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Unsung hero: Allison Mann speaks the language of inclusion at Victoria Elementary

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Allison Mann helps organize a school project with other parents from Victoria Elementary School in Costa Mesa. Mann has taken on several volunteer efforts, including facilitating a parent networking group and fundraising to replace tattered books in a first-grade classroom.
(Don Leach | Daily Pilot)

Allison Mann hopes to build bridges, not barriers.

With Mann, a mother of three, as a co-vice president of Victoria Elementary School’s PTA, Latina moms say they feel more welcome to join the parent-teacher group.

“I wished my mom did the PTA, so I wanted to ... do it for my kid,” said Victoria parent Karla Padilla. “But nobody really ever approached me.”

But one day Mann asked her to attend a meeting, Padilla remembers.

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“It’s hard for people in general to show up somewhere new and you have to figure out ‘Where do I go? Who do I ask? What do I do?’” Mann said.

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Editor’s note: This is an installment of Unsung Heroes, a new annual feature that highlights otherwise overlooked members of the community.

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About 40% of the families at the Westside Costa Mesa school did not learn English as their first language, Victoria Principal Aaron Peralta said in February.

With such a language barrier between groups of families, Victoria parent Mary Rodriguez said she knew of hardly any Latino parents who went to PTA-related functions.

But Rodriguez, Padilla and other parents attended last week’s meeting of the Parent 2 Parent Network that Mann and another Victoria mom, Patti Uchityl, recently started at the school.

“When you walk into the school, there is a language barrier, but what we want to do with the network is bring everyone together,” Mann said. “They can come to the group every Friday morning and just meet other parents or ask questions so no one feels alone.”

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Allison Mann, right, started a crowdfunding campaign on Gofundme.com so first-grade teacher Cheryl Naff can replace tattered books in her class with new ones.
(Don Leach | Daily Pilot)

The group has had three meetings so far, exchanging parental advice and discussing school topics such as ways to slow the traffic near the crosswalk on Victoria Street.

Mann, a PTA member for four years, also has taken on other projects at the school, such as starting a crowdfunding campaign on Gofundme.com that had raised $2,185 as of Friday so first-grade teacher Cheryl Naff can replace tattered books in her class with new ones. The page is still accepting donations in an attempt to reach a $2,500 goal.

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Mann’s next project is to help create a Maker Space Lab on campus where students can have equipment such as a 3-D printer, a green screen and a coding area.

“I like to help and I love this school,” Mann said. “But there are so many other people out there who do more than I do.”

alexandra.chan@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10


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