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Mother of students seen studying outside Taco Bell speaks out

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SALINAS, Calif. (KION) In just a week, two Salinas students have gone viral. Their story touched hearts everywhere. A photo captured them sitting on a sidewalk outside Taco Bell to connect to WiFi and attend school.

The students' mom, Juana Valencia Garcia, spoke out for the first time since the photo was taken. "The girls went there because they didn't have internet. They wanted to study," said Garcia.

The Garcia family received an outpouring of support after community members discovered they had been evicted from their home. "They helped me find a place to put all of my stuff. They helped me find a place to live even if it's just for a week," said Garcia.

A GoFundMe was created for the Garcia family and has raised over $145,000. GoFundMe organizer, Jackie Lopez, told KION the family has been set up with an accountant to help manage the funds.

Salinas Police spokesperson, Miguel Cabrera, said the department is now investigating the GoFundMe accounts. "We want to make sure there are no irregularities. Our ultimate goal is the welfare of the young girls and their family," said Cabrera.

The Salinas Police Department declined to comment further on the investigation.

Flor Martinez, an immigrant rights advocate, said she is working to support the family alongside Lopez. "We're just trying to help. We don't need to receive this type of backlash," said Martinez.

Martinez said she and Lopez trying to find the Garcia family a more permanent home. "When we met this mother, no one was helping her. Her daughters were already viral. It was a couple days in already. She was not receiving any help," said Martinez.

Salinas City Elementary School District said staff have met with Garcia daily. Superintendent Rebeca Andrade said the district's Family Resource Center has offered the family food, essential products, school supplies, clothing, toys, facemasks and hygiene products.

Andrade said the district is working with the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers to find the family a temporary or transitional housing option. "Salinas City Elementary School District is making every effort to provide the family with the support and resources they need," said Andrade.

Education / Monterey County / Salinas / Top Stories
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Megan Meier

Megan Meier is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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