Educators Empowering Our Community

Maywood teacher, Heber Marquez, remembers back in March, when his students were celebrating in the school halls. “No school for two weeks!” they shouted. Months later, while learning at home, Heber’s students have changed their tones.

Heber anticipated that students would miss their friends and extracurricular activities, but he was surprised to learn that the students actually missed learning. “It warms my heart to hear them say, ‘I miss school so much, and now I understand the value of education,’” he said.

Heber, who also serves on the Maywood City Council, considers himself an optimist. Although COVID-19 has brought tragedy, there’s a silver lining for his students. “They’ve been able to find the value of education. They’ve been able to find the value of a school community,” he stressed. The education system is rapidly evolving, but Heber has hope that he can encourage his students’ newfound appreciation for school.

In this edition of the R-Guide, I want to talk about educators in our community that are continuing to teach and inspire during COVID-19. The R-Guide also includes resources for at-home learning and college applications, including financial aid information.

To hear more of Heber Marquez’s story in the award-winning short video series “SELA Strong”, head to

SELA STRONG CREW: Danny Gamboa, Daniella Segura, Xitlalic Guigoza, Elizabeth Uribe, Jimmy Aguiniga

Creating in the Midst of Adversity

It’s been said that science will end this pandemic, but the arts will get us through it. That’s why Budding Artists, a grassroots arts nonprofit, sent free art kits to families in Lynwood, Bell, and Inglewood.

The Lynwood-based nonprofit provides creative opportunities to children ages 3-5 in communities with limited access to arts education. “Given how beneficial access to art is for children, particularly in the area of social and emotional learning, it's critical, now more than ever that children are able to have creative outlets to communicate their feelings and emotions,” said Dakota McMahand, founder and Executive Director of Budding Artists.

On a typical summer day, the Budding Artists team would be busy with their Summer Exploration Program in partnership with the City of Lynwood. “We’d hear the laughter and energy of children singing songs, painting, and exploring,” McMahand expressed.

This year, Budding Artists is bringing the art to kids by distributing kits with paint and craft materials to over 200 families. “We’ve received feedback from parents that the activities sparked joy and hope in their child during such a difficult time,” said McMahand.

Having creative outlets to communicate our feelings during this time is crucial, especially for young learners. I’m incredibly thankful for organizations like Budding Artists who are finding creative ways to serve our community.

You can find follow-along art activities and videos from Budding Artists at

Follow Budding Artists on Instagram or Facebook.


Inspiring Activism in SELA

Inspiring Activism in SELA

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” - Nelson Mandela

River in Action is a nonprofit that inspires activism in SELA through environmental education. This team of educators and environmental activists teach kids about natural resources through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) workshops, river clean-ups, and community events. Founded in 2018, the nonprofit serves children from transitional kindergarten to 5th grade in communities along the lower Los Angeles River.

River in Action focuses on issues that are central to the SELA community. They developed programs centered around groundwater and local water system education in response to rising concerns over safe drinking water. “We believe that using STEAM to engage young children with our natural environment can help create a more sustainable, equitable future for our communities,” expressed Melissa Bahmanpour, Executive Director.

This year, River in Action’s SELA Schools LA River Clean-up event and their environmental education summer camp have been canceled due to the pandemic, but they’ve adjusted their programing to continue supporting kids.

“In addition to being Executive Director, I am also a local elementary school teacher. I know firsthand the resources and supports our schools still need to provide science education,” said Melissa. “I also know the important role the natural environment plays in children's emotional and physical development.”

Over the summer, River in Action delivered environmental craft kits to 100 local families to help support learning at home. They recently distributed paints, paper art collage materials, and books to teach kids about the water cycle. River in Action will also host a free three-day virtual environmental science camp for K-5 students this November.

While the camp will be held via Zoom, kids will receive science kits with the supplies necessary to engage in the science projects.

To learn more and stay up to date on River in Action’s latest programs, visit their website and social media.

Education Resources Available to You

Education is how we make change in our community. Given the current state of the pandemic, the economy, and racial equity, we’re going to need as many thoughtful leaders as we can get. Below are resources to assist early education, K-12, and college students.

At-Home Learning:

CDC’s Checklist for at-home learning lists things to consider as you get ready for at-home learning, including school resources for interactive learning, physical activity, and social-emotional wellbeing.

Higher Education:

If you or someone you know is interested in higher education, I encourage you to learn more about colleges and universities in California. Whether you’re a high school senior or returning student, you may be eligible for federal and state financial aid, campus scholarships, and private grants.

General Financial Aid:

Before each year of college, you can apply for federal grants, work-study, and loans with Free Application for Federal Student Aid  (FAFSA). Your college will then use your FAFSA data to determine your federal aid eligibility and to award their own aid.

The California Dream Act Application allows undocumented students interested in attending eligible California colleges and career education programs to apply for state financial aid. lists scholarships eligible to Californians and residents of Los Angeles County.

California Community Colleges (CCC):

California Community College has 116 campuses throughout California that admit all state residents with a high school diploma or equivalent. Learn more about programs, resources, and the application process below:

California State University (CSU):

Applications for the Fall 2021 semester at CSU’s 23 campuses are open from October 1 through December 4, 2020. 80% of CSU students receive financial aid. You can find more info below:

University of California (UC):

UC’s nine campuses are accepting applications for Fall 2021 until November 30th. With more than 56% of undergrads paying no tuition, UC has one of the strongest financial aid programs in the country.

Business Spotlight: Eatgud Grub

Business Spotlight: Eatgud Grub

In South Gate, a young couple found themselves constantly having to leave the city in search of healthy restaurants. So they took the initiative to bring healthier food to their community by opening a family restaurant, Eatgud Grub.

When the restaurant opened in 2017, owners Walter and Briggitte Perez knew that they were facing tough competition against cheaper, fast-food restaurants. By partnering with local schools, they worked to educate the community about the benefits of healthy eating. “We purposely opened near a local high school and middle school to speak to the students,” said Briggitte. With their hearty sandwiches, açaí bowls, and avocado toast, Eatgud Grub introduces kids to food that’s both tasty and nutritious. The Perezes hope students will bring these healthy habits home to their families.

Eatgud Grub is also spreading the word by teaming up with nonprofits in Southeast LA. “We’ve partnered and donated to numerous nonprofits and have given students a 10% discount since we opened — all within the southeast area,” said Briggitte.

Eatgud Grub is a local business that’s truly invested in the well-being of our community. Their message about the importance of nutrition is crucial as we strive to stay healthy during this pandemic.

The recent months have been a bit hectic for Eatgud Grub as their new location in downtown LA has opened and closed due to COVID-19. Their employees have shorter hours and sourcing has been more difficult.  But the SELA community continues to support Eatgud Grub through their online ordering.

You too can support this local business at

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