Miramonte Elementary takes second in Big Lots video contest

Thousands and hundreds of thousands of votes were cast in one month’s time early this summer in Big Lots Lots2Give video contest.

And though Miramonte Elementary School in South El Monte didn’t get the top prize, they still won big with a $2,500 cash prize for second place. Miramonte’s video, created and starring seven sixth-graders, showed viewers the school’s trouble with their sound system. Read the story here.

Hopefully when students return in the fall, they will be able to update their old sound system that made it difficult to hear anyone at assemblies or school productions. Miramonte is part of the Mountain View School District.

Along with Miramonte, twenty-five other schools across the United States will have some extra cash for class this year as part of the Lots2Give contest and winners of the 2009 Lots2Give video contest. Out of 46 schools that took part in the contest, only 26 schools were chosen by online viewers to share $80,000 in cash prizes.

Big Lots asked participating schools to submit a short video and brief essay explaining why their school is in need of financial support. From mid-June to mid-July, the public voted for their favorite video at www.lots2give.com. More than 300,000 votes were cast.

In addition to the video contest, Big Lots established an in-store donation program to help the 103 schools participating in the Lots2Give program. From May 2 through July 12, Big Lots customers were invited to make $1 or $5 donations at participating Big Lots stores, with 100 percent of donations going directly to participating schools. This initiative raised more than $74,000 to help participating schools.

Miramonte Elementary School will also receive $1,590.83 from their share of the donations collected in-store throughout the Los Angeles market. Other local schools also participated in the Lots2Give program and will be receiving $1,590.83 for each of their schools:
– Baker Elementary School in El Monte
– La Primaria Elementary School in El Monte
– Maxson Elementary School in El Monte

To continue to give back, Big Lots stores across the country will host an in-store Teacher Appreciation Day on Saturday, Aug. 1. ll educators with a valid school identification card will receive 10 percent off their total purchase.

Miramonte Elementary school will be presented with a check for their second place prize on Monday, Aug. 3 at 1 p.m. at the Big Lots store at 11130 Washington Blvd. in Whittier.

For more information and a complete list of winners, visit www.lots2give.com for a complete list of winners.

26th Annual Fiesta of Books in El Monte

Community children in preschool through sixth grade are welcome this Saturday, May 2 to the 26th Annual Fiesta of Books from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the El Monte Community Center, 3130 Tyler Ave., El Monte.

Sponsored by the El Monte Community Services Department, El Monte City School District and Mountain View School District, the event will feature over 8,000 books available to the children free of charge thanks to various community groups donations.

Each child will receive two free books of their choice and a free dictionary will be given to each family. Several adult level and slightly used books will also be available to handout to parents and teens.

Storybook characters like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter and Mother Goose will also be on hand to greet the young readers.

Volunteers will be on hand reading books and offering arts and crafts activities to the children. The three local libraries, Norwood, El Monte and South El Monte, will provide materials regarding the programs available at each library.

For more information, call Detective Roger Cobian, chairman of the event, at (626) 580-2183, or contact one of the local libraries mentioned above.

Watch Nogales High in the Macy’s parade!

While everyone is preparing or enjoying their meal this morning for Thanksgiving, Nogales High School Noble Regiment Band is geared up and ready for their performance in the 82nd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

The La Puente school band is one of only 10 bands taking part, and the only west coast school band.  140 student band members will be led by band director Brad Pollock performing “Mambo” from West Side Story. 

The telecast of the parade begins at 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in each U.S. time zone.  The students practiced over 7,500 hours, about 312 days straight, to prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

They were able to raise funds to fly the 140 students as well as transport cross country by semi-truck the more than 1,000 instruments, 140 uniforms, two ATV vehicles, and other supplies. 

Nogales is scheduled as the seventh band to perform. For more information on the parade, including the parade line- up, visit www.macysparade.com.

College application help

The Norwood Library in El Monte will offer a free workshop on how to apply for college from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30.

Workshop speaker Wenli Jen, Ed.M., educational consultant and college counselor will touch on various subjects of the application process. Relevant books will also be available for check out.

Light refreshments will be offered, courtesy of the Friends of Norwood Library.

The library is located at 4550 N. Peck Road, El Monte. For more information, call John D. Ho at (626) 443-3147.


Bassett Unified holds meeting regarding cuts

Assemblymember Ed Hernandez (D-57th District) fielded questions during a “Town Hall” meeting at Edgewood
Academy in La Puente on Saturday, March 15.


The meeting was set up by the Bassett Unified School District to get input from parents, teachers and community members on the pending state budget cuts to education.

The proposed cuts may result in as much as $1.9 million in cuts to schools in Bassett’s budget next year.
“We are probably in the most difficult budget crisis in the history of the state of California right now,” Hernandez said.
“And the governor wants to balance the budget on the backs of our children and our educational system.  The money that we need to pay for all the services is not there.”
Hernandez said an increase in revenue is needed to solve the problem.
“There is a message that you have to send to the legislature – do not cut our budget – we need to increase revenue,” he said. 

Torch Middle School receives honor



Torch Middle School received a special recognition on Friday, March 14, and a banner to hang in front of the school, from the California League of Middle Schools for becoming one of only three schools in California to achieve 2008 “California Schools to Watch” status.

Dr. Irv Howard, “California Schools to Watch” program coordinator, told an audience at Torch of students, parents, teachers and administrators that the award is provided to schools that have demonstrated they are able to respond to the needs of middle school students and that they value academic excellence, the importance of families and culture and that they have the support from the community and parents “to make that school truly work.” 
“The incredible teachers here and the students are doing an outstanding job and truly are deserving of this unique award,” Howard said.  He added that representatives of other schools will continue to view Torch as a model in an attempt to pattern their own teaching practices after Torch. 

