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Hacienda La Puente Unified Students Explore New Horizons Through Summer Programs
Andrea Torres

The summer months in Hacienda La Puente Unified have students flourishing through comprehensive academic and enrichment opportunities that support students in all their needs and interests, from Speech and Debate and the Youth Cinema Project (YCP) summer programs to our annual sports and Computer and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (C-STEM) Robotics summer camps.

The District has a variety of summer school classes and programs, including middle school math enrichment programs and the District's Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELOP).

This year, Speech and Debate is being offered for the first time to high school students, and 150 middle and high school students are passionately working on their upcoming performances.

Students who are selected by coaches from Advantage Communications will perform for Hacienda La Puente Unified employees, middle and high school peers, and their families during the summer camp showcase, which will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 18, at Orange Grove Middle School.  

YCP kicked off its summer program on July 8 and will run to Wednesday, July 31. The program's culminating event will feature standout student films that will be presented during the YCP summer camp showcase at Sparks Middle School. Details regarding this event will be released soon.

After three weeks of coding, building, and endless creativity, our (C-STEM) Robotics Summer Camp students showcased their expanded knowledge with a showcase, which was joined by Director of TK-8 Dr. Angela Lin, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Dr. Rosa Isiah, Board of Education member Nancy Loera, and other District administrators.

Teachers across the District also teamed up with Technology Teachers on Special Assignments (TOSAs) Ricardo Recinos and Teresa Magpayo Castro for professional development training where educators learned, programmed, and prepared to better support students in the 2024-25 school year.

Academic summer programs across the District aim to keep students engaged, while HLPUSD high schools provide academic and enrichment opportunities that support students' social-emotional and physical well-being. Incoming freshmen across the District have access to fall sports camps to learn new skills and get to know the coaches and teammates, helping them shake off those jitters and create a welcoming climate for newcomers. High school students of all grade levels are also encouraged to engage in summer camps to find new interests and explore endless possibilities.

"Hacienda La Puente Unified's numerous summer programs are vital to keeping students motivated and inspired to take on new opportunities," Superintendent Dr. Alfonso Jiménez said. "The new 2024-25 school year is sure to be one of the best years on record for Hacienda La Puente Unified, with staff and educators supporting students in the classroom and on stage, on the sports fields, and across our campuses. HLP students are not only being set up for success but also being challenged to push what they believe is achievable." 

PHOTO CAPTIONS

HLPUSD_SUMMER1: Hacienda La Puente Unified C-STEM students enhance their coding, communication and critical thinking skills during a summer camp class in June.

HLPUSD_SUMMER2: Speech and Debate students prepare for vocal exercises during Speech and Debate summer camp at Orange Grove Middle School on July 9.

HLPUSD_SUMMER3: Youth Cinema Project summer program students and filmmaker mentors prepare to hear classmates pitch their public service announcements on July 17.

 

Out Now: Our Spring/Summer Digital Newsletter
Andrea Torres

 

Dear Hacienda La Puente Unified Community,

Before we say goodbye to the 2023-24 school year, I want to highlight some of the exceptional accomplishments that have taken place in our District. Across Hacienda La Puente Unified, our students demonstrated academic, athletic, and civic engagement excellence, from student-athletes completing the Los Angeles Marathon to high schoolers earning scholarships and awards for moving art pieces and community engagement.  

The countless successes of our students are made possible by the passionate and dedicated teachers, administrators, and staff who fill our award-winning campuses. As a testament to the educational strength of our community, four HLPUSD schools were recognized as 2024 Schools to Watch in March, including Cedarlane Academy, Fairgrove Academy, Mesa Robles School, and Valinda School of Academics.

Hacienda La Puente Unified’s accolades do not stop there. Glen A. Wilson was celebrated as a 2024 California Distinguished School, showcasing our outstanding student performance and accelerated academic growth for one of our historically underserved areas. La Puente High School was also named a California Democracy School, an honor awarded to only four schools by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. 

Additionally, HLPUSD was selected as a recipient of the California Community Schools Partnership Program's (CCSPP) third cohort. This esteemed honor comes with a substantial grant of $21.3 million in state board-approved community school implementation grants. We are excited about the opportunities this grant will bring to our District, as it will enable us to further our efforts in these areas over the next few years. 

