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December 2015

MUSD Program Connects Teen Parent Community Resources for the holidays

Infant donations
Approximately 50 teen parents in the Montebello Unified School District received baby care packages, which included bottles, baby clothes and blankets, before the Thanksgiving holiday, thanks to a donation from St. Benedict School, located in Montebello.

The MUSD Infant Toddler and Pregnant and Parenting programs seek to support student parents, male and female, and give them the opportunity to achieve their academic goals and continue their education while raising children. This includes the option of attending additional classes to expedite the completion of their university “A-G” required courses and the availability of day care services.

This year, Anthony Martinez, Montebello Unified’s Assistant Superintendent, reached out to local organizations to address other needs student families have outside of academics.

“This is a great example of the community working together to bring in additional support services beyond the classroom,” said Martinez.“For some of our students who are or will be teen parents, they will know that their community and schools care for them and will help them complete their education.” 

The student council at St. Benedict, a K-8 private school, organized a Thanksgiving donation drive and collected baby items. The packages were assembled according to age and gender to ensure that the parents received the appropriate items for their children.

“This event was a great opportunity for the students at both schools to connect with each other,” said Lorraine Verduzco, Montebello Unified’s Director of Accountability and Support. “We value the relationship we have with St. Benedict, and our students were ecstatic to see other schools recognize their needs and try to support them on a personal level.”

The Thanksgiving gifts were personally delivered by the student council as a surprise to the student mothers and fathers from Bell Gardens, Montebello and Schurr high schools. 

“We greatly appreciate the leadership of St. Benedict’s principal and their student council in conducting the drive for our student parents who are determined to complete their education,” Montebello Unified Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “It is rewarding to see the community come together and offer support for all of our youth.”

MUSD’S Trail-blazing college Preparedness program Earns Prestigious Golden Award

College Bound Today Honored for Partnership and Collaboration

College Bound Today, a team-mentoring program that navigates Montebello Unified students through the college application process, has earned the prestigious 2015 Golden Bell Award from the California School Board Association (CSBA). The college-preparedness program helps predominantly low-income, first-generation college-goers achieve unprecedented college admission.

The Golden Bell, under the Community Schools through Partnerships and Collaboration category, was presented to the District Dec. 5 at the annual CSBA conference in San Diego. The awards promote excellence in education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices of school boards and county offices of education throughout California.

Additionally, College Bound Today (CBT) received a $1,000 sponsorship from Industry Leader Business Affiliates as well as an award under the County Offices of Education category – making the organization the only one to receive three awards at the conference.

CBT began its exclusive partnership with the District in February 2009, at Schurr High School, with just 30 students. It has now expanded to all four of MUSD’s comprehensive high schools, at no cost, with 584 students having completed the program through 2015.

In October 2014, the District signed a five-year memorandum of understanding to expand CBT to accommodate more students and mentors.

“If there wasn’t a program like College Bound, I would probably be struggling to find out how to apply for college, what the requirements are and how to apply for financial aid,” said Lily Feliz, parent of Schurr High junior Sarah Zaragosa, in a CBT-produced video that was submitted to the Golden Bell committee. “I’m very excited to start learning more about this process.”

CBT recruits sophomores with a 3.0 GPA and assigns them to a team with nine student peers and three volunteer mentors. Students, mentors and parents attend workshops one Saturday a month during the school year.

Among other informational sessions, students obtain assistance with the college and financial aid application process, are given help in drafting personal statements and receive a free, 30-hour SAT or ACT prep course as juniors.

“The all-encompassing nature of College Bound Today fuses highly motivated and determined students with teachers, counselors, community members, parents and like-minded students to contribute to a stronger college-going culture in our community,” Superintendent of Schools Susanna Contreras Smith said. “We sincerely thank the CSBA for recognizing the hard work and success of our CBT graduates, their volunteer mentors and our Montebello Unified staff.”

The CBT mentors – many of whom are bilingual and work as local teachers, attorneys, doctors or business owners – also reach out to parents to include them in the process, encouraging them to participate and accompany their children on field trips to Southern California colleges and universities. Mentors also keep parents apprised of their child’s progress.

Many of these students, like Schurr High alumna Zeyla Zazueta, are the first ones in their family to attend college.

“Being the first one to graduate from high school and go on to college and graduate from there has been a great impact on my family,” Zazueta said. “They are so proud of me!”

Of the 581 CBT graduates: 197 have gone on to UC schools, 205 to CSU, 96 to private colleges with 78 to 2-year community colleges. 410 of the graduates are first-generation college-goers and a total of 466 come from low-income families.

