Episode Show Notes

In this episode, Mike sits down with SFC students Sandy Cameron and Dante Rotchford to talk about the recent GoFundMe campaign they successfully launched for a faculty member in need.

Mike Siciliano, High School Dean of Students, has a long history with Sante Fe Christian, sitting in several roles including alumnus, US history teacher, and football coach. As a student, Siciliano felt he had teachers and coaches who personally invested in him and made a huge difference in his life. Now, he tries every day to continue that legacy for current SFC students, live up to the standard his teachers set for him, and have a lot of fun.

Sandy Cameron, SFC student, is in her senior year and has been attending SFC since her freshman year. She’s been involved in cheer, eight SFC theatre productions, chamber chorale, dance troupe and is one of the leaders of the service club. 

Dante Rotchford, SFC student, is in his senior year and has been attending SFC since seventh grade. He’s been involved in several sports since his freshman year, one being football.


00:00:00 – Introductions

00:01:42 – Description of recent incident

00:03:07 – How Dante felt when he learned of Clemente’s truck catching fire

00:05:54 – Sandy’s role in fundraiser

00:08:05 – Number of individual donations

00:08:30 – Location of Dante and Sandy on Friday night

00:09:57 – Clemente’s reaction at school assembly

00:11:15 – Why Dante and Sandy believed community would support fundraiser

00:14:41 – How long it took guests to appreciate unique community at SFC


Mike Siciliano [00:00:07] Welcome back to another episode of our Eagle Perspective Podcast. I’m Mike Siciliano. I’m joined today by two of my favorite students on campus, Sandy Cameron and Dante Rotchford. Thank you guys both for being here.

Sandy Cameron [00:00:19] Yeah. Glad to be here.

Mike Siciliano [00:00:20] We’re going to talk a little bit about community today and something specifically that happened that you two organized and led, and then move into just a bigger conversation about the SFC community in general. But to start, why don’t you introduce yourself to our listeners a little bit—who you are, how long you’ve been at Santa Fe, and maybe some of the things that you’ve been involved in.

Dante Rotchford [00:00:40] I’m Dante Rotchford, a senior here at Santa Fe. I’ve been going here since seventh grade. I’ve been involved in sports since freshman year, playing three sports freshmen, sophomore year, and then two sports last year, and this year just playing football.

Sandy Cameron [00:00:58] I’m Sandy Cameron. I am a senior this year. I’ve been here since freshman year. I’ve been involved in cheer and a lot of the theatre arts community. I’ve just loved being a part of all the things Santa Fe has offered.

Mike Siciliano [00:01:13] You’re both being really humble because I’ve seen you both in a lot of those things like you mentioned. Yeah, I’ve been in some of the shows, but you’ve been in a lot of the shows.

Sandy Cameron [00:01:21] Eight.

Mike Siciliano [00:01:22] Eight productions. I know you’re in the chamber chorale, dance troupe. Okay. All right. This is your shot. You don’t have to be humble here.

Sandy Cameron [00:01:32] That’s me. You’ll see me around.

Mike Siciliano [00:01:34] Great. Then, Dante, some would say arguably the hardest hitter on the football team this year. Apologies to a couple other guys who just jumped out of their chairs listening to this who may want to challenge you for that. All right. A crazy thing happened recently that has led to you being on this podcast. Why don’t we start with you, Dante, about a Friday morning recently? You’re sitting in your car, and what happened?

Dante Rotchford [00:02:04] I’m sitting in my car early morning. Had some time before school. I noticed the fire under the hood of Clemente’s car. Immediately checked anyone that was in the car and then went to grab the person in front of me and behind me to get them out of the car, get them at a safe distance. Then everyone started crowding, wanting to see the action.

Mike Siciliano [00:02:24] Just to fill in for some of our listeners who may not know Clemente, you’re talking about Clemente Mejia. He’s one of our custodians and groundskeepers and has been here for almost 25 years.

Dante Rotchford [00:02:35] Has done so much for our school.

Mike Siciliano [00:02:36] Yeah. He’s an incredible guy. Always with a smile and always willing to kick the soccer ball around with anyone who’s going by. He’s just a really, really great guy. When did you find out it was his truck?

