Sierra Vista students in La Puente create in MakerSpace lab

 Luis Ruiz, 17, demonstrates robotic car at Sierra Vista Middle School in La Puente

Luis Ruiz, 17, demonstrates robotic car at Sierra Vista Middle School in La Puente

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Robots roamed the room, optical and ultrasonic sensors silently guiding them around obstacles. Sierra Vista students continued to work on electronic circuit boards, building security alarms, cooling fans and other whirligigs.

Others displayed the video games and computer coding they had constructed themselves. All were proud of the engineering accomplishments the seventh and eighth graders have achieved thanks to the Makerspace lab sponsored by the Alcoa Foundation.

“We’ve seen significant increases in attendance and math scores, as well a rising interest in careers in science and engineering,” said Principal Terry Ceja .

The La Puente middle school was celebrating the second anniversary of the innovative program. Sierra Vista is one of only two Makerspace labs in Southern California.

“We couldn’t have done it without close to $40,000 in grants from the Alcoa Foundation,” Ceja said.

“We want to get our students interested in science and math. These are the aerospace workers of the future,” agreed Gwen Moore, human resources director for Alcoa’s plant in Industry.

The Alcoa official said the company has been impressed with the growth of the program over the past year. It now offers two classes for seventh graders as well as an advanced class for eighth graders.

“We need more engineers. Anything we can do to get the students interested in a technical career is good for everyone,” said Jeff Railton, engineering manager at Alcoa Fastening Systems.

The local company makes a variety of aerospace fasteners. The local plant employs about 350 workers, but it’s always looking for more highly skilled workers.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story MAKERSPACE.

Give Kids a Smile event on Friday in La Puente

On Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., more than 150 Transitional Kindergarten, Kindergarten and First Grade students at Hurley Elementary will receive a free dental check-up at the “Give Kids a Smile” event. Sponsored by the Chinese American Dental Society of Southern California, dentist Dr. Chester Jeng, DDS, JD, will be on hand to provide free dental screenings to students.

Hurley Elementary is located at 535 S. Dora Guzman Avenue in La Puente.  Hurley Elementary Principal Yesenia Alvarez can be reached at (626)965-2429.

For more information about the “Give Kids a Smile” event, please contact: Dr. Chester Jeng DDS, JD, President of the Chinese American Dental Society of Southern California at (562)691-0738 or

Rowland thanks community for its generousity

Photo courtesy of Rowland Unified

Photo courtesy of Rowland Unified

The Rowland Unified School District would like to thank the community for participating in the annual Adopt and Shop program organized by the Family Resource Center.

On Dec. 13, there were gleeful smiles of joy as more than 100 families and 300 children in need across the Rowland Unified School District were given gifts to open thanks to the generosity of others.

Grammy winner performs at La Puente High

La Santa Cecilia performs at La Puente High School

La Santa Cecilia performs at La Puente High School

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Grammy Award winners La Santa Cecilia brought a message of hope and happiness to La Puente High on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles band, whose recording “Treinta Días” was honored for Best Latin Rock Album this year, agreed to help the Warriors celebrate Hispanic heritage month. They had been invited by history teacher Wesley Perez.

“While this is my first year at La Puente High, I taught at Hawthorne High School for four years, where I was able to bring Ozomatli to speak and perform for my students,” Perez explained. “I believe that students need to have positive experiences in high school because they can truly change lives.”

So the enthusiastic instructor had his students share the afternoon with an inspirational band in the school’s Little Theater. They also shared dreams and goals during a question and answer session.

“Why do many women, especially Latinas, have a hard time living independently,” asked 16-year-old junior Irene Martin.

The band’s powerful singer Marisol Hernandez offered lots of interesting advice to the teens. She drew on her own experience growing up and joining the band.

“I love what I do! And I have my own place,” Hernandez said. “We can only listen to parents and families so long. We have to follow our hearts because we’re never going to make everyone happy. Do whatever you want, learn to live in your own skin.”

Along the way, everyone will face challenges, the singer said. The hard part is rising to the challenges so you can overcome them.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story PUENTE.

Sheriff’s deputies give school supplies to La Puente kids

By Brian Day, Staff Writer

Sheriff’s deputies, in partnership with the La Puente and the National Latino Peace Officers Association, is in the process of distributing 100 backpacks full of school supplies to needy students.

The giveaway began last week at Workman Elementary in Hacienda La Puente Unified and Hurley Elementary in Rowland Unified. It will continue next week at Sparks Elementary School and Del Valley School, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. and La Puente Police Chief Pete Cacheiro said.

The backpacks and supplies were donated by the National Latino Peace Officers Association, and were arranged by Explorers from the sheriff’s Industry Station. Sheriff’s officials worked with the schools to identify the students most in need of the supplies.

In addition to putting smiles on children’s faces, the event exemplifies the “Community Oriented Policing” strategy employed in La Puente, fostering trust between young people and law enforcement.

La Puente City Councilwoman Valerie Munoz accompanied deputies as they distributed the backpacks at the first two schools.

“In our community, we do have students who need these services,” she said.

Students also got a chance to chat with deputies and sit in their patrol cars.

“How wonderful it is they take the time to build those relationships. They’re very present in the community,” Munoz said. “ They’re going above and beyond and making a big impact in our community by being involved.”

Cacheiro and Munoz both credited community-oriented policing with significant drops in La Puente’s crime rate this year, which is among the lowest in the county.

“The effort that they’ve made in community-oriented policing is something that’s shown a vast improvement,” Munoz said.

