December 3, 2020

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education gives you strength

La Quinta teen wants to repay elementary school that shaped her with school supplies

6 min read
Alyssa Torres figures she owes a lot to Saul Martinez Elementary in Mecca. It’s where...

Alyssa Torres figures she owes a lot to Saul Martinez Elementary in Mecca. It’s where she attended kindergarten through sixth grade, learned about life, and to her it felt more like a family than a school. 

Video: High Schooler organizes school supply drive

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Now, as a senior at La Quinta School, she’s in position to give back.

“I remember being little and thinking that I wanted to be able help this school,” said Torres, whose grandmother Nancy Rios has been a nurse at Saul Martinez since it opened in 1997. “I noticed back then that teachers were buying supplies for their students out of pocket, and as we got older they would tell us, ‘Honestly, if you can bring your own supplies, can you please do that, because I can’t pay for everyone.’ And that stuck with me.”



a person standing in front of a window: La Quinta High School senior Alyssa Torres moves donated items from Walmart at the school in La Quinta, Calif., on September 18, 2020. Torres is collecting school supplies in front of La Quinta High School on Saturday morning, September 26th. The entire collection will be donated to Saul Martinez Elementary in Mecca, where she attended school.


© Taya Gray/The Desert Sun
La Quinta High School senior Alyssa Torres moves donated items from Walmart at the school in La Quinta, Calif., on September 18, 2020. Torres is collecting school supplies in front of La Quinta High School on Saturday morning, September 26th. The entire collection will be donated to Saul Martinez Elementary in Mecca, where she attended school.

That’s why Torres has chosen a specific way to repay the school that molded her. She is in the middle of a school supply drive, collecting all kinds of paper, pencils, folders, notebooks and the like to donate to the school that taught her so much. 

Torres explained that in Mecca, money isn’t the only issue preventing some households from struggling to get their children prepared for school. Distance is a factor, too.

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“You had families that were fortunate enough to be able to buy school supplies, and you had a lot of families that weren’t, and you know it’s not even a matter of money it’s a matter of being able to get there,” she said. “I think there is a Family Dollar there now, but that’s only been there about a year. Back then, you had to drive from Mecca, Thermal, North Shore, Salton City all the way to Coachella, Indio or La Quinta. That’s just not easy to do for everyone.”

Torres said she was happy as a young girl and loved her time at Saul Martinez, but it wasn’t until she left to go to seventh grade at Desert Ridge Academy in Indio that her eyes were opened to the disparities in the world. 

“Everything was just different. It was a quick reality check to me. I went their K through 6 and when I got (to Desert Ridge) for seventh grade, I’m not gonna lie, I was kind of behind. The sad thing is out there, you can get lost in the … I like to say get lost in the sauce. It happens in a way because funding is really rough out there. This is coming both from what I saw and from talking to my grandma.” 

This is personal to Torres. She understands what a difference a simple thing like school supplies can make to someone without them. And so she began her quest.

Torres is a member of the La Quinta High School Public Service Academy, and she came up with the idea a couple years ago but never had the time to pull off until now. 

She has already collected seven boxes and seven big bags of supplies from family and friends, and her donation drive got a big boost from Walmart. Torres and her team sent letters to nearby businesses, and Walmart came through with $750 worth of school supplies from a backlog it had of unpurchased back-to-school items. 

And the last piece to her puzzle is the big event Saturday, Sept. 26. She is hosting a school supply drive from 8 a.m. to noon at La Quinta High School. Anyone interested in donating can drive up and drop items off. It will be safe. Her team will wears masks and the person doesn’t even need to exit their car. 

“This being my senior year, I wanted to get it done now and hopefully start something that can be carried over and turned into an annual event,” she said. “That’s my hope, at least.”

Torres said she’s looking for items such as pencils, erasers, scissors, pencil pouches, 16-pack of crayons, colored pencils, paper, markers, highlighters, binders, folders and even gift cards. But any school supplies will be welcome. 



a person standing in front of a building: La Quinta High School senior Alyssa Torres is collecting school supplies to donate to Saul Martinez Elementary in Mecca, where she went to elementary school. Torres is photographed at the school in La Quinta, Calif., on September 18, 2020.


© Taya Gray/The Desert Sun
La Quinta High School senior Alyssa Torres is collecting school supplies to donate to Saul Martinez Elementary in Mecca, where she went to elementary school. Torres is photographed at the school in La Quinta, Calif., on September 18, 2020.

“I want to be able to give back to that community because, on top of some of them not being able to get the supplies it’s just, if you go out there it’s like a family,” she said. “It’s community oriented and so for me, for a community that gave so much to me as a student, I want to be able to give back to them.”

Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at [email protected]

School supply drive

What: An opportunity to donate school supplies which will be given to the students of Saul Martinez Elementary in Mecca

When: 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 26

Where: La Quinta High School

Suggested items: Pencils, papers, erasers, scissors, markers, colored pencils, folders, notebooks, highlighters or even gift cards. Any school supplies are welcome.

Staying safe: Alyssa Torres and her team will be wearing masks and the donation area is set up so people don’t even need to exit their vehicles.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: La Quinta teen wants to repay elementary school that shaped her with school supplies

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