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whittierdailynews.com

Group raises money for schools BY TRACY GARCIA

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STAF WRITER

WHITlIER - When he began serving on the board of the Los Nietos School District, Nicholas Aquino quickly came to the

realization that money and schools didn't necessarily go

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hand-in-hand. As a matter of fact, Aquino, 52, noticed there was "never

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enough money to do special projects, whcther it was classroom or school or district projects.

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"There was just not enough money."

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So, like board members at many local school districts, Aquino

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started researching educational foundations and discovered a much better way to help raise money for all local students. He established the SELAC Foundation, a nonprofit group that

aims to funnel extra money to all schools in Southeast Los

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Angeles County for special programs, projects and college schol-

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arships. And although it's just getting off the ground, Aquino has high' hopes for the organization' - as do thc ninc SETAC board

members who have been recruited to help in the task. They include board President and fellow Los Nietos trustee Art

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Escobedo, former Los Nietos trustee Cathy Martincz and Santa Fe Springs City Councilman Gus Velasco. Also serving are Alicia Contreras, Wendy Vila, Terry Porter,

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Ricky Espinoza, Anthony Colon and Brenda MarshalL.

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"llour letters," Escobedo said. "Four letters cxplain why I decided to do this: need. "The U.S. Constitution says every child should have an equal

opportunity for education - and that's just not so," Escobedo

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said. "People all up and do\"l the state, and the eountry for that

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matter, wil straight out tell you that funding is not cqual. "Some schools get more money spent on them depending on

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their district, location and tax base," he added. "For SELAC, our maiii focus is to bridge corporate America

with ediieation, creating a vehicle that makcs it possible to funnel funds into the educational system." .

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Velasco, (ì7, a six-year Santa Fe Springs city eouncilman, said

he only l'ceeiitly joined the SELAc board -- and did so because he 11-

liked the idea behind its mission.

"I was an alUlll1l1S of Los Nietos Middle School and i taught

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there for four ycars and r have close ties to thc cOllmunity," Velasco said. "But on the couiicil, we've always worked with the county to provide services even oui"ide our area, and I think that's really impOltant," he added. "As a city councilman, I have an obligation to see what we can also do regionally, not just for the city." SELAC earned its nonprofit status in March, and it has conducted only one small fundraiser at Shakey's Restaurant in West Whittier. Coupled with a $2,000 donation from one of its board members, Aquino said he was able to pay the $750 fee to apply for the nonprofit status,'-and purchase a laptop computer and accounting software.

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ERIC TOM ICORIU:SI'ONIl~:NT FUND FINDER: Nicholas Aquino, chairman of the South East Los

Angeles County Educational Foundation, finished the foundation's first year in June. The foundation works to help schools find funding for a wide range of programs. Escobedo said.

Then mid-range fundraising wil involve events like golf tournaments, which take at least six months to a year to plan.

"The long-term stuff is an endowment program, and we haven't gotten that far," Escobedo said.

"But since I've been elected (to the Los Nietos board), and now

that I've been serving on it with Nick for two years, we've been

able to carr out a lot of ideas - and the foundation was one of Now, he and his board members have begun notifyng other them." school districts about their group, and are looking to appoint at And ultimately, Escobedo said, the foundation is all about least another two people to its governing paneL. helping students. Aquino said money would be doled out in three ways: "Our country's most valuable resource is our children," he said. mini-grants for classrooms, maxi-grants for schools or districts, "And we want to recognize that." and college scholarships for high school juniors and seniors. To donate to SELAC or become a board member, call Aquino "I've got districts that are just waiting on us to collect money so they can get the maxi-grants," Escobedo said. "They've all

expressed an interest in being involved in this entire process."

at (562) 699-4608. -

The fundraising wil begin on a grass-roots level at first,

tracy.garcialêsgvn.com

with donations from local businesses and other groups,

(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051


Group raises money for schools