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Kindergarten teacher raises funds to surprise students

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SALINAS, Calif. (KION)  Field trips, birthdays, and holiday celebrations are some events children missed out on this year because of the pandemic. A Salinas elementary school teacher has launched an effort to surprise her class for El Día Del Niño.

Valerie Velazquez, who teaches kindergarten at Jesse G Sanchez Elementary, wanted to show the students that their hard work is valued.  This will be the first time students will have a classroom party with their teacher and peers.

"I really want these kids to know that they're valued, that they are special, and they are celebrated for all of their hard work and perseverance during this difficult year," said Velazquez. "So, I want them to have that positive memory and that positive impact, especially since for many of the students, this is the first step in their academic career."

Velazquez welcomed some of her students back for in-person instruction this week. So, she decided to have a celebration on April 30th for El Día Del Niño. Money that is usually raised to have these types of celebrations did not take place because of the pandemic. School funds are being used to provide students, teachers, and staff with PPE.

"I wanted to reach out to donors choose and have that extra funding from the public to be able to do projects that are special and specially made for these kids, for them to keep these items," said Velazquez.

Through Donors Choose, a classroom funding site, she was able to raise the $332 she needed within two days. Donations made were also matched by T-Mobile.

Maria Rodrigez, the mother of one of Velazquez’s students said it's been a challenging year and her daughter cherishes her teacher.

“It also gives me great joy to know that we can count on the teacher and her spirit knowing it's the day of the child," said Rodriguez. "She didn't tell any of us parents. She did it all on her own and I'm very happy."

Velazquez plans to decorate the classroom and have gift bags for each student with toys. The majority of her students come from low-income families who value education, she said. This is why a celebration like this is important.

"I really believe that these students really value education, and I want them
to leave that positive love of learning and love of coming to school," said Velazquez. "I think it's really important that they continue to value the education throughout all of their academics careers."

Monterey County / Salinas / Special Reports / Top Stories
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Jonathan Sarabia

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

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