Abigail Vega was not looking forward to summer for one reason: She figured she was going to get the flu.
“When we got out for thanksgiving, I got sick,” Abigail said. “When we got out for Easter, I got sick. Every time we get out of school, I get sick. So, I know I am going to get sick this summer.”
The 10-year-old did not miss a day of school during the 2016-2017 Grand Terrace Elementary school year. She simply waited for vacation to get a fever or a bad cold. Her 100% attendance granted her a trip to the zoo at the end of the school year. The trip was a re-ward from SEBA for the student’s commitment to education.
Sixty-five students from Grand Terrace Elementary and Terrace View Elementary schools received 100% attendance, which includes no early releases from class and no tardies. These students were in school every minute of the regularly-scheduled school year. Their commitment to school was outstanding.
Dep. Frank Navarro, the school resource officer for the elementary schools, wanted to honor the children’s commitment by setting up a reward system for perfect attendance.
“I think it is important because it allows us to encourage kids to stay in school and shows that education is important,” Navarro said. “Being in school every day obviously leads to better grades, better social skills and life skills.”
Each student in kindergarten through sixth grade who had perfect attendance for any given month was entered in a drawing at the end of the month. Navarro would draw the name of one boy and one girl who would then get to have lunch with a deputy or other law enforcement officers. The pizza was donated by Nickelodeon Pizza and Navarro would pay out of pocket for juice boxes and other “trinkets” to go in a goodie bag for each student. Fiesta Village also donated a voucher for free miniature golf.
As the program continued through the school year, Navarro was impressed with the number of students who had perfect attendance the entire year and asked SEBA to help give those students a special day. SEBA donated the money for tickets to the zoo, lunch, snacks and transportation.
The kids went to the Los Angeles County Zoo on May 24, with SEBA President Det. Laren Leichliter; SEBA Director of Public Relations Lolita Harper and SEBA member Sgt. Mark Hubbard. Educators from the school and volunteers went, as well. Hubbard’s brother, who is a teacher at Grand Terrace Elementary, joined his students on their field trip.
Adam Campbell, a third grader from Terrace View Elementary got perfect attendance two years in a row.
“It’s really hard,” Adam said of not missing any school. But it was worth it. “I think this is really, really fun. I like seeing all the animals.”
Colton Caldwell, 10, from Terrace View Elementary, wanted a turtle at the end of the day. He asked if he could get a “shout out” in the article, which made his classmates laugh. He ran off with his friends and headed to the Chimpanzee exhibit where a momma and her baby were being especially loud and animated.
Terrace View Elementary Assistant Principal Joann Grier smiled widely watching her students have such a fun time at the zoo. There were 15 children on the field trip who had never been to a zoo. Grier was grateful to Navarro and SEBA for allowing her students the opportunity to get out of the classroom and enjoy the accolade of a field trip.
“This is such a great opportunity for the kids,” Grier said. “Knowing there is an opportunity to do something fun with Dep. Navarro is a bright spot on our campus. He listens and responds to them and they love that.”
Grier said the number of students with perfect attendance has gone up considerably since Navarro enacted his program. This year was an all-time high of 40 from Terrace View.
They ran from exhibit to exhibit barely realizing their special day still counted as a day of school. And good thing it did, otherwise most of them would not have agreed to attend.
“They were worried it would count as an absence,” Navarro laughed. “But because of the educational aspect of the zoo, we could have it count as a school-sponsored field trip, which counts as a day at school.”
By Lolita Harper