Equitable Innovation Grant Winners


The Greater LA Education Foundation is thrilled to award $60,000 in grants to Los Angeles County educators through the 2023 Teachers of the Year Equitable Innovation Grant program. Funded projects will impact every grade and subject matter in areas such as Arts Integration, Social-Emotional Learning, Student Wellness, Instruction and Community Building. Learn more about this year’s sponsored projects below.

Congratulations to this year’s grantees!

Alejandra Mendoza, 99th Street Elementary School

Grant funds will support the purchase of supplies for 99th Street Elementary School’s new Garden Education program and Seed to Table programming, including garden classes, garden maintenance, and staffing support for Community Garden Days. The 99th Street school garden features 13 garden beds and an outdoor classroom. Students in K-5 will participate in gardening and cooking classes, and families and community members will be invited to garden, share a potluck meal and watch demos on Community Garden Days. 

Alyssa Banuelos, Stephen Foster Elementary School

The grant will support Alyssa Banuelos’ special day class of K-2 students, who have varying intellectual, physical, and sensory abilities and needs. Her students work on individualized goals that focus on academic, communication, social-emotional, vocational, and daily living skills. She will purchase iPads with the program Proloquo2Go, an augmentative and alternative communication app. This program will be a communication device for students who are nonverbal or need alternative modes of communication in order to model and teach multimodal communication skills.  

Amber Lewis, Bryson STEAM Magnet Elementary School

The team at Bryson STEAM Magnet Elementary will use funds for a Library Makeover. The grant will support the purchase of books to accommodate all elementary grade levels, including updated and engaging titles, more variety in books, and additional non-fiction books to assist students when researching topics of their choice. They will also create a space for story-time, read alouds and purchase flexible seating for older students to read independently. They plan to provide a library that will facilitate diverse life skills, promote curiosity, innovation, and critical thinking. 

Andrea Elkouby, Los Angeles Senior High School

Andrea Elkouby, who leads the Black Student Achievement Plan and Restorative Justice programs at LAHS, will partner with Arts Bridging the Gap to provide a multi-disciplinary arts program that supports students in developing their wellness through empathy building, trauma healing, restorative justice, creative expression, and civic leadership. This program will be centered around spoken word and poetry/hip hop, opening a safe space for dialogue around issues including systemic racism, trauma of poverty, and internal and external violence. This will include constructive conversations, prompt creative exercises, and leading the students through an empathy-based arts curriculum. A muralist will collaborate with students to portray what they discuss into a public mural on the school walls, which students will paint together.  

Armando Brito, Lynwood High School

In order to combat the lack of coding and computer science tools available to students, Armando Brito will purchase microbits to embed computer science principles into his chemistry and physics classes. Microbits allow students to program via Scratch and Python. For example, students will program the microbit for an egg drop experiment. The microbit will mimic an egg and will allow students to determine how much force an egg can withstand during a fall and how well they must package it as a result. Ultimately, this tool will help to spark students’ interest and demonstrate to them the utility of computer science. 

Brielle Peich, Grovecenter Elementary School

In order to combat students’ post-Covid struggle with peer interaction, Brielle Peich plans to create a dramatic play stand for her Kindergarten students to learn through real life situations. These play stands will include items such as pretend foods, pretend tools, a cash register with money, boxes to wrap with wrapping paper, and toy cleaning materials. Items will be displayed according to monthly themes that match curriculum. Hands-on and playtime incorporated into learning are creative ways to give students an opportunity to learn to appropriately interact with peers. 

Carly Hutchison, Glen Oak Elementary School

The grant will be used to support the creation of a “Community Care Closet.” The Community Care Closet will be a place where students are able to access much needed resources at their school site. An empty portable will be transformed into a “closet” full of resources collected from the community. The closet will be open each Wednesday and students will have the opportunity to stop by and pick up needed items such as clothing, food, and hygiene products. This grant will act as the launch pad for a project that aims to serve the community for many years. 

Charlotte Borgen, Palms Elementary School

Charlotte Borgen will use the grant to support arts integration in thematic units in her 2nd grade classroom. She will do daily arts integration to help students grasp content through visual arts, music and dance. With the grant, she will provide art supplies to further engage students in the lessons. This will be particularly beneficial for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing students in her classroom, most of whom have significant speech challenges, as well as students who missed out on hands onlearning opportunities due to the pandemic and distance learning. 

Cynthia Chavez, Birney Tech Academy

The team of teachers at Birney Tech Academy will implement an SEL/Visual Arts program, with a focus on social emotional well-being and creativity. They will teach students deep breathing techniques, mindful movement activities, and community yoga poses after school, twice a week. As part of the program, they will provide creative visual art opportunities for students such as drawing, sculpting, and painting. The program will provide students with the emotional tools to combat the lasting effects of the pandemic on their community. 

