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El Monte gathers resources amid controversial cuts

With 1,200 students dropping out of LAUSD every year, what are school districts in the LA County doing to improve student morale this back-to-school season?

El Monte residents lined up as early as 5 a.m. for the 7th Annual Back-to-School Resource Fair.

As the City of Los Angeles and LAUSD officials meet this month to discuss ways to shift resources to sustain socio-economic growth hindered by the White House’s proposed 2019 budget cuts, the City of El Monte and community members kicked-off a Back-to-School Resource Fair that provided supplies, haircuts, shoes and other necessities to over 1,100 K-12 students last week.

“Such initiatives could be the redeeming factor that helps us through this new era of federalism and could boost funding for schools, colleges, and neighborhoods,” said Asad Baig, budget analyst at Advancement Project, a non-profit focusing on youth development, K-12 education.

The Back-to-School Resource Fair started at 5 a.m. and wrapped around the block. Students walked through the historic Valley Mall street to receive a choice of blue, green, black or red backpacks and other necessities including toothbrushes, toothpaste, shoes and bike helmets. In addition, ten randomly chosen students received a new cell phone from Cricket Wireless.

“This means everything,” said Elizabeth Aldrete, a single mother who recently moved to El Monte. “It’s a confirmation that there is hope for us. It gives us a sense to keep going. We definitely feel special.”

El Monte City Council and local dignitaries pose for a photo before writing inspirational notes for children in the foster system.

The Back-to-School Resource Fair also reserved supplies for children in the foster care system. Local dignitaries and the El Monte City Council wrote inspirational notes that were then placed in backpacks.

Through a partnership with the Professional Institute of Beauty, children also received free haircuts. For those who were not able to stay, the Professional Institute of Beauty gave away 1,000 haircut vouchers redeemable through the end of September.

“Going back to school should be a joyous time for students and families, not financial stress as families stock up on school supplies and traditional haircuts,” said Adam Carranza, Mountain View School District board member and substitute teacher, “Fortunately, in our high poverty and working class community , our school districts, and our businesses are alleviating those financial stressors to prepare students for a joyful start to the school year,”

The City of El Monte, El Monte/South El Monte Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown El Monte Business Association hosted the resource fair in partnership with the Mountain View, El Monte City and El Monte Union High School Districts. This is the seventh year the City hosts the Back-to-School Resource Fair.

For more information on what your child’s school district is doing to improve pupil attendance, follow your local school board elections this fall and look into your community newspaper education desk.