December 14, 2007

Businesses partner with Sweetwater schools to fund special programs

A running program at Montgomery High and a robotics club at Hilltop High got monetary boosts recently, thanks to generous donations from local businesses.

The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) teamed up with ING investments to help fund the boys and girls cross-country teams through a $3,900 donation. ING investments has launched an initiative—“Run for Something Better”—to support running programs throughout the United States. Funds are collected through the sales of orange shoelaces at the Jennifer Lopez & Marc Anthony concerts.

Cheered on by Montgomery High’s pep band and members of the cross-country teams, representatives from NALEO, ING and the Sweetwater District talked about the importance of exercise and nutrition.

NALEO check: Cross country runners from the Montgomery Aztecs teams welcome $3,900 check from the National Association of Latino Elected Officials and ING Investments to help fund additional invitational meets. Pictured front row (without t-shirts) L-R: Sweetwater Board Member Pearl Quiñones, running coach Juan Gonzalez, ING representative John Barba. Back Row (without t-shirts) NALEO representative Javier Angulo and Sweetwater Superintendent Dr. Jesus Gandara.

“Childhood obesity is an epidemic,” said Sweetwater Board Vice President Pearl Quiñones, who is also a board member with NALEO. “You may take it for granted now, but you need to continue exercising even after you leave high school.”

Sweetwater Superintendent Dr. Jesus Gandara echoed those comments.

“Forty pounds ago I used to be a runner and a football player,” Gandara said as he stepped away from the podium. “We Latinos love our Mexican food with all the beans and lard. But it’s important to remember that exercise and nutrition are life-long pursuits.”

Javier Angulo, the national director for civic education for NALEO, helped get students excited about the presentation by sponsoring a shoelace-tying contest.

“Studies have shown that these orange shoelaces make you run faster,” Angulo said.

Montgomery Cross-Country Coach Juan Gonzalez was thrilled with the donation.

“We’ll be able to go to additional invitational meets and hopefully recruit more students to be part of the teams,” Gonzalez said.

Helping pay steep entry fees for robot competitions was the main reason for AT&T’s donation to Hilltop High’s robotics club.

Only in its second year, the robotics club at Hilltop High has already fared well in regional competitions. In its first competition ever, the team brought home the Rookie Inspiration Award from US FIRST robotics regional competition last spring. Its success has spawned the creation of robotics clubs at Eastlake High and the district’s alternative education program.

“You are receiving an education that is second to none,” Superintendent Gandara told club members this week. “It is programs like these that make you stand out. But now your success is breeding new programs throughout the district.

“Thank you to AT&T for their generosity, because as you know there is never enough money for special programs such as these,” Gandara said.

The Hilltop High robotics club must raise $10,000 to enter the US FIRST robotics competition in March. US FIRST (which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”) is a national non-profit organization that encourages scientists and engineers to mentor high school students to build robots and enter the robots in competition.

AT&T became involved in Hilltop’s efforts when Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox attended the student’s competition. She was so inspired, she vowed to help them continue their pursuits.

“It was obvious you were all having so much fun and that you had learned so much,” Cox said.

The students’ efforts are just what AT&T is looking to invest in.

“You are the future engineers and technology experts that we need,” said Christine Moore, director of external affairs for AT&T. “Investing in you is an investment in us.”

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