Cynthia Rosales, Birney Tech Academy

This grant will support Birney Tech Academy’s 4th grade whale watching trip. As the school works to overcome the trauma and learning loss of the pandemic, they are rebuilding a sense of community and providing experiential learning opportunities. Students will research and write reports about whales, their environment and the human impact on their habitats. These lessons will encompass language arts and science standards. The entire 4th grade class, many of whom have never been on a boat, with numerous parent chaperones, will attend a whale watching trip to make a personal connection to the learning they do in the classroom.

Daniel Chua, Santana High School

The team at Santana High School will provide golf as an afterschool activity for students. Santana High School is a continuation school that serves students who need extra support and flexibility, individualized help, or self-paced learning. Students will learn basic techniques, appropriate swings for each club type, and the concepts of face angle, club path, launch angle and spin. Students will learn to manage expectations, concepts such as probability, and will use a Garmin launch monitor to capture data and output. The club will allow students to develop an excitement for a sport that might otherwise be inaccessible to them.

Dawnley Raíces, Eliot Arts Magnet

The grant will support the purchase of two learning apps for in-class use. Pear Deck allows teachers to create interactive Google Slide presentations, students to work simultaneously, and instructors to see in real time students performance. Blooklet is a game-based app. Both platforms will be used for academic, SEL and community-building activities. The use of these apps will contribute to building a learning community in the 6th grade classrooms.  

Dori Greif, Stevenson Ranch Elementary

Dori Greif is the resource teacher and special education teacher at Stevenson Ranch Elementary, where she works with students in small groups or individually on their academic goals. Their eligibility includes learning disabilities, autism, visual impairment, and orthopedic impairment. For the students to feel independent while getting equitable access to their grade level curriculum, the grant will support the purchase of a C-reader pen. This pen is an electronic device that can scan a textbook, book or paper test and read it aloud to the students, as well as define words. This resource will help students focus on words, sentences and paragraphs independently. 

Elva Madrigal, John H. Francis Polytechnic High School

Elva Madrigal’s project targets the English Language Development (ELD) students and new immigrants in her Social Studies classes. She will provide books by Salvadorean author Javier Zamora, who writes about immigration, trauma and family, as well as journals for students to track their reactions to Zamora’s writing. She will also purchase and provide books and resources for teachers in her school to better understand how to support immigrant students and learn best practices. Lastly, she will host a series of community-building events to welcome the recently immigrated student population and bring the school community together. 

Emma Perez, La Ballona Elementary School

To support language acquisition and cultural understanding in her dual-immersion 4th grade class, Emma Perez will purchase an online Spanish program and classroom library book sets. The online program will provide ready-made content for the classroom, promote conversational Spanish and monitor student progress. The program offers instant feedback, games and a competitive point system for motivation. The classroom library will contribute to cross-cultural understanding and appreciation, helping immerse the students in both language and culture. 

Emma Smiley, Juan de Anza Elementary School

The TOSA team supporting math and literacy at Juan de Anza Elementary will use the grant to purchase Math by the Book, a standards-based resource that supports teaching math skills and concepts through children’s literature. They will purchase for each grade level, and the resource comes with 20 lesson plans and corresponding picture books that are specifically designed to promote student understanding of mathematical standards. The team will provide professional development around this specific resource and will use collaboration time with each grade level to dive into the content and support grade level teams as they integrate it into their math curriculum. 

Erika Zelnick, Nogales High School

Erika Zelnick will bring her high school English students to see a play at Noise Within Theater. This fieldtrip will allow her students to experience a unique educational event that offers depth and greater understanding of the literature read in her class.  

Gilbert Navarro, Jellick Elementary School

The entire teaching team at Jellick Elementary School will purchase a school-wide license to the technology application Kami. Kami is an application that allows the user to annotate directly on a pdf file. Along with annotating files, students can record audio or video comments for an interactive experience. In addition, students are able use the text to speech tool to read aloud words or entire passages. This will especially benefit the English Learner population at the school, which makes up 40% of the student body.  

Jeffrey Patterson, Antelope Valley High School

Jeffrey Patterson’s students are members of the Urban Scholars Program, which is part of a larger district initiative to increase the social, emotional, and academic wellbeing of Black males. The grant will help fund an Urban Scholars Alumni Student Forum Panel, where former Urban Scholars students who are in college or the workforce will speak to current program members. In addition, the seniors in the program will be supported to apply to at least 5 HBCUs using the Black Common Application. This will promote community building and help students develop post-secondary goals.  

Jennifer LaMar, Columbus Continuation High School

Students at Columbus Continuation High School are working to recover credits or lost learning and have needs beyond what a traditional high school can provide. Jennifer LaMar leads SEL-integration, including implementing mindfulness practices, art-based SEL programming, and tracking data and impact that SEL has on students. In planning to expand the art based SEL curriculum, she will use the grant to attend a virtual training by Open Studio Project to obtain and explore their curriculum, as well as for the purchase of art supplies to implement lessons learned.  

