Skip to main content

June 2016

Montebello ROP Students Honored for Professionalism in Competition

Nine students were recognized by the Montebello Unified School District Regional Occupational Program during a luncheon June 2 at the Montebello YMCA for their outstanding professionalism in a Districtwide competition.

Students received gold, silver and bronze medals based on how well they built a resume, completed an application and interviewed and presented a product to a panel of judges. These job skills are incorporated into the ROP curriculum for professional dance, financial services, health occupations, automotive technology, computer graphics, food service management and architecture, construction & engineering.

ROP teachers at the District’s high schools nominated students to compete in the finals of the 2015-16 ROP Outstanding Student Competition, showcasing their professionalism in a generic job interview and product presentation for a panel of judges in April.

Lizabeth Castillo, a senior at Montebello High School, took home a gold medal. Castillo said she was shy and not a very good public speaker until taking the ROP professional dance class.

“Dance is a very competitive industry so you have to present yourself well on- and off-stage,” she said.

The ROP professional dance class stands out from other dance classes offered at Montebello High School because students are able to perform off-campus. For Castillo that included dancing at East Los Angeles College and fundraisers.

Castillo plans to double major in dance and political science next year at California State University at Long Beach. She wants to attend law school and sees dancing after high school as a hobby.

This year’s gold medalists are Lizabeth Castillo and Elya Avalyan of Montebello High School and Brenda Estrada of Schurr High School. This year’s silver medalists are Karen Segura of the Applied Technology Center, Valerie Segura of Bell Gardens High and Priscilla Bueno of Montebello High. This year’s bronze medal recipients are Alberto Martinez and Edgar Ramos of Bell Gardens High and Alejandro Soto of Montebello High.

“I would like to thank our skilled ROP teachers for preparing an extraordinary group of students who were recognized at this year’s ROP Outstanding Student Competition,” Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “These students’ professionalism exemplifies the kind of career-readiness we’re instilling in our graduates.”

Two Montebello Unified Instructors Recognized For Environmental Conservation Efforts

Montebello Unified Environmental Coordinators John Garza and Eva Cupchoy were two of 12 people in Los Angeles County to receive awards from TreePeople for dedicating 23 years to sustainable urban environmental methodology and community building.

Garza and Cupchoy have built gardens full of fruit trees and vegetables at 28 District sites since 1993, teaching students about nutrition and selling produce to school cafeterias for use in healthy meals.

“Twenty-three years ago I never would have imagined these gardens would become so beneficial in teaching our students about responsibility and nutrition,” Garza said. “It’s rewarding to see our students get excited about growing their own fruits and veggies and to hear about them using the crops to cook for their families and create recipes.”

The two instructors connected over the years with TreePeople – a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the community plant and maintain trees – who donated peach, apricot, lemon, lime, orange, mandarin, avocado and strawberry guava trees for planting throughout the campuses.

Now, Garza and Cupchoy teach students how to maintain the campus gardens and make routine checkups on the small farms each week. The produce harvested from these gardens is also sold at the District’s farmers markets held every quarter.

“These gardens are a point of pride for our District,” Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “They allow our students to take pride and ownership in growing and maintaining beautiful fruits and vegetables of their own, and this wouldn’t have been possible without John and Eva’s hard work over the years.”

Tree People


MUSD Inaugural Festival Showcases Artistic Talent From Hundreds of Students

More than six hundred Montebello Unified students – from transitional kindergarten to high school – joined together May 21 to celebrate the arts and showcase their artistic talents in front of an audience of parents, fellow students, community members and District officials.


The inaugural Visual and Performing Arts Festival, held in the Schurr High School, featured about 350 students in more than 30 performances of dance and musical renditions in the auditorium. The multipurpose room displayed nearly 350 original works of art – including paintings, photographs, sculptures, film presentations, among other media – from more than 300 students across the District.


“Whether it’s through performances, painting, photography or other media, art has its place in education – providing students an avenue to express themselves, build self-confidence and to learn about history and culture,” MUSD Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “On behalf of Montebello Unified, I want to thank our administrators, teachers and staff for their efforts in coordinating this first annual festival.”


The event’s program included words from Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith, Montebello Unified Board Vice President Lani Cupchoy, Ph.D., Schurr High School Principal Francisco Arregui, and Director of Pupil and Community Services Dan Garcia. The program’s keynote address came from award-winning actor Tony Plana. Schurr High Assistant Principal Dr. Phillip Nolasco served as master of ceremonies


“Thank you to the Division of Pupil and Community Services and the entire Schurr High leadership for helping us coordinate this inaugural event,” Garcia said. “This festival will no doubt be the start of a long-standing MUSD tradition.”


Attendees had the opportunity to vote on their favorite works of art in selected categories. Winning entries will be displayed at the Los Angeles County Fair this September.


More than six hundred Montebello Unified students – from transitional kindergarten to high school – joined together May 21 to celebrate the arts and showcase their artistic talents in front of an audience of parents, fellow students, community members and District officials.

Bell Gardens Elementary Fifth-Graders Discuss Multilingualism with Sen. Lara, Present Award

State Sen. Ricardo Lara visited Bell Gardens Elementary School May 20 to talk to Leslie Hiatt’s fifth-grade class about state history, politics, and to remind them to remain dedicated to their dreams. Hiatt’s students also presented Sen. Lara with an award for supporting their classmates in passing AB146.


Hiatt’s fifth-graders in 2014-15 successfully teamed up with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia and Sen. Lara to pass Assembly Bill 146, which requires state textbooks to include information about the deportation of Mexican-Americans during the Great Depression.