Sunset Elementary honored as California Distinguished School

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

The sun has risen on a new California Distinguished School at Sunset Elementary School in La Puente. Family and friends celebrated the accomplishment with an ice cream social, while Hacienda La Puente Unified officials honored the school earlier.

“We wanted to celebrate everyone’s hard work to achieve this honor,” said Principal Leslie Miller.

Sunset Elementary was also recognized as a National Title I Academic Achieving School. It was the only school in Hacienda La Puente Unified School District in 2014 to receive these awards.

“I applaud these strong, thriving schools that are making such impressive strides in preparing their students for continued success,” said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction. “This award is well-deserved by these school communities for their enduring dedication to high standards, hard work, and unwavering support.”

Torlakson named 424 public elementary schools California Distinguished Schools. The schools were chosen for their strong commitment and innovative approaches to improving student academic achievement.

For the complete list, visit the 2014 Distinguished Elementary Schools Web page.

The California Department of Education notes an achievement gap among students. Closing this gap is a top priority, making schools work for all students, regardless of their background, condition or circumstances,

The Distinguished Schools Program focuses on students’ right to an equal education. It recognizes those schools that have made progress in narrowing the academic achievement gap.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SUNSET.

Rowland’s Family Resource Center offers fresh start for homeless

Rowland Unified’s Family Resource Center will join many community partners to make sure that our homeless students have backpacks, school supplies, shoes, uniforms and dental supplies.

More than 250 students from across the district will receive these supplies on on Thursday at Hurley Elementary in La Puente and on Friday at Jellick Elementary in Rowland Heights.

Special thanks to Kiwanis Shoes That Fit and Faith Community Church for their volunteers.

Would you like to volunteer to help? Call the Family Resource Center at (626) 854-2228

Rowland Unified breaks ground for new family center in La Puente

Family Resource Center Coordinator Jennifer Kottke, left, and Community Liaison Irma Almanza have fun saying goodbye to the old portable by painting on it before it is torn down.

Family Resource Center Coordinator Jennifer Kottke, left, and Community Liaison Irma Almanza have fun saying goodbye to old portable by painting it before it is torn down.

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

It’s been 35 years, but the Family Resource Center and medical clinic in La Puente is finally getting a new building. Rowland Unified broke ground for the new facility this week next to Northam Elementary.

Bulldozers have already demolished the two old trailers used by the dental and medical clinic, as well as the district family resource staff.

Everyone is looking forward to moving into the new 3,200 square-foot facility this summer. The modular building will allow the district to expand its services to students and their families.

“I’ve been dreaming of having our own building for the past 35 years,” said Jane Rosser, director of the Children’s Dental Program.

Rosser remembers the clinic opening in an old Army trailer. She jokes about holes in the roof that would let the rain drip in.

Later, the dental program moved into a much larger trailer where it served thousands of children in the La Puente area.

The district’s dental clinic still serves more than 600 students a year. It offers low or no-cost screening and treatment services for low-income students.

“We help a lot of single parents, as well as large families whose parents already work two or three jobs to support their children,” Rosser said.

She and dentist Lester Lim are very excited about the new building. It will have two dental treatment rooms, with a third room for expansion later.

Next door, the medical clinic will have its own new home. The clinic provides free immunizations. It also offers medical care on walk-in basis to uninsured, low-income children 3 to 18 years old.

Read more in CENTER.

La Puente student receives Young Leaders Scholarship

Jose Comi of La Puente is a recipient of the Young Leaders Scholarship from the National AIDS Memorial Grove.  The program received a record number of qualified applicants from which nine recipients were selected for their active roles of public service and leadership in the battle against HIV/AIDS. 

 Comi is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Biomedical Engineering. He hopes to one day use his education to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.

Sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, this national scholarship program accepted applications from both college-bound high-school seniors and college undergraduate students.

 The nine recipients – four high-school students and five undergraduate students – will each receive $1,000 to $2,500 in financial support to continue their education.  The program also encourages continued community service on behalf of individuals touched by HIV/AIDS.


Nogales High grads named Gates Millennium Scholars

Nogales grads Alberto Jeronimo, Maria Ortiz and Kimberly Cardenas have been named Gates Millenium Scholars. (Photo by Gina Ward, Courtesy of Rowland Unified )

Nogales grads Alberto Jeronimo, Maria Ortiz and Kimberly Cardenas have been named Gates Millenium Scholars. (Photo by Gina Ward, Courtesy of Rowland Unified )

They’re thinking doctorates. While other high school graduates are considering bachelor’s degrees at local colleges, three Nogales grads are planning advanced degrees at the best universities in the world.

The three have been named Gates Millennium Scholars. The program selects 1,000 talented students every year for a scholarship to the college of their choice. The prestigious scholarships pay for tuition, books and meals, as well as travel assistance to visit their families.

“I want to become a doctor – now I can afford to go to college and then medical school,” said Alberto Jeronimo of West Covina. “I’ll be studying premed at Berkeley.”

The 18-year-old comes from an immigrant family. Alberto was inspired to succeed by his father, who came here from Mexico to make a better life.

“We couldn’t have done this without our counselor (Sara) Hall,” Alberto noted. “She wrote our nominations and recommendations, helping us through the scholarship process.”

The Nobles had to write nine essays to become Millennium scholars. They also had to have a minimum 3.33 GPA, though many like Alberto have a 4.5. All three Nogales teens are candidates for International Baccalaureate Diplomas and rank in the top 10 of their graduating class.

“This means more than just going to college for me,” explained Kimberly Cardenas of La Puente. “I will be the first in my family to attend an American university.”

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story GATES.