Jennifer Rodriguez, El Marino Language School

The grant will be used to acquire Rosetta Stone Foundations, an instructional and adaptive e-learning program designed for students to build fundamental English language skills. Students develop their skills through learning activities, stories and live online conversations. 23% of El Marino’s students are English Language Learners. After two years of remote learning, these students have experienced learning loss. This program will provide students the opportunity to continue their development and growth. The team will provide parent education for the community and families to use this program at home as well. 

Jonathan Wood, Wright Middle School STEAM Magnet & Gifted Magnet

Jonathan Wood plans to develop an innovative filmmaking program where student teams learn to make films that directly impact their communities in a positive way. Students will identify issues, people and stories in topics such as social and racial equity and justice, speaking up for the voiceless, and spotlighting people and organizations with inspiring stories and passions to create short films, mini-documentaries, commercials, news broadcasts, and more. This project will help to create more equitable learning opportunities for students who normally wouldn’t be exposed to the various aspects of the film industry. Moreover, the scope of the project will reach beyond the school walls and into the communities where students live in. He will use the award to purchase filmmaking equipment. 

Joohee Lee, Diamond Bar High School

A team of high school teachers at Diamond Bar High School will provide students with the opportunity to participate in a Ropes Course. By participating, students will have the opportunity to utilize skills to promote self-confidence and team building. They will learn to lean on each other and their teachers, as well as to persevere when faced with situations that are out of their comfort zone. This trip will focus on students in the Specialized Academic Instruction classrooms and will support the deficits that teachers have seen since returning to in-person schooling.  

Josh Alexander, Venice High School

The 9th grade Physics students at Venice High School will study thermodynamics and energy storage. The grant will support two projects within the unit: building a heat engine boat and building an energy storage device. Physics projects give all students a chance to act like engineers, and to see how the concepts they’re mastering in class connect to real emerging concepts. Students will design, build, test, modify, revise, and analyze functioning heat pumps and energy storage devices, with the goal of not only developing an understanding, but being able to advocate for the use of cleaner energy in their communities and becoming part of the engineering force which decides who gets access to these technologies. 

Kristy Kenderes, Temple City High School

The Language Department at Temple City High School will use the grant to revamp the curriculum by transforming teaching methods, learning environments, and tools to meet student needs. They will purchase updated, relevant textbooks and build a language library in Spanish, French and Mandarin. They will purchase whole-course curriculum for Spanish and French that offers comprehensible input, speaking activities, and interactive games. They plan to update textbooks with access to the interactive platform Supersite, allowing students the flexibility to complete their work from home. These tools and curriculum will boost student confidence and build rapport between students and teachers to promote learning. 

Leticia Cobar, Nueva Vista Elementary

Leticia Cobar will use this grant to support the creation of a “Calming Corner” in her first-grade classroom. This designated space will provide students with a safe space when they feel their emotions running high or need a break. The “Calming Corner” will have comfortable furniture, meaningful signage and calm down tools, such as tactile toys and plushies. Particularly in her school’s community, where many students experience trauma, providing students with tools for self-regulation is teaching them a life-long skill. 

Lizette Canales, Woodruff Academy

Lizette Canales is the Clinical School Therapist at the district’s alternative program for 7th-10th grades. The grant will support the creation of a wellness/calming environment that students can access easily when they are struggling emotionally or need to reset their nervous system. By having this space, students will learn to recognize the importance of advocating for self, especially in relation to their own mental health, and learn about the benefits of using therapeutic tools to help them regulate in order to be present for learning. The space, which will include calming furniture, posters and tactile tools, will allow students to address their social-emotional needs within the classroom. 

Margarita Vargas, Foster Elementary School

Margarita Vargas will use this grant to purchase Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices for her classroom of kindergarten students, 100% of whom have moderate to severe autism. Most of her students are non-verbal communicators; these devices will assist them in communicating in all domains of instruction. With the purchase of the AAC device Go Talk 9+, students will be able to answer questions after group reading, ask to use the restroom, be able to say, “I’m here,” when asked during our circle time, and more. 

Maria Avila, Bella Vista Elementary

The team at Bella Vista Elementary will create a Wellness Park on campus. The grant will support beautification of the space, including drought tolerant trees and plants, tables, lounge chairs and benches. The Wellness Park will host activities including yoga, meditation, walks, gardening, outdoor read alouds, and activities to promote social-emotional learning. The Park will be a space for teachers, staff and students to meet, talk and reflect. The overall goal is to improve the psychological well-being of the community, as interacting, engaging, and socializing in an open, green space can help reduce stress, improve mood, and help address loss, grief, and trauma. 

