orchestrating team breakfasts and banquets. In truth, though, the Director of Operations has a hand in essentially all “off-field” activities.
During her four years embedded within Hornets Football, James had innumerable opportunities to see the community step up for its young athletes – and vice versa.
As an example of the former, James points to a gangbusters dinner and auction organized by the Captain’s Parent cohort in 2014. “This came out of a need to fundraise for new helmets,” she explained. “We solicited auction donations from area businesses and key individuals. … Everyone kept saying ‘We know you. We’d love to. It’s an honor to be asked.’”
While this strong start surprised James, the benefit itself – held that August at Interlachen Country Club – left her absolutely dumbfounded. “We surpassed our original goal of $25,000 [equivalent to the purchase of 110 new helmets] by more than double, raising over $60,000. … In all, 250 attendees turned out for Edina Football that night.”
James encourages Edina’s youth to tap into that same spirit by giving back to the community in their own way. Edina Football offers its players ample opportunities to do just that, thanks in no small part to James herself.
“I helped develop and implement what we call the Elementary Football Reading Program, where our players read regularly to the district’s fifth-grade classrooms,” she shared. “When driving them over, I always tell the boys: ‘You are going to give, but you’ll end up gaining so much more than you could possibly give.’”
Her own service record offers proof positive of that. In addition to her roles within Edina Public Schools, James has also volunteered on the board of Edina Chemical Health Partners and as a team captain for Minnesota-based nonprofit Best Christmas Ever.
“Each makes an impact, and … making a difference in someone’s life is so priceless. So, as Creek Valley Elementary’s motto says, ‘Go out and make a difference!’”