Dante Rotchford [00:02:51] I first found out it was his truck when he was coming down the hill. Someone informed him that his truck was on fire. I saw him with one of our head construction…

Mike Siciliano [00:03:00] Yeah. One of our facilities directors.

Dante Rotchford [00:03:03] Yeah, one of him. I saw his reaction. It was heartbreaking.

Mike Siciliano [00:03:07] You saw his reaction. How did that feel to you to watch that?

Dante Rotchford [00:03:14] It was very hard to watch. To see him ask for nothing for the past 24, 25 years and to see his car go up in flames, it was really hard to watch.

Mike Siciliano [00:03:25] Okay. Then, Sandy, you were coming by a little bit later. Not that you were coming late.

Sandy Cameron [00:03:31] Yeah. Well, it was a great morning, because I was actually coming to school on time.

Mike Siciliano [00:03:35] Like normal, is what you’re saying?

Sandy Cameron [00:03:38] Yeah, totally. I was driving up the street and abruptly had to turn around, because there was all this smoke and flames, and there were police cars and fire trucks. I didn’t know what was on fire. I couldn’t see over it.

Mike Siciliano [00:03:53] Just to be clear for our listeners, that’s not a normal thing you’d find. 

Sandy Cameron [00:03:56] No, not at all. I did as anyone would; I called my mom. I was like, “Mom, I don’t know what’s happening.” I ended up just driving around, going up Ida, and then parked in the senior lot, went to class, which Dante is in, and found out it was Clemente’s truck. That just broke my heart, because as we know, Clemente is such an asset to our school, and does so much for our community, and is such a bright light. We had to think, “Okay, how can we give back to someone who has given so much to us?”

Mike Siciliano [00:04:28] I’ll say it to both of you. It’s interesting. This is how it felt for me watching this. We all heard about the fire. This was 8:20 in the morning. School starts at 8:30, literally the time where the most possible people are out on the street. Everyone’s rushing to get a view of what’s happening. But when we found out it was Clemente Mejia, everyone’s countenance shifted from, “Oh, wow, there’s a fire. Have you seen it?” to “Oh, my gosh, Clemente doesn’t have a truck.” It changed the tone of it all. You two are sitting in class. Then tell me what happened next.

Dante Rotchford [00:05:09] It started when I was at my table with… I brought the idea to my table partners. Chase Wetsel, I think, went out to go get water and ended up running into Miss Odin and gave me credit for saying the GoFundMe. Instead of taking it, he gave me credit saying…

Mike Siciliano [00:05:25] What a selfless guy.

Dante Rotchford [00:05:26] Yeah, exactly.

Mike Siciliano [00:05:27] Are you saying Chase Wetsel should be here?

Dante Rotchford [00:05:29] Well, he was the one who introduced the idea, I guess you could say. I was the guy who created it but he gave Odin, saying, “Oh, Dante wanted to start a GoFundMe.” Then, that’s when Sandy was asking, “Where’s the link? Can we donate or something?” I was like, “Oh, that’s a great idea.” Then I went to go get the link from you and Miss Odin, and then you started that group chat later that day.

Mike Siciliano [00:05:54] Sandy, one of the things you didn’t say when you introduced yourself in all your humility is that you’re one of the leaders of our service club, which seemed like the right fit to house this. You came in, and we talked through how would we set this up. It really happened fast.

Sandy Cameron [00:06:12] It happened so quickly. It was that, and then it was honestly… Yeah, it was so quick.

Mike Siciliano [00:06:18] Yeah. This was maybe 10:00 in the morning. We had to do a few things just to make sure that this was all going to work okay before we went live with it. Looked into his insurance situation and all that. It was clear that insurance was not going to cover a new truck for him. It was probably about four o’clock, I think when we made it go live.

Dante Rotchford [00:06:38] Yeah, around there. Yeah, and shared it on social media.

Mike Siciliano [00:06:41] I told you guys, “Okay, we’re going live.” Then what happened?

Sandy Cameron [00:06:45] Then I reposted and then tagged SFC ASB. Our social media community that we have for ASB and for just our Eagles account and everything really helped back us up with promoting this amazing blessing that we could have. We had the original goal of $10,000 to reach, and that was a reach. I remember sitting in your office and being like, “That’s a reach.”

Mike Siciliano [00:07:15] You and I thought it was a reach. Dante was like, “I think we can do it.”

Dante Rotchford [00:07:18] No, I had confidence.

Mike Siciliano [00:07:19] But you and I were like, “That’s a big goal.” It feels weird asking for more than $10,000, but we knew trucks are expensive. It felt like an appropriate starting place. But Dante was proven right.

Dante Rotchford [00:07:32] No, I had confidence.

Mike Siciliano [00:07:34] We’re watching. It goes live. You get it out there.

Dante Rotchford [00:07:38] It’s quick how social media works.

Sandy Cameron [00:07:39] It’s quick how it works. It was amazing to see because we weren’t the only ones feeling that way of wanting to give back. Every single student. There was alumni, parents, just everyone on social media including just looking at… It says you can be anonymous on the GoFundMe or people who have donated. People in our community. Just so many people wanting to pour into this awesome…

Mike Siciliano [00:08:05] I think what was cool, too, is just to maybe dispel one myth. It’s not like one person came in and dropped 20 grand. I think the biggest gift was $1,000. We had $5 gifts, several $1,000 gifts. It was over 240 donations.

Sandy Cameron [00:08:22] It really goes into that big idea that any amount you can give to causes like that truly does make a difference.

Mike Siciliano [00:08:30] Yeah, absolutely. We haven’t actually talked this all the way through yet. Where were you guys on Friday night? I was at my church Christmas night thing at North Coast Calvary Chapel, and we’re all messaging each other. You guys are like, “Hey, we got to raise it up. We’re already at $10,000.”

Dante Rotchford [00:08:47] I was celebrating one of my friend’s birthdays, Jackson. We were at dinner. Then I was telling them, because they knew about it, the GoFundMe. They weren’t keeping track of how much it was going up, but I was like, “It’s up at 15.” I told him to raise it to 20 grand, and we were at 20 grand.

Sandy Cameron [00:09:03] I saw when you launched it, and then obviously, it was completely at ground zero. I was at a church in Carlsbad because I was crewing for the drama department’s recent play, The Trial of Judas Iscariot. It was amazing. It was the first time I’ve ever crewed. There was a lot going on. I was doing sound cues. I was just sitting in the back. There was some low time. I was in the middle of the show, the first hour. Scrolled through. We’re over $10,000. I’m freaking out in the back of this quiet theater.

Mike Siciliano [00:09:38] Dante was somewhere leaning back like, “I told you guys.”

Sandy Cameron [00:09:41] Yeah, literally. He was not shocked at all. Kept checking, and then within two hours, we were over $15,000. It was insane.

Mike Siciliano [00:09:50] Even going to bed that night it was over 20 grand.

Dante Rotchford [00:09:54] It was six hours. I think it went a little over 20 grand in six hours.

Mike Siciliano [00:09:57] Unbelievable. Then maybe you can share a little bit with… We brought Clemente in on Monday, actually in here. Mr. Gilbert, and myself, and Mr. de Pfyffer, our CFO, and Mr. Pierce, who’s the head of our facilities. Shared with him the update. But then we brought him to assembly with the students. I don’t know if you guys want to talk a little bit about that moment and what it was like to get to interact with him and see his reaction.

Dante Rotchford [00:10:27] It was amazing seeing the amount of joy that he had because that was our first time seeing him once he knew the information. It was crazy.

Sandy Cameron [00:10:33] It was just so beautiful to see such a genuine reaction, that every single person in that gym was rooting for him and rooting for this. It was just so beautiful to see our community fully come together over something that was such an unfortunate situation turned into a blessing all because of Hearts of Service.

Dante Rotchford [00:10:57] With the whole student body cheering several times.

Clemente Mejia [00:11:01] Thank you guys for everything you did for me. It’s a big surprise for me. Thanks very much for everything. I love you guys.

Mike Siciliano [00:11:15] I feel like everybody in their life should have a moment where a gym full of people just stand up and cheer for you. But it was pretty neat to see Clemente have that moment. This is an amazing story, but there’s a couple things I want to ask about the bigger picture behind this story. One, it really is a testament to community. I’m curious for you as students, what is it about our community that you knew hey, we could do this?

Dante Rotchford [00:11:47] Well, personally, it might be the football games and how many parents, students, alumni all show up regardless of the distance, too. We were playing either LCC Torrey Pines. It doesn’t matter where you play. I knew that there would be support, and that’s why I had confidence that we’d raise to $10,000 and even over. That’s where it started with me, at least, all the support we have for the football program. I know if they can support the football program, they can support Clemente’s car.

Sandy Cameron [00:12:19] Me, too, but with SFC drama, and just the theater department, and everything, because that’s where I know every year we do the spring musical. This is long-winded. We do the spring musical. But that is, I think, the most communal thing, I think, being involved as a student, at least, that you can do at SFC because everyone—at least for seniors—does the musical. That’s such a big bonding experience as well as freshmen all the way through seniors do it. So many people do it, and it brings together such a big community of love and support for one another. I think that I’ve seen such a big outcome with the amount of lives that has been touched by the arts here that that has given me hope in other causes like this as well as service club. I’ve led a bunch of different service opportunities through my four years here. I had that hope because I’ve seen outcomes from each project that I’ve taken leadership in. But obviously, this I knew could possibly have an amazing outcome, and it did.

Mike Siciliano [00:13:33] Yeah. That also is a good point of… The reason why the story is amazing is it was a lot of money. But really, I think the other part of it is it’s not really about the dollar figure. It’s about the coming together and the fact that over the course of 36 hours, 240 people said, “Oh, we got somebody who’s hurting. I’m in. Let’s help.”

Sandy Cameron [00:14:03] It could have literally been anyone’s car, too. It could have been anyone’s car and because we were also impacted by it. I didn’t know until I showed up at my Bible class. I was like, “How are we going to help?” Then I found out it was Clemente’s car. It could have been anyone’s, and we would have been there to help and pick up whoever it was. 

Dante Rotchford [00:14:25] Yeah. It just makes it so much more special that it’s Clemente. Knowing the impact that he’s had over our community made it more special. But yeah, regardless of whose car it was.

Mike Siciliano [00:14:33] We’re talking about this community here that feels unique. You said you came in what year?

Dante Rotchford [00:14:39] Seventh.

Mike Siciliano [00:14:40] You came freshman year?

Sandy Cameron [00:14:41] Yes.

Mike Siciliano [00:14:41] Did you feel that right away? Is that something that it took time to appreciate?

Dante Rotchford [00:14:46] I would say in this type of community that we saw during this is a little different than what I saw in seventh grade. I’d say the type of community I saw in seventh grade had more to do with the teachers and how… That’s why I think one good thing about SFC is the connection you can have and the deep relationship you can have with the teachers considering that it’s one, a smaller school and two, that they’re smaller classrooms. That’s more of the community I felt. But no, I didn’t feel like this to this amount.

Sandy Cameron [00:15:18] Yeah. For me, I knew Santa Fe was my school the first time I walked on campus. I could physically feel the community just being able to walk around. Then I remember my first day just feeling so welcomed. Ever since freshman year, I feel like that has just grown stronger and stronger. Now being seniors, I think all of us have just come to the conclusion of this is our final year. This is the time to be the community that we have watched seniors in the past. I remember my freshman year all of our seniors were just so incredible and role models to look up to. They created that community for the rest of the underclassmen. Every year we’re always reminded we have to be those leaders for the ones below us. I think all of us have come to that conclusion and wanted to build that community. This was one way.

Dante Rotchford [00:16:16] Seniors lead the way, lead the school like Mr. Hannan said.

Sandy Cameron [00:16:18] Exactly.

Mike Siciliano [00:16:20] He’s going to be so happy that you said that. Well, you have certainly led. I know a lot of students were a part of it, but you two really got this going. It is an example. It’s an inspiring example for the whole community. It’s created a lot of excitement. I just want to say thank you to both of you for being here today but also just for thinking proactively about how to model that for all of us. We’re really grateful for you both.

Dante Rotchford [00:16:48] The least we could do.

Sandy Cameron [00:16:50] Well, thank you.

Mike Siciliano [00:16:51] Well, this has been another awesome episode of our Eagle Perspective Podcast. If this is your first time, you can catch other episodes of our podcast on Spotify, or Apple Music, or other places where podcasts are available, or our video podcasts on YouTube. We look forward to seeing you again soon. Thanks for joining us.