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Third-graders work hard to save teachers

Susan Notes:

Yes, this is a story about the bad news of teacher but the good news is quite remarkable as third graders do chores and lobby adults for contributions to stop cuts at their school.

Let's let these children know that we applaud their efforts! Let's let them know that activism is better than passive acceptance.

Send a contribution, no matter how small, to

Mia Huicochea, Guadalupe Calderon, Yaquelin Vazquez and Graciela Lara
%Heidi Masunaga, Principal
Alder Elementary School
17200 SE Alder St.
Portland, OR 97233-4260

You might suggest that if they don't raise enough money to keep staff, they should use the contributions to buy books for the library.

By Rob Cullivan

While politicians are slashing school funding statewide by the millions, four little girls at Alder Elementary School in the Reynolds district are collecting donations to save their teachers’ jobs.

Mia Huicochea, Guadalupe Calderon, Yaquelin Vazquez and Graciela Lara are all 9 and in the school’s third grade. When they heard they would lose their bilingual transitional teacher, Hugo Nava, as well as physical education, music and library instructors, due to cuts in next year’s district budget, the girls refused to take the news without fighting back.

"I told my mom and said they’re going to cancel the school, and my mom said she would do anything to keep that from happening," Yaquelin says.

"We started to tell students to give money," Mia adds. “They say they could just pay a little bit.”

But those little bits have added up, and as of Monday this week, the students at Alder had collected $41.35, according to Michelle Kost, the school’s community liaison and bilingual secretary.

"We have a little boy now, every time he finds a penny, he brings it in," she says.

The children have given pennies, dollars and words of comfort to the school’s staff, she and Kit Cole, the school’s lead secretary, say, adding that teachers and other staff members have been tearing up routinely over the children’s generosity.

"We’re using Kleenex a lot," Cole says. "We’re all just touched."

Burping baby

Mia notes she donated $2 her mother gave her after she cleaned the living room and her own room at her house. Guadalupe persuaded her mother to give her a few bucks as well.

Yaquelin talked her uncle and sister into giving some money, and Graciela took care of her 2-month old sister, Andrea, and earned a whopping $14.33.

"I feed her, I change her diapers, and I make her burp," Yaquelin says.

The girls all giggle as they explain a plan to dress up Baby Andrea as a clown and have her "dance" – bounce in her mother’s arms – to possibly move people to donate money.

They also hope to sell refreshments at community soccer games to raise money, they add.

Signs of hope

Nava, a Mexican native, has worked at the school for just one year teaching the third-graders, who are also of Mexican origin, how to transition from learning in Spanish to learning in English. He worries about what will happen to such students when he leaves.

"What kills me is I’m going to be fine, but the kids are not," he says.

Nonetheless, he and other staff members at Alder say the girls have inspired their fellow students and the grown-ups around them by refusing to give in to adversity. Dozens of other Alder children as well as adults have pledged to raise money for the school, and the parents are even thinking of lobbying Salem to restore some of the district’s funding.

Kost says the school "wants to honor their intention," and is still discussing what to do with the donations. She says the girls have moved everyone’s hearts.

"They really believe it will make a difference," she says. "Who knows, maybe it will."

The Gresham Outlook



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