Maria Lomelin, Wild Rose School of Creative Arts

This grant will support an arts integration project in Maria Lomelin’s 3rd grade Spanish Dual Language class. Students will be introduced to “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Hokusai. Using the work as inspiration, each student will paint their own waves on individual wooden blocks. In the process, they will notice similarities and differences, and make connections to their own human similarities and differences. Students will then design and engineer a structure made from metal rods to display the 4×4 wooden blocks and mount the blocks and create an ocean of individual waves representing their similarities and differences. This project will provide an opportunity to develop social cultural competence through visual arts and engineering. 

Maria Mauna, Santana High School

The grant will support an interactive trip to Catalina Island for students from a continuation high school. The trip will provide students with a hands-on curriculum to learn about their role in the environment, including land and sea explorations. The team of educators will be dedicated to the principles of giving students a positive view of themselves and to develop knowledge and respect for the outdoor world. This will be the students’ first field trip since before the pandemic, and will serve as a community-building and educational activity.  

Marlene Ramirez, Applied Technology Center High School

The grant will support the school’s Iron Horse Exhibit, which showcases students’ creative work throughout the year. The exhibit will be a collaboration between the school’s Pathways programs: Architecture/Construction/Engineering, Culinary Arts, Public and Legal Services, and Health. Funds will be used for the display of products, printing, and materials for projects to be displayed. Students, parents and members of the community will be invited to view the exhibit. Giving every student an opportunity to exhibit their creativity builds confidence and allows them to understand each other in a meaningful way. 

Melanie Graf, Sierra Vista High School

Melanie Graf is the Mental Health Pathway Coordinator and school advisor to National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), a student-led organization that raises mental health awareness and reduces stigma on campus through peer led activities and education. The grant will be used to promote awareness on mental health and engage students in wellness activities such as hikes. Other activities include providing students with journals to express themselves through writing and art and other resources. She will promote mental health awareness during the month of May with school wide activities and guest speakers. She will collaborate with Kaiser Permanente Outreach to plan activities and bring mental health awareness district wide.  

Myrna Reynoso Torres, Los Angeles County Office of Education specialized high schools

The LACOE School Mental Health (SMH) program supports each school site population by providing mental health interventions through a School Social Worker, Senior Program Specialists, and a team of graduate level social work interns. The grant will support recruiting and obtaining of a strong candidate pool of graduate level mental health interns. This includes purchasing promotional items branded with the LACOE SMH logo to distribute at the university graduate level intern fairs. The demands for mental health services and prevention are at an all-time high, and SMH provides individual/group counseling, mental health prevention classroom presentations, parent workshops, staff professional development, and schoolwide mental health prevention campaigns. The intern program is a workforce pipeline to meet the need of filling the mental health professional shortage. 

Patrick Ford, Russell Westbrook Why Not? High School

Patrick Ford’s drama elective class will put on a large-scale performance that will empower student voices to tell authentic stories. The creative core is a series of vignettes, written, directed, and performed by students that are classic fairy tales adapted to life in South Central LA. The drama students will benefit from the skills learned in developing and implementing the project, the participating student body will benefit from the opportunity to participate in the play as actors or support staff, and the school community will benefit from seeing the voices of their fellow classmates elevated and supported. This project’s goal is to give students the support they need to tell their stories at a high level and in a way that is authentic, student-led, and student-centered. 

Sarah Corp, Nogales High School

The team at Nogales High School will use the grant to support their spring theater production, which will be the first multi-departmental project in nearly 10 years. Many students have never attended a live performance or participated in an acting or music class. The Nogales Drama Company allows every student an opportunity to be a part of the production as either a cast or crew. The students directly involved will benefit based on their participation in rehearsing, designing, building and finally, performing a production. Additionally, the entire Rowland Unified community and its 12,000 students have the potential to benefit from dynamic and spectacular productions. 

Teresa Reyna, Katherine Edwards Middle School

The grant will support the Cultural Mural Masterpieces project at Katherine Edwards Middle School. Art students will create murals that reflect different cultural and artistic themes, such as Ancient Art, Sports/Music, Latin American Art, Asian Art and STEAM. Murals are a tradition at the school, but due to inflation, the costs of materials have risen. The grant will support the purchase of lumber and paint and allow students to focus on creating their murals. Finished artwork will be displayed at the Historic Whittier Art Gallery for the entire community to enjoy before being permanently installed at the school. 

Tiffany Liang, South Hill High School

Tiffany Liang will use the grant to publish her English Language Development students’ writing on Storyjumper, an online platform that allows students to create their own books. All of her students are English Language learners from countries such as Egypt, China, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Mexico. This project will allow students to incorporate their voices while writing stories using their native language along with English. The students’ books will be published and displayed in the classroom. This project will give them a creative opportunity to focus on their reading and writing skills while also allowing them to feel pride as they use their native language as well. 


This opportunity is possible because of the generous support from our sponsors and partners.


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