Principals Treat Top Students to Lunch

When Maria Pinto started classes at Reseda Elementary School a year ago, she had just come from Bolivia and spoke no English.

Now Maria can speak and write the language. On Thursday, her strides won accolades from Reseda Principal Rosemarie Kubena at a luncheon at Benihana restaurant.

“In that time she has become a model student. Teachers were unanimous. They all picked Maria,” Kubena said. “She overcame all that and always studied hard.”


Maria was one of 18 students from 17 schools chosen to represent Valley elementary schools, which each sent the boy or girl who showed the most improvement in academics, school involvement or leadership. Principals accompanied each of the students during the free “Have Lunch With the Principal Day” event.

Maria, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Reseda, lived in her homeland for seven years without her mother, who was working here as a nursing assistant and saving money to bring Maria to the Valley, Kubena said.

“I feel so happy because they picked me,” said Maria as she held a bag of gifts, including stickers, a ruler, pencils and a water bottle. Besides the gifts, students also received certificates of achievement.

Lauren Edmondson, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Napa Street Elementary School in Northridge, was recognized for her work in a school human relations group that helps resolve student conflicts peacefully.

“It was fun and I’m happy because I was selected,” said Lauren, of Northridge.

The lunch featured dishes prepared at the students’ tables. Many children were wide-eyed as the chefs swiftly chopped, minced and cooked the meals.

“They have an opportunity to feel that someone other than mom and their teacher appreciates the effort they put in,” said Debbie Leidner, the Birmingham-Cleveland-Reseda cluster administrator with the Los Angeles Unified School District. “And they’ll go back and talk about it, and it will encourage other kids.”