St. Patrick's Day fun at Shamrocks and Shenanigans, Benicia Clock Tower, Friday, March 15.

Entering middle school can be like riding a wild bull in an emotional rodeo. This is scientifically proven. For tweens, it has a lot to do with the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain that now takes the reins. Meanwhile, parents are wrangling the complex emotions of letting their not-so-little ones go. In any case, no one involved is quite ready to grow up.

That’s why the Benicia Middle School PTSA decided it was time for some shenanigans. Shamrocks & Shenanigans, to be more specific. The St. Patrick’s-themed fun takes place March 15 at the Clock Tower and the event has two main purposes: to build a sense of community for middle school families, and to raise funds for the game-changing BMS Innovative Grants Program.

It’s not the first trip to the rodeo for the three chairwomen Crystal Luna Yarnell, Sarah George and Alex Meade—who were active in their children’s elementary schools. For all three, the transition from a cozy 500-student K-5 campus to the more autonomous middle school with 1,200 adolescents was a bumpy ride. And they aren’t alone.

Morgan Kacalek and Wyatt Carvalo use Chromebooks

“In elementary school we see more of each other when we pick up our kids, and we tend to be more involved in the classrooms. In middle school the rules change, and parents can’t come on campus to pick up their kids anymore,” says Crystal, a marriage and family therapist whose son is in sixth grade. “It’s easy to lose that automatic sense of community.”

“And for some families, the middle school years are when parents decide to go back to work full time,” said Sarah, social worker and former PTG President at Robert Semple. “I was one of those parents, and it definitely changed my ability to connect with other parents and teachers,” she adds. “But, it’s an important time in our kids’ lives, and in ours, to stay connected.”

Creating a place for families to connect was the genesis of Shamrocks & Shenanigans, but it quickly evolved to fill another important gap: funding for teachers to create hands-on, real world experiences that engage students in deeper learning.  

The BMS PTSA has worked closely with the Benicia Education Foundation (BEF) that raises funds for innovative programs at all Benicia public schools, and together they awarded $14,000 in grants last year for teacher-driven projects that transcend the classroom walls. The funding has supplied BMS science classrooms with digital microscopes, equipped with cameras that link learners to the greater scientific community. Other students have access to early morning mindfulness classes that help shape positive neural pathways and set the tone for their days. With new video production technology, students are broadcasting campus news from the middle school’s own Viking TV—including a meteorological forecast from a BMS grant-funded weather station.

Rowan Yarnell using digital microscope and Chromebook

Thanks to early event sponsors, all proceeds raised on the night of Shamrock & Shenanigans will support more innovative grant programs that will surpass our imagination. The festivities are for adults, and you’ll want to dress in your luckiest green. In true St. Patrick's style, you’ll enjoy dancing music, a live comedienne, Irish-themed food—and plenty of pints. You’ll be gobsmacked by the live and silent auctions (tip: premium Warriors tickets, elegant weekend getaway, wine packages and so much more), a new “Luck of the Irish” game and all kinds of silly shenanigans.

And if that doesn’t help you get through the middle school rodeo, our very own Benicia Brüehol Brewing is crafting a special ale just for the party. Aren’t we the lucky ones!

The event will be jammers, so get your tickets at