In May, we saw students across all grade levels reach personal milestones, celebrated with elementary and middle school promotions and five high-spirited graduation ceremonies for our Class of 2024. Congratulations to all our incredible students! 

New learning experiences for students are in full swing this summer as they engage in various summer programs, camps, and classes, including the District's popular C-STEM Robotics Summer Camp and the capacity-filled Youth Cinema Project (YCP) program starting in July. 

On behalf of the Board of Education, I want to thank all HLPUSD employees for making this school year a tremendous success. I also want to thank our hardworking educators for engaging in various professional development opportunities, summer teaching positions, and coaching camps for fall 2024 sports. We hope you enjoy your summer break and look forward to seeing you all for the first day of the 2024-25 school year on Wednesday, August 7.

Click here to check out our Spring/Summer Digital Newsletter!

Sincerely, 
Dr. Alfonso Jiménez 
Superintendent of Schools 
#proudtobehlpusd 

Hacienda La Puente Unified Transition Leadership Collaboratives Ignite New Possibilities
Andrea Torres

Thanks to the District's Transition Leadership Collaboratives (TLC) meetings, Hacienda La Puente Unified students and families are not just receiving added support, but are also experiencing a sense of unity and shared purpose as schools come together.

TLC was created to help students adapt to and thrive at newly combined campuses, which will officially happen this August. Meetings were held at the end of April and throughout May so that students, parents, and staff leaders could get to know each other and collaborate on integrating new grade levels.

During the June 13 Board meeting, school administrators and parent volunteers shared their experiences engaging in TLC meetings over the spring. The key points discussed included the importance of unity among parents from different sites, the creation of activities to foster integration, and the development of plans to join campuses. Sparks Middle School Principal Dr. David Nieto highlighted these as key takeaways from the TLC meetings.

"Our hope is that as we push forward, we are building one team with one dream and a leadership group represented by one Sparks campus," Nieto said. "Through this TLC process, we have been able to watch our families and staff grow together and witness how these relationships are changing the leadership apparatus at Sparks."

During TLC meetings, participants focus on new school leadership, school identity, and new school culture and climate. Participants also shared key activities that each school hosts to ensure the traditions can continue.

Merely Velazquez, former Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president at Palm Elementary and veteran school volunteer of 11 years, shared her experience with TLC and reassured the audience about the preservation of their school's identity. She highlighted the many positive strides to turn two schools into one, including the continuation of numerous events that are important for students, staff, and the school community.

"TLC has created a strong foundation for our parents as we embark on a new year filled with lifelong friendships," Velazquez said. "We hope to keep the spirit and values of the Los Robles Academy community alive and well here at Palm."

Jessica Perez from Los Robles shared with the Board of Education that the TLC meetings are opportunities for parents to share their concerns, questions, and ideas for making the next school year the best it can be. 

"The events at Los Robles are done with love and will continue at Palm Elementary," Perez said. "The new opportunities and parent involvement bring us renewed excitement for what's to come. I feel excited for the new beginning, new experiences, and new family we are creating together."

TLC meetings will continue throughout the summer and school year. This ongoing collaboration and engagement ensure that the school communities are informed and actively involved during the transition process.

"Getting to know our parents, understanding our families' values, and learning from their diverse perspectives has enriched our efforts as a school," Nieto said. "Together, we have laid the foundation for a brighter future."

During the summer months, the schools will reach out to their families for any summer engagement activities and updates. After the launch of the new school year, merged schools will unite in school-based committees to ensure opportunities for parent engagement and feedback continue through the shared decision-making process.

"Thank you to our parents, staff, and principals for sharing your views and ideas and collaborating to make our campuses stronger to ensure every student is set up for success," Superintendent Dr. Alfonso Jiménez said. "I also want to thank our Director of Elementary Education, Kindergarten-8th-grade administrator, Dr. Angela Lin, for her leadership in ensuring these vital meetings were fruitful and met all families' needs. We are so proud of the TLC efforts and will continue to work together to achieve more successes and triumphs during the 2024-25 school year."

