by Winston Chua
SAN MARINO – The children at Valentine Elementary Schoolcontinue to show a maturity and compassion far beyond their years.
Studentsthere are now wrapping up what has been an eventful and successful HealthySnack Drive, one of three major events they take part in as a way of helpingunderprivileged youth who live in a life-threatening area of Los Angeles. Thesefrom San Marino gather healthy food for students there who have little healthyfood to eat.
Thestudents who live in the dangerous part of L.A. are from 112thStreet Elementary School, a school that Valentine adopted three years ago.
StudentCouncil Advisor Andrea Fox, PTA President Cynthia Ary and Heidi Johnson(liaison between Valentine and its adopted school) all have students in the SanMarino Unified School District and know firsthand how fortunate San Marinochildren are to have the opportunity to live in and study in such a great city.Together they help to bridge the gap between the schools.
Childrenin San Marino are blessed in various ways As a result, school leaders, parentsand students work hard to make a difference in the lives of underservedchildren at the Watts school.
“Thepoint of this is to teach our children and plant seeds of compassion, so theylearn what gratitude is,” said Johnson, a mother to a 4th grader atValentine.
Johnsonsaid that it is the students who own the project, and Fox who encourages itsdevelopment. The students now feel empowered to make a difference, with signsand decorated boxes and heartfelt sacrifice.
Lastyear the school loaded up three Suburban loads of school supplies andnutritious foods and made the trip to South Los Angeles. Johnson called thearea adjacent to the school, Nickerson Gardens, “the most dangerous place westof the Mississippi.” Nickerson Gardens is home to the Bounty Hunter Bloods.
Johnsonsaid that even police officers there shy away from the area. But for Valentinestudents, compassion is not completely driven out by fear.
UrbanCompass, a non-profit after-school program for a select group of students, andVerbum Dei, a Jesuit high school that also serves to care for its neighboringstudents, surround 112th Street Elementary School.
Roughly99 percent of students at Verbum Dei graduate and attend college.
Thetwo other programs the Valentine students are involved with are called Changefor Change (where young ones sacrificially contribute money from their savings)and collecting school supplies, like backpacks. 112th Street ElementarySchool, the beneficiary of those offerings, surprised the kids at Valentine withcake and gifts during their most recent visit.
Recently,Valentine students raised money by selling Jamba Juice (they recently sold 400smoothies in a 30 minute span). Through the Change for Change program, theschool was able to purchase playground equipment, swings, jump ropes and more,for Urban Compass.
Valentinehas certainly come a long way from its days when fundraising efforts consistedmainly of canned-food drives.
Itsstudents, several of whom will make a trip to the adopted school, will helpdrop off school supplies in the next two weeks or so.
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