Teens bring holiday cheer to Pacoima elementary school struggling with student homelessness

PACOIMA, SAN FERNANDO VALLEY (KABC) -- Christmas came early for students at a Pacoima elementary school, which has struggled with a large amount of students experiencing homelessness.

Every year, children who attend Telfair Elementary School are visited by students from neighboring Taft High School, who turn into elves and deliver approximately 700 Christmas gifts.

"I feel like it's deeper than just coming here. It's very emotional because it's giving back something I have," said junior Aisha Arango.

It's a meaningful act of generosity at a school with one of the highest percentages of students experiencing homelessness.

"Today is just that special day where we just kind of let everyone know, in addition to our homeless population, that we're thinking of you," said Telfair Elementary School principal, Eduardo Carrillo.

In the 2018-2019 school year, 19% of the school's students were experiencing homelessness, according to the California Department of Education. That equates to 129 students.

District wide, that number is just over 17,000, a nearly 17% increase from the previous school year. The Los Angeles Unified School District is teaming up with the city to provide relief to families who need it.

"We feel a solemn responsibility when we know we can do something to support our families so we brought the city in and together we're providing housing support for 500 families who are experiencing homelessness," said LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner.

Beutner said the move is unprecedented and needed.

"If we can be that place where we have a relationship of trust; the child comes to school with us every day, provide service here to those families we think it can make a real dent and make a difference for these families," he added.

But volunteers were focused on bringing the younger students cheer, regardless of their situations.

"They deserve the best of us like, when we wrap, our teacher reminds us 'Don't wrap badly, wrap good.' If we have to re-wrap, we'll re-wrap, it there's a rip in the paper- re-wrap. We buy ribbon to make it look nice, like we want to give them the best of our best," said Arango.
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