 

PHOTOS

 

HLPUSD_TLC1: Executive Director of TK-8 Dr. Angela Lin introduces administrators and parent volunteers during a regular board meeting on June 13 for a presentation on the District’s Transition Leadership Collaboratives (TLC) meetings, which was created to help students adapt to newly combined campuses.

HLPUSD_TLC2: Sparks Middle School community gathers to present to the Board of Education during a regular board meeting on June 13. Including from right to left, Principal Dr. David Nieto, Mrs. Berenice Carlos, Mrs. Antonia Carlin de Zapata, and Mrs. Rocio Lira, PTO from Sparks.

HLPUSD_TLC3: Palm Elementary community members present their experience with TLC to the Board of Education during a regular board meeting. From left to right: PTO president of Palm Elementary School and a volunteer for 11 years; Los Robles Academy PTO parent Jessica Perez (center), also a part of the TLC; and Palm Elementary School Principal Sandy Carbajal.

 

Hacienda La Puente Unified Students Shine During 2024 National Speech and Debate Tournament
Andrea Torres

Hacienda La Puente Unified middle and high school speech and debate students across the District traveled to Iowa from June 18 to 21 to showcase their creativity, public speaking, and presentation skills during the 2024 National Speech and Debate Tournament. The tournament featured 6,700 students and 1,500 schools and was a platform for our students to shine.

Throughout the tournament, our students showcased the skills they had diligently honed over the school year, a testament to their growth and the guidance of our esteemed coaches at Advantage Communications. Their exceptional performances in various events, such as poetry, prose, and humorous interpretation, were a true reflection of the impact of this partnership and our students' unwavering dedication. 

"Congratulations to all our extraordinary competitors for not only showing your expertise and skills in your performances but for being true leaders and helping our future HLPUSD students know that they, too, can share their voice through this transformative program," Board President Christine H. Salazar said. "I am so proud of their growth and how well our students have received this impactful program, one that has only been available a few years and just completed its first year at all high school sites! Just incredible!"

On June 20, twelve middle school students competed in the quarter-finals, with four advancing to the semi-finals. We are proud to announce the achievements of Bailey Palencia, a former sixth-grader from Cedarlane Academy, who received sixth place in poetry; Tyler Shum, a former eighth-grader from Mesa Robles Middle School, who took sixth place in prose and humorous interpretation; and Samira Daley, a former eighth-grader from Orange Grove Middle School who won fourth place in program oral interpretation. These students' hard work and dedication have truly paid off, and we hope their success will inspire others to join our program.

The Mesa Robles School team was filled with pride and joy when they were named one of five to win the National Speech and Debate School of Excellence Award. Together, these schools share the prestigious national recognition title as top-performing out of the 173 participating schools, a moment of celebration for our entire community. We are deeply grateful for the support and encouragement from our community, which has played a significant role in our students' success.

"Our outstanding coaches and leadership team from Advantage Communications and support from our Board of Education have been instrumental in instilling the vision of creating future leaders, critical thinkers, and passionate speakers in our students," Superintendent Dr. Alfonso Jiménez said. "Their dedication and partnership have been invaluable, and we are deeply grateful for their contributions. We look forward to the continued personal development, leadership, and confidence this program will provide to ensure our students are ready to excel in college and today's workforce."

HLPUSD_NSDT: Hacienda La Puente Unified celebrates its success at the 2024 National Speech and Debate Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa from June 18-21.

 Hacienda La Puente Unified Elementary School Promotes Inclusion through Peer Buddy Program
Andrea Torres

CITY OF INDUSTRY Sunset Elementary School special education teacher Maya Caldwell has dedicated her career to fostering a safe, inclusive learning environment through her classroom's Peer Buddy Program, which has been building meaningful relationships among students of all abilities for more than 15 years.

The program pairs sixth graders with students in Caldwell's special needs transitional kindergarten through first-grade class, meeting once a week throughout the school year. This unique initiative fosters inclusivity, enhances social skills and cognitive abilities, and helps students achieve their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) goals.

"The Peer Buddy Program was thriving before I arrived at Sunset; I just saw the authenticity in the relationships it nurtured and knew it was something I needed to carry on," Caldwell said. "The support of principal Rosette Holmes, staff, students, and families has been instrumental in its success, creating a positive culture we can all be proud of."  