CBT was founded by Dan Clement, a retired litigator, and Todd Clark, a former educator, together with MUSD officials. It operates collaboratively by incorporating high school principals and staff, community members and volunteers, as well as students and parents in the ultimate goal of getting all students participating accepted into college. College Bound Today is funded in part by the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and Edison International.

Harvard Alumni Encourage MUSD Students to Apply to Elite Ivy League Universities

Financial challenges won’t stop Montebello Unified School District students from attending an elite Ivy League college. This was the main message to nearly 400 MUSD middle school Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) students and their parents during the Harvard Early College Awareness Program symposium held at Eastmont Intermediate School on Nov. 9.

In 2004, Harvard University announced the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI). Any student from a household that earns $65,000 a year or less would receive free tuition, room and board, if they are accepted for admission. Following Harvard’s lead, several other elite universities similarly amended their financial aid policies, including Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Duke, Stanford and MIT.Dr. Gus Frias, Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance co-founder and Harvard Club of Southern California board member led a distinguished panel that, along with a representative from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, familiarized MUSD families with how to prepare, plan and pay for higher education.

“Many families don’t realize that their children, who are studying diligently, with honor and distinction, can attend these colleges,” said Frias, who graduated from Garfield High in East Los Angeles. “We feel wholly committed to recruiting the best and brightest from our communities to attend Harvard. The Early College Program symposium also focused on leadership development, cautioning prospective students that a high grade point average alone won’t guarantee acceptance into Ivy League schools, and that excellence in serving your school and community is often considered a prerequisite for admission.

At the end of the symposium, Harvard alumni and civic leaders conducted a question and answer session for the attendees, which included MUSD School Board members, District representatives, intermediate school principals, AVID coordinators and Superintendent of Schools Susanna Contreras Smith.

“This is a very special day for our students to be able to see so many successful leaders from their own community dispense their wisdom and encouragement. Their message was clear – plan, prepare and do not hesitate to pursue the college of your dreams,” said Superintendent Contreras Smith. “We are greatly appreciative of Dr. Frias and his esteemed colleagues for taking the time to address our students.”

AVID is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap and preparing students for college and postsecondary opportunities. AVID students take elective classes to further develop their reading, writing and critical thinking academic skills, with emphasis on time management and goal-setting.  

SUVA Intermediate Hosted Inaugural MUSd Pathways STEM Day

First of Four District Recruitment Events Funded by $6 Million CCPT Grant

Student-designed roller coasters, balloon-powered cars and water-filtration systems took center stage when Suva Intermediate School hosted a Pathways science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Day last month. The event marks the first of four Montebello Unified STEM Days to be funded by a $6 million California Career Pathway Trust (CCPT) grant the District received in May 2014.

The Pathways STEM Days seek to recruit students to one of the 10 Pathways offered by the District. Three additional STEM Days are scheduled on December 4 for Eastmont Intermediate, December 8 for Montebello Intermediate and December 11 for Macy Intermediate.

Suva Intermediate started the day with a school-wide pep rally in the morning, with Bell Gardens High School students on hand to answer questions about the three Pathways available at BGHS – Culinary Hospitality Opportunities Pathway (CHOP); Globally Responsible Environmental Education Network (GREEN); and Innovation Child Development, Academia, Resources for Family, Education (iCARE).

The students then divided by grade to participate in separate morning and afternoon workshops. Suva seventh- and eighth-graders who are enrolled in pre-Pathways classes demonstrated the progress they have made on their STEM projects – water filter designs by the eighth-graders and roller coasters by the seventh-graders. Suva sixth-graders busied themselves with introductory projects, creating hand sanitizers and developing polymers.

Suva’s Pathway STEM Day corresponded with the Pathways being offered at Bell Gardens High, though students can enroll for any of the programs offered at all four District high schools:

Montebello High – Developing Resourceful Individuals who Value Education Now (DRIVEN), Creative Arts Technology School (CATS)

Applied Technology Center (ATC) – Architecture Construction Engineering (ACE), Public Service & Law Enforcement (PALS), Culinary Hospitality Educational Foundations (CHEF), and Health Services

Schurr High – Engineering & Design

Bell Gardens High – CHOP, GREEN, iCARE

District partners East Los Angeles College (ELAC) and California State University, Los Angeles had representatives on campus to observe the student projects and lend their expertise. MUSD’s $6 million CCPT Pathways grant was secured in collaboration with ELAC, to coordinate regional resources to educate, train and ultimately find jobs for Montebello Unified students.

“Through our dedicated collaboration with East Los Angeles College, we succeeded inobtaining the CCPT grant, which continues to provide immeasurable resources in offering work-based learning opportunities for our students,” MUSD Superintendent of Schools Susanna Contreras Smith said. “These events illustrate our commitment to connecting our students to events, services, programs and mentors that produce graduates who are successful, life-long learners.”