California students take action, helping kids get early learning essentials

W.E. Care students Kayla and Piper playing a game with Lake Los Angeles resident Kayla
Carlthrop students Kayla and Piper playing a game with Lake Los Angeles resident Kayla

by Jeremy Soulliere


Inspiration can come in many forms.

For one group of sixth graders from a well-respected independent school in Santa Monica, it sparked 80 miles northeast of their school, in an isolated community in California’s barren Antelope Valley.

Many families in this desert town of Lake Los Angeles struggle with poverty day-to-day, but it’s the sense of community here that is most palpable, the Carlthorp School students would discover.

Students giving books away from Carlthorp School
Carlthrop School students donating books

Members of the school’s service learning group, W.E. Care Kids (World Emergency Care Kids), the students wanted to support Save the Children’s efforts here at home, in their own county, and decided to find out more about the families the global nonprofit was helping in this isolated, rural town on the western tip of the Mojave Desert.

What they learned is that despite not having much to call their own, the Lake Los Angeles families share with each other what little they have. They also come together when one of their own needs help – like when a family of nine was living without furniture, and they pitched in to furnish the family’s home.

“All of you were our inspiration to do more, to take action,” Matthew, a Carlthorp student, told the Lake Los Angeles families Save the Children supports during a recent visit.

The sixth grader, on a return trip to the town with his fellow students, went on to read the families a poem he wrote for them: “You lit a fire within our hearts. Our determination had a jumpstart. I learned a true lesson that touched my heart.”

Matthew and 10 other members of W.E. Care Kids donated much-needed school supplies, books and diapers to the families on their return trip. The donations included $600 worth of diapers of all sizes, and $550 worth of school supplies and age-appropriate books.

Elena Figueroa with her 2 children Little Sergio and Jaqueline Torres. 
Lake Los Angeles resident Elena with her two children, Sergio and Jaqueline

“We hope these items bring smiles to your children’s faces, just like your children did to us,” said W.E. Care Kids member Kayla.

On their prior visit to Lake Los Angeles, the Carlthorp students played games, put together puzzles and read to the children participating in Save the Children’s signature early learning program, Early Steps to School Success.

The program supports more than 50 kids in the community, ages 3 to 5, offering them a foundation of language and literacy skills, through home visits and book exchanges. It also equips parents with the skills to successfully support their children’s growth, and organizes parent-child groups that foster connections with the local school district.

The families Save the Children supports in Lake Los Angeles all live below the poverty line, and approximately one out of every three parents have not completed high school, some only attending through third grade.

Before enrolling in Early Steps to School Success, most of the kids did not even have one book in their home, said Maria Olegine, Save the Children’s early childhood coordinator in Lake Los Angeles.

“Most of these families grow up without books around them,” she said.

So the large donation of books from Carlthorp School will go a long way in helping further build a culture of reading for these kids and families, Maria said.

And it won’t just be the students’ donation that resonates, Maria indicated.

“I saw the students make a big impression on our families,” she said. “They weren’t just donating money and items, they showed their hearts.”