‘Paying for College’ Bus stopping in La Puente

The Sallie Mae Fund ‘Paying for College’ Bus Tour will be making a stop at two La Puente schools on Friday, March 7, to educate students and families about planning and paying for college.

The bus will stop at Sparks Middle School in La Puente to offer eighth-graders a 45-minute in-school workshop on college planning.

From there, the bus will stop at La Puente High School for two in-school workshops for freshman and sophomores, and juniors and seniors.

A $250 scholarship will be rewarded to one participating junior or senior at La Puente High.

Sallie Mae Fund’s goal is to increase access to higher education for all of America’s students – in particular lower-income and minorities.

For more information, visit www.salliemaefund.org .


Shakespeare – Mariachi style

I attended a play Thursday at the San Gabriel Mission. When I first read the invitation to attend this special performance put on by the East L.A. Classic Theatre Group (http://www.eastlaclassic.org) and the City of San Gabriel for students in local districts here in the valley, I was very intrigued and knew I had to go.

The theatre group performs classics such as Shakespeare’s”Much Ado About Nothing” and “Romeo and Juliet”, but adds a unique twist to each of them. As Tony Plana, artistic director and star of TV’s ‘Ugly Betty’, explained it to me, they like to integrate different cultures and ethnicities into their plays and adapt them to themes and locations that are more familiar to the students and local community.

Thursday’s play was an adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing” – Mariachi Style. The classic story was set in 1862 in the city of Puebla just after the Battle of Puebla, or Cinco De Mayo as most people know it by. The play had the basics of the story – interracial relationships and marriage, gossip – but a little updated and featured Mariachi music songs and with Anglo gold miners and Mexican soldiers as the lead characters.

This definitely made the play more fun and interesting to watch and as far as I could tell, the students were not bored by it at all. The actors portrayed their characters so well and were able to get the students very engaged and involved in the storyline and the message of the story, making it a more memorable and fun experience for them. And for me too.

I love live theatre and think it’s something great that everyone should experience at least once. That’s why it was great for me to hear about this group and what they are trying to do to bring theatre to the students and even sometimes engage them in performing themselves. I think it helps them with their language skills, public speaking and self-confidence and esteem, even if they don’t follow a career in the performing arts

I thank everyone at the mission and the theatre for inviting me to a wonderful event. It was such a pleasure meeting Tony Plana, I’ve admired his work for a long time, and I love what he and the theatre group stand for.

The theatre group held the performances for students Thursday and today, Friday, coming from San Gabriel schools and a San Gabriel senior group as well as schools from El Monte, Montebello and more. 

But they are also offering a free community performance Saturday evening at 8 p.m. that is open to everyone. If you have the time, I would suggest trying to make this special performance. Check the theatre group’s website above for more information about the group and call (213) 300-5871 to reserve a seat.

Mt. Sierra College welcomes gaming legend

On Thursday night at 7 p.m., Mt. Sierra College will welcome guest speaker Michael Gilmartin of Blizzard Entertainment.

As global quality assurance director for Blizzard, Gilmartin is the man behind such games as World of Warcraft, Diablo II, Starcraft and more.

Gilmartin has been involved with numerous franchises such as World of Warcraft, and others like Unreal Tournament, Neverwinter Nights, Tomb Raider, and Sid Meiers Civilization.

Working nearly 15 years in the gaming industry, Gilmartin has worked with companies like SEGA of America, Inc., Eidos Inc., Maxis Software, Inc., and Atari, Inc. and more.

Mt. Sierra College is located at 101 E. Huntington Dr., Monrovia. For information and to RSVP, call Angie at (626) 873-2166 or Kellee at (626) 873-2100.

Bassett holds annual Career Fair

Hundreds of Bassett High School freshmen and sophomores participated in the school’s annual Career Fair on Monday, Feb. 25.

Dozens of career representatives from the surrounding community were on hand to counsel students on career choices and options for their future. Representatives from the L.A. County Sheriff’s and Fire Departments were on hand, as well as the county coroner’s office, the California Highway Patrol, military branches, technical schools and more.

Bassett’s counseling staff, high school elective teachers, and upper level students were also on hand to assist 9th -and 10th- graders in making decisions on selecting a career path to pursue while still in high school.


At left:

Rocio Arellano,
15, at left, a ninth grader at Bassett, stops by the “Medical
Assistant and Hospital Occupations” booth during the Fair in Bassett’s gymnasium.  The La Puente Valley Regional Occupational Program
teaches classes in Bassett’s health care academy on the high school campus.
Rocio says she hopes to go into obstetrics and gynecology. Instructor Linda Howard, at right, along with Megan Meyer,
17, a senior at Bassett High and a member of the health care academy’s fifth
graduation class.


At right:
Domonique Barkey, 16, at left, a 10th grader at Bassett, gives some thought to a career in journalism at ‘The Olympian Times’ booth during the Career Fair. At the booth, were students in journalism
class at Bassett along with representatives of the ASB.
Explaining the elective
classes are, seated from left, Avilene Cueto, 15, a 10th grader at Bassett
and Alma Padilla, 17, a 12th grader, co-editors-in-chief of The Olympian
the school newspaper; and Alonzo De Leon, 17, also a 12th grader,
representing ASB.

Career counselor Erika Machado, coordinator of the event,
said it was the first time the high school’s Career Fair was used to help ninth
and 10th grade students focus on career options before making curriculum
decisions for next year during registration in March.

Bassett High School is part of the Bassett Unified School District.