Skip to main content

October 2015

Seventh Annual 'War on Hunger’ Food Drive Kick-off Event Marks Time of Giving at Montebello Unified

Joining forces with its community partners, the Montebello Unified School District kicked off the seventh annual “War on Hunger” food drive on October 13 to assist local families in need at Bell Gardens Intermediate School.

Since its inception in 2009, the Montebello Unified School District’s “War on Hunger” food drive has raised approximately 50,000 pounds of food to help several thousands of students and families. The bar has been set high and MUSD students, teachers, staff, community members and sponsors are carrying on their tradition of working together to support the project’s goal of at least another 50,000 pounds.

With Bell Gardens Intermediate Principal Ricardo Mendez serving as master of ceremonies, MUSD’s month of giving kick-off event featured speakers from the District and its partners from Heart of Compassion, Camino Federal Credit Union, the Montebello Council Parent Teacher Association and the city of Bell Gardens. The event also included a BGI student dance performance and MUSD students showing their support of the project.

"Making connections between learning and community issues is what we stress in the District, and our annual ‘War on Hunger’ food drive is an example," Superintendent of Schools Susanna Contreras Smith said. “We are proud of the work that our students have put in to make this food drive a huge success, and we will continue to encourage them to work together to address local and global problems such as hunger by proposing viable solutions.”

As part of its partnership with the District for this effort, Camino Federal Credit Union is also asking its employees and members to pitch in by contributing to the "War on Hunger" campaign.  Those interested can either make a pledge at a teller window or drop canned goods off at the Camino main branch, 520 N. Taylor Ave. in Montebello, through October 30.

Students and staff will be able to donate non-perishable food items or funds to help local hungry families at all MUSD school sites as well. The community may also donate at Bell Gardens City Hall (7100 Garfield Ave., Bell Gardens) and the MUSD District Office (123 S. Montebello Blvd., Montebello).

Families may be able to pick up food items at the Heart of Compassion Distribution Center (600 S. Maple Ave., Montebello) or may contact District homeless liaison Rose Hernandez at (323) 887-2133.

Governor Signs Law Inspired by Montebello Unified Students

Bell Garden Elementary 5th-Graders Pushed to Include Mexican Repatriation in Textbooks

When future California schoolchildren read about the Mexican Repatriation Act in social studies textbooks, they’ll have Leslie Hiatt’s Bell Garden Elementary students to thank. Hiatt’s 2014-15 fifth-graders suggested including the repatriation in textbooks in their winning entry to Assemblymember Cristina Garcia’s annual “There Ought to Be a Law” contest for new state legislation. Garcia’s resulting bill was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 1 and becomes effective Jan. 1, 2016.

The Mexican Repatriation, authorized by President Herbert Hoover, resulted in the unconstitutional deportation during the 1930s of an estimated 1 million U.S. citizens and lawful residents of Mexican descent from California and neighboring states. 

Hiatt’s students, who had been studying issues related to undocumented children, researched the impact of the program, despite a paucity of available information, and presented their findings to Garcia through skits, poems, PowerPoint presentations and a book.

“These students are the most prepared people that have lobbied me on a bill,” said Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, who represents the 58th District and is a Montebello Unified graduate. 

Impressed, Garcia wrote Assembly Bill 146 calling for the program’s inclusion in social studies textbooks, and invited the students to Sacramento, where they effectively lobbied for the bill’s passage in both English and Spanish.

“I’m proud of the courage and tenacity of our students in fighting to fix an omission in our educational system,” Montebello Unified Superintendent of Schools Susanna Contreras Smith said. “They not only showed great compassion and understanding about the issue, but great initiative in taking an active hand to determine what should be an essential part of our instruction.”

MUSD Partners with Health Care Agency to Open Health Center at Bell Gardens High School


Montebello Unified and Family Health Care Centers of Greater Los Angeles (FHCCGLA) cut the ribbon Sept. 15 to celebrate the opening of the new comprehensive, school-based health center at Bell Gardens High School focused on providing students and their families with affordable health care services.

To address the overwhelming need among students and families for access to affordable care, FHCCGLA dedicated $500,000, and partnered with the District to renovate two portables at Bell Gardens High to provide primary and preventive health care, health education, family planning services, teen pregnancy prevention and education, well-baby check-ups, and mental health services.

FHCCGLA, which is funded by the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration, has partnered successfully with Bell Gardens High School and MUSD in the past, creating school-based gardens, farmer’s markets, and other projects through its Campaign for a Healthier Bell Gardens.

The center features six examination rooms, a clinical laboratory, behavioral health counseling and health education room, and a 16-seat waiting room. Architects designed the clinic and health resource center to be welcoming and inviting to students and their families.

Federal funding was also used to purchase medical, office and educational equipment such as examination tables, procedure lights, stools, instrument sterilizers, sinks, otoscopes, sphygmomanometers, colposcopes, desks, chairs, computers and an LED projector, as well as pediatric medical equipment for well-baby exams.

“This center marks our District’s continued effort to provide access to health resources, information and services that contribute to the well-being of our students, their families and, ultimately, our community,” Montebello Unified Superintendent of Schools Susanna Contreras Smith said. “Thank you to everyone at Family Health Care Centers and to our BGHS leadership for making this goal a reality.”

FHCCGLA has been providing health care services for low-income and marginalized residents of its service area patients for more than 90 years. Founded in 1925 as “The Mother's Clinic,” FHCCGLA has provided uninterrupted healthcare services more than nine decades 

For more information about FHCCGLA, call (562) 928-9060.

MUSD Builds New Playground for Head Start Students with $245K in Federal Facilities Grant

Head Start students at Montebello Park Elementary arrived for fall classes this year to find a new playground constructed especially for their use, thanks to a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The 1,750 square-foot recreational space has a new play structure, a painted bike trail and a shade structure to protect the students on hot days.

The new facility provides a dedicated play area for the preschool program. It was funded through a $245,940 grant from the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services – Office of Head Start for facility improvements.

Aida Ramos, the District’s Director of Head Start and Early Learning, and Montebello Park Principal Gina Andujo worked in collaboration with Mike Weaver, MUSD Facilities Project Coordinator, to propose the playground’s construction and see the project through to fruition. Teachers and staff previously had to walk Head Start students to the kindergarten playground. Their new playground is in a contained area that is next to the Head Start facility and will be completed when an artificial grass turf is installed.

“This is a win-win situation,” Ramos said. “With the Head Start program now having its own playground, neither Head Start or kindergarten classes have to work around a schedule to share a common play space.”

MUSD Head Start provides a part-day preschool program for children and families. The part-day program is 3.5 hours a day, Monday through Friday, following the District’s academic calendar. The part-day program is free to families that qualify. 

“The addition of this new playground for our Head Start children illustrates our priority to ensure we are making certain that all students have the modernized facilities to develop, grow and learn,” Superintendent of Schools Susanna Contreras Smith said. “We are excited for our current and future students to use this new great new facility.”

Head Start prepares children for school by emphasizing active learning and developmentally appropriate practices.  The Head Start approach to school readiness means that children are ready for school and families are ready to support their children’s learning.