“They’re cutting it, they’re cutting it!”

There were no local dignitaries, regional bishops, or long speeches on this September morning — just a nun with a big pair of scissors, and nearly 300 Our Lady of Talpa School students gathered around the door to their newly remodeled gym, many of them jumping up and down excitedly on the newly installed schoolyard pavement.

It was the moment these Talpa Trojans had been waiting for after a busy summer. Thanks to a $1.7 million