Current students invited Sen. Lara to accept the award bestowed by the Bell Gardens Elementary community and the District at a celebration held in December. They also discussed initiatives of his they are studying in class.


Multilingualism gives California an educational and economic edge, Sen. Lara told students during his visit. Employers across all sectors cite the need for those who can read, write and speak in more than one language, Lara said.


“With so many bilingual students, teachers, parents and community members within our District, we want to ensure that this skill is not only honored, but enhanced,” MUSD Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “Knowing another language, or many, is a gift that will help our students be better prepared for the society of tomorrow.”


Sen. Lara’s has authored the California Education for Global Economy initiative, which promotes multilingualism in California schools.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara visited Bell Gardens Elementary School May 20 to talk to Leslie Hiatt’s fifth-grade class about state history, politics and to remind them to remain dedicated to their dreams. Hiatt’s students also presented Sen. Lara with an award for supporting their classmates in passing AB146.

MUSD Pathway Exhibit Extols Student Ingenuity

Montebello Unified seniors presented a balanced school lunch menu program, a reusable medical splint that can be applied with one hand, a plant-based water purification system and a “Car-B-Que” crafted from a Chevy Impala during the District’s Pathways Senior Exhibition.


In all, 260 seniors from nine of the District’s 11 career Pathways presented 89 individual and group projects at the exhibition, held May 21 at the Quiet Cannon Restaurant. The Pathways at Montebello Unified’s four comprehensive high schools link academics to college and career.


Eighteen projects – two from each Pathway – were nominated as Distinguished Projects, indicating a mastery of critical thinking, communication, collaboration or creativity. Additional projects were chosen by popular vote as People’s Choice winners. Top projects were honored in each category.


Graduating seniors also participated in senior exit interviews conducted by community partners and industry representatives, who appraised student resumes and work samples.


Bell Gardens High School Culinary, Hospitality Opportunities Pathway (CHOP) students Emily Guzman, Lourdes Garcia and Gabriela Gonzalez won the top prize for Distinguished Projects for “Creating a Menu for The Lancer Café.” The menu incorporates safety guidelines, such as timing for food preparation and serving. The students also managed a budget, monitored inventory and created a price point to make a profit. They received plaques and a $1,250 prize.


Guzman and Gonzalez said the Pathway led them to new levels of achievement.


“All of my Pathways teachers really helped me by pushing me to the limits,” said Guzman, who will put her skills to use at her family’s fast food chain. “I used to be very shy, but I’ve learned to branch out to collaborate well with others. We’ve raised the bar high at Bell Gardens.”


Gonzalez said she will attend East Los Angeles College and pursue a career in restaurant management.


Applied Technology Center Health Sciences Pathway students Alex Texis, Anthony Ceballos and Angel Maldonado won second place in the Distinguished Project category for “Let’s Get it Straight – Exo Splint,” creating a durable, reusable splint that can be applied with one arm. They received $500 and medals.


Montebello High’s Creative Arts Technology School (CATS) students Jose Galvan, Thomas Gomez Navarro, Marianna Lara, Jessica Sifuentes and Steven Zelaya won third place for “Princess of Mars: Animation & Conceptual Design,” in which they developed a way to compose 2D animation on 3D backgrounds. They won $250 and medals.


Applied Technology Center’s Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) team of Daniel Gonzalez, Joseph Darby, Luis Montano and Ivan Castro won first-place medals in the People’s Choice category for their project, “Thanos,” which devised ways to make recycling fun by using ordinary items in different and reusable ways.


ACE students Jenna Corona, Gabriela Rios, Autumn Paredes and Christopher Medina won second-place People’s Choice medals for “Plant Based Water Filter,” a water purification system. Montebello High School’s Developing Resourceful Individuals who Value Education Now (DRIVEN) students Andrew Panameno, Manuel Orozco Rodriguez, Miguel Silva and Raul Canales won third-place medals for creativity in transforming an inoperable Chevrolet Impala into a “Car-B-Que,” complete with ice chest, that can be used for school functions.


Students from each high school received Leadership medals for demonstrating initiative, motivation, a positive attitude and dedication to their Pathway, community and school:


Applied Technology Center: Alma Aguilar (Public and Legal Services, or PALS), Kevin Padilla (Health Sciences), Karen Segura (ACE), Samantha Arias and Jozcelyn Morgan (Culinary, Hospitality, Educational Foundations, or  CHEF)

Bell Gardens High: Jovany Hernandez (Innovation, Child Development, Academia, Resources for Family and Education, or iCARE)) and Jennifer Garcia (CHOP)

Montebello High: Alejandro Soto (CATS) and Jose Medina (DRIVEN)

Schurr High: Jose Lopez III (Engineering & Design)


Students with a 3.5 GPA earned Academic Excellence medals:


Applied Technology Center: Wendy Camarena (PALS), Emanuil Parunakian (Health Sciences) and Hunter Crist (ACE)

Bell Gardens High: Vanessa Rubio (iCARE) and Vanessa Benitez Campos (CHOP)

Montebello High: Andrew Hernandez (CATS) and Johnny Uitz (DRIVEN)

Schurr High: Kayla Sison (Engineering & Design)


“The exhibition was an amazing experience for our community and our students, who performed outstanding,” MUSD Superintendent Susana Contreras Smith said. “This is our Second Annual Senior Exhibition, and I can’t wait to see what is yet to come.”

Montebello High School student Jesus Cazares shows off his team’s project to MHS Principal Helen Meltzer, which transformed a Chevy Impala into a ‘Car-B-Que,’ at Montebello Unified’s Senior Pathway Exhibition.