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Moreno Valley USD honored with 2020 Magna Grand Prize Award for homeless assistance program

Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) was recently named one of three Grand Prize 2020 Magna Award winners. Presented by the National School Boards Association, the Magna Awards are presented to districts that exemplify school district innovation and creativity.
 
The 2020 awards program focused on equity in education and recognized district programs that remove barriers to achievement for vulnerable or underserved children. MVUSD’s Help for the Homeless Community Wellness program won in the “Over 20,000 enrollment” category.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by this distinguished national award,” said Moreno Valley Unified School District Superintendent, Dr. Martinrex Kedziora. “This is a validation of the tremendous work the people in our district are doing and we are proud to be honored with so many other districts trying to serve students equitably.”

MVUSD has approximately 6,000 students who are considered homeless; the majority are living with other families due to financial hardship. There are approximately 850 families that are considered fragile — living in their cars, shelters, or with friends and relatives.
 
To serve these students, the district opened the Community Wellness Center in 2016 in a one-room portable building adjacent to an elementary school. It has expanded to four large classrooms in a portable building converted to an office and resource center, a food pantry, a clothes and shoes room, a mindfulness and yoga studio that includes social-emotional learning training by a certified coach, and a living “space” that houses a bathroom, shower, couch, washing machine and dryer, extended folding table, microwave, and refrigerator. The center has since helped 12,000 families since its inception.
 
Moreno Valley Unified School Board President Marsha Locke recognizes the importance and impact of the Wellness Center and says, “We need to be proactive because we know students will stop coming to school because they don’t have shoes, money for gas and lunches, or are embarrassed by their clothes.”
 
In addition to the ongoing support throughout the year, the center holds a Summer Health and Resource Fair involving 72 community and county partners to distribute 600 backpacks, 600 pairs of shoes, 100 free haircuts, immunizations, teeth cleaning, vision check-ups, health services, and numerous booths with information on county and state services.
 
The first annual Health and Resource Fair, in the summer of 2017, reached over 2,000 families and children. During the summer of 2018, expanded services included clothes closets (1,000 items) and medical insurance enrollment to over 2,200 families. Recently, the 2019 Health and Resource Fair was held and had a food
pantry. All attendees were provided with fresh fruit, vegetables, and nonperishable items.
 
In addition to impacting their lives, the effort has improved standardized test scores. New 2019 state test
results show a 3.2 percent increase in English Language Arts (ELA), which translates to 402 more students on
track than the previous year and exceeds county and state growth rates of 1.4 percent and 1.0 percent. For
ELA growth in 2019, the district ranked second among 37 similar school districts in California. Math shows a
1.9 percent increase in 2019 (a 5 percent increase since 2015), more than both the county and state, which
grew 1.3 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
 
Community Wellness Center Grand Opening 2018