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Lives Changed Forever


Everyone faces challenges. During difficult times, we rely on family, friends, and our community to pull us through. Below are three stories of Jurupa lives changed forever by the passion of JUSD’s Department of Parent Involvement and Community Outreach.

Gift of a Smile

Adriana smiling without teethAdriana Vargas often covered her mouth when she smiled. She had always been embarrassed by her teeth, but chemotherapy during her battle with colon cancer had weakened them, worsening their condition. In any case, the recent passing of her husband had left little to smile about. With no money, no job, and no insurance, Adriana had little hope of improving her situation.

Circumstances changed during the summer of 2014 when Adriana's daughter, Sarahi Perez, learned that free dental services were being offered thanks to a partnership between PICO and Eastvale Gateway Dental. Sarahi, a JUSD Transportation Dispatcher, quickly submitted a referral on her mother's behalf, and Adriana was selected along with others in the community for PICO's "Day of Service."

The day of the procedure, Adriana and Sarahi arrived at the Gateway Dental office to a celebration: cheers, decorations, and banners with the names of every patient. Dr. Dimitri extracted teeth, gave Adriana implants, and blessed her with a new smile. The procedure cost her nothing out of pocket and there were no hidden fees. Adriana now lives with her daughter, and Sarahi gets to see her mother’s smile countless times a day.

“The PICO program is a blessing to staff and the community," said Sarahi. "I am so grateful to PICO and Mr. Campos for giving my mom back her smile.”

Fulfilling the PICO Promise

During the 2017-2018 school year, Principal Joan Lauritzen of Mission Bell Elementary noticed a student in distress. She submitted a Behavioral Health Referral to PICO so the child could receive necessary aid. This act led to the discovery of a family in crisis.

Backpacks donated by PICO​With the father’s consent, PICO assigned counseling interns to the family's three school-aged children while county agencies provided much needed “wraparound” services. Wraparound services, according to the National Wraparound Initiative, are when “community-based services ‘wrap around’ a child and their family in their home, school, and community.”

All three children were kept out of their respective schools for months as these services helped piece together shattered lives. When the time came for the students to transition back to their classrooms, PICO provided backpacks and school supplies; counseling interns continued to help the family heal; and schools worked together to offer support.

Though PICO has provided access to behavioral health services since the department’s​ inception in 2014, the Behavioral Health Referral process had only been in place a few months when Principal Lauritzen submitted her referral, making this case especially memorable for Jose Campos. “This was the first time I watched schools using PICO as a lifeline while collaborating together to support a family,” shared the Director of PICO. “It is a moment I will never forget.”

Homelessness to Happiness

Marina Valencia was hanging on by a thread. For the past three weeks, the single mother had been living in her car with her four children, three of them school-aged and one an adult. She was determined to keep her children in school and protect her family, but she did not have the resources or support to succeed on her own.

Hoping to improve her family’s situation, Marina reached out to The CARE Closet, a PICO program that provides clothing to children and adults in need. Ofir Adams, an Outreach Worker for PICO, learned the family was homeless when she helped carry two bags of donated clothing to Marina’s car. She knew PICO had to get involved.

Jose Campos holds a hygiene kitRight away, PICO provided the family with essentials that included food, clothing, and hygiene kits. When Marina found temporary housing in Moreno Valley in the living room of a relative, PICO connected her to JUSD Business Services for a gas card so her children could remain in JUSD. To acquire vocational skills, Marina enrolled in a training program while earning $20 an hour to support her family. 

On an extremely hot summer day, PICO shared an affordable housing application and told Marina she needed to go to Chino for a chance at a permanent living space. Committed to bettering the lives of her children, Marina made the drive, suffering the heat and long lines. Her efforts secured her a three-bedroom apartment for her family.

With only the possessions from their car, Marina and her children moved into their new home. PICO reached out to another community partner, Curacao Furniture, who filled the apartment with living room, dining room, and bedroom furniture.

“Marina still calls every so often to give me family updates,” shared Ofir Adams. “Her willpower to improve her family situation made the difference. It proves that with determination, even those experiencing the most difficult hardships can find happiness.”​