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Illinois Educator Donates Desks to Vallarta Students

June 29, 2018

Thirty desks were delivered to the Ignacio L. Vallarta School this week with more coming on July 2, courtesy of Oak Grove District 68 Superintendent Lonny Lemon, who raised $15,000 via a GoFundMe campaign.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Since 2012, District 68 Superintendent Lonny Lemon and the custodial staff at Oak Grove Elementary School have been collecting dropped and discarded pencils at schools in Green Oaks, Illinois. Instead of throwing them away, they've been collected for Lemon's annual spring trip to Puerto Vallarta.

Every year, Lemon has been delivering them to the Ignacio L. Vallarta Elementary School. For the first five years, the students were on spring break when Lemon arrived, so the bundled pencils were thrown into a fenced courtyard with a note of explanation in Spanish.

Last year, the timing was such that Lemon had the opportunity to meet the Ignacio L. Vallarta elementary school students and staff, and to see the classrooms for the first time. From the unpainted concrete floor and 30- to 40-year old desks to the lack of bookshelves and teachers' supplies, he found the conditions and equipment to be primitive, compared to U.S. schools.

When he asked Principal Ramon Valle Hernandez what the school needed most, the headmaster replied, "If I had 100 to 125 desks, it would be a great start."

The Vallarta school has 800 students that attend in two shifts, so Lemon figured 400 decent desks were needed. He considered sending Oak Grove's old desks but there was no way to transport them so, in late February, he started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $25,000 USD for the local purchase of 400 desks for the kids.

"Our schools here have so much to be thankful for, these students go crazy with excitement when they receive pencils. I can't imagine the joy they would receive if they got new desks," he said.

By May 1st, the campaign had raised roughly $15,000 USD (including $1,000 from Lemon and his wife), which was enough to buy 150 desks. Lemon said he didn't want to wait until the total amount needed to buy all 400 desks had been donated, so he got the ball rolling earlier this month.

Thirty of the first batch of 150 desks were delivered to the Vallarta elementary school on Tuesday, as you can see in the top picture. The remaining 120 are scheduled to arrive next Monday, July 2nd, and Lemon plans to be there to help the students assemble them.

Upon receiving the first delivery, Ramon Valle Hernandez acknowledged Lemon's generosity in an email translated by District 68 Building Superintendent Ozzie Suarez, who has been helping with logistics. "The children are very thankful and appreciative of you Mr. Lonny for providing them with new desks," it reads.

As for pencils, Lemon said the overall total collected by his staff, bus drivers and others, as well as those donated to the cause, topped 20,000 this year.

Lemon says now that he has a successful campaign under his belt with verifiable proof to donors, he'll be rekindling the effort to finish the job. "My next mission will be fact finding," he said. "I can't believe 150 desks was all they needed."

Source: Chicago Daily Herald