During Sunset Elementary's promotion ceremony on May 21, the Peer Buddy Program's impact was joyfully celebrated as former sixth-grade buddy Santiago Zagoya Dominguez was surprised with the Caldwell Kindness Award, a recognition inspired by Caldwell's dedication to fostering kindness. This recognition, formed by the newly established Ruiz Foundation, was inspired by Caldwell's dedication to cultivating kindness and Dominguez's compassionate and caring nature.

"We came across this program by accident, but by excellent luck," said Victoria Ruiz, a parent of Sunset Elementary School student and founder of the Ruiz Foundation. "The Buddy Program has been proven to eliminate bullying, promote advocacy, and practice kindness. Every Friday for one hour, there are fun games, enriching conversations, and motivation. For the time they are together, the phenomenon of equality takes place.”

During their time together, the buddies engage in various activities, including science, technology, engineering, and math lessons, sensory and comprehension games, and field trips. In addition to their class time, the buddies also sit next to each other at recess and lunch. 

“My older brother was in the program, and he always talked about how much he loved hanging out with his buddy, so I knew I wanted to be a part of this,” Dominguez said. “My buddy and I are friends; before promoting, I drew him a bird picture and wrote ‘blessings to you and your family’ on it because I know how much he loves birds. He also came to my birthday party and got to play with me and all my classmates.”

Hacienda La Puente Unified announced its Reconfiguration Plan earlier in the 2023-24 school year to optimize enrollment across all sites and grades, ensuring equitable instructional and enrichment programs Districtwide starting this August. Caldwell is expected to transfer to Nelson Elementary School, where her Peer Buddy Program and expertise will help bolster the school's existing Buddy Program.

“I am so excited to welcome Maya Caldwell, the instructional aides, and the students to Nelson next year,” Nelson Elementary School principal Dr. Marci Chavez said. “Sunset Elementary’s theme of inclusion, resiliency, and kindness intertwines seamlessly with the positive school culture at Nelson. I look forward to joining our schools to continue fostering academic and social-emotional success for all our students.”

Reconfiguring schools across the District, including Sunset and Nelson elementary schools, have begun welcoming students and staff to their new sites by hosting a series of meet-and-greets and orientations. Furthermore, engagement activities were also implemented as part of the Transition Leadership Collaborative (TLC) initiative, designed to promote positive connections with students, parents, staff, and teachers. Chavez, Caldwell, and other Sunset employees are preparing for the first day of the 2024-25 school year and the highly anticipated new Peer Buddy Program on Wednesday, August 7.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Education and myself, I want to express our deep gratitude to the Ruiz family, Maya Caldwell, and the entire Sunset community, " Superintendent Dr. Alfonso Jiménez said. "Your efforts in empowering the abilities of all students and fostering a culture of acceptance across our District are truly inspiring. We are excited to witness the strength and resiliency of both these school communities as they unite to continue the Peer Buddy Program, the Caldwell Award, and further promote awareness and acceptance in our entire District community.”

 

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

 

HLPUSD_BUDDYPROGRAM1: From left to right: Sunset Elementary School teacher Maya Caldwell, parent Victoria Ruiz, promoting student Santiago Zagoya Dominguez, and principal Rosette Holmes celebrate the first-ever Caldwell Kindness Award during a promotion ceremony on May 21.

HLPUSD_BUDDYPROGRAM2: Sunset Elementary School promoting student Santiago Zagoya Dominguez and family celebrate his numerous achievements during a promotion ceremony on May 21.

HLUPSD_BUDDYPROGRAM3: Victoria Ruiz, a Sunset Elementary School parent and founder of the Ruiz Foundation, announces Santiago Zagoya Dominguez as the first-ever Caldwell Kindness Award recipient for the 2023-24 school year, during a celebration on May 21.

HLPUSD_BUDDYPROGRAM4: Victoria Ruiz and incoming Sparks Middle School seventh-grader Santiago Zagoya Dominguez share a warm embrace following his acceptance of the Caldwell Kindness Award on May 21.