Donors support Cloverdale Mariachi Camp to honor son’s passion for Mexican culture & community

In memory of their son Nathan Abdallah Proto, Carlo Proto and Sheila Abdallah have been making sure the beginner Mariachi Summer Camp in Cloverdale continues to provide the joy of mariachi to the children of the community he loved as a teacher.

Nathan had a passion for the Mexican culture and found a second home with the families of Cloverdale who celebrated their Mexican heritage and shared their music and community with him. For five joyful years, countless Cloverdale students had Nathan as their kindergarten and third grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary and as their English Language Development teacher at Washington Middle School and Cloverdale High. To honor the lasting impression he had on students and families of Cloverdale, Carlo and Sheila have been supporting the LBC camp with an annual donation since 2016.

Nathan was killed in 2016 at the age of 36. To commemorate his life, Carlo and Sheila knew it would please him that the kids of Cloverdale will continue to carry a little piece of his mariachi heart out into the world. “He was awed by the passion young people have for mariachi,” said Carlo. “They bring forth a special energy, which Nathan recognized and always wanted to support. He received a great deal of joy from seeing the kids connect to the music, to be engaged in it, smiling, and happy.”

His mother describes Nathan as a “gentle giant,” a towering presence among the elementary school kids. “But there was something in his eyes that seemed to say, ‘I’m okay. You’re okay,’” she said. “The kids seemed to sense that he was the defender of the underdog. The way they connected with him was amazing.”

Nathan also impressed the students with his passion for music, which, for him, started in high school, when he played in a local band as a scratch DJ and then as percussionist with a few local bands when he moved to Sonoma County. As their teacher, as much as possible, Nathan incorporated music into the daily classroom routine, bringing conga drums and a collection of other percussion instruments for his kindergarten and 3rd grade students to play.

According to Carlo and Sheila, who are retired schoolteachers, Nathan admired the way family and music influences the Mexican culture. In high school, he went on mission trips to Mexico to help build homes for under-resourced families there. As a teacher in Cloverdale, which has a large Latin population, Nathan got to know his students’ families as another way of advocating for the kids. “He loved being part of that community,” said Sheila.

LBC Summer Camps provide youth with opportunities to develop skills that help them improve their family relationships, school performance, and, later in life, their opportunities for employment. Carlo and Sheila supported the camps even during the two years of the pandemic when they shifted to online learning. Last year, the Cloverdale Summer Camp, which also is supported by Calpine Corp., CARE Foundation, County of Sonoma, and Sonoma County Folk Society, welcomed 28 students who were busting at the seams with excitement to get back to in-person attendance.

One of the strongest impressions Nathan left on his students, according to Carlo, is that it’s important to pay attention to those things that give you joy and peace. If you can find ways of sharing that with community, we are all better for it.”

“By supporting the Summer Mariachi Camp, we can make sure Nathan’s advocacy lives on in Cloverdale,” said Sheila. “He would love that the kids are part of it. It’s what he tried to do in Mexico, where he traveled every year to help develop the agave trade so that workers could improve their livelihoods and contribute to the economy. He wanted them to see that what they are doing is of value. This, too, would bring him to that place of joy and peace.”

Owned and operated by the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (Tax ID #94-2581084). | Designed by Schipper Design | Built & Maintained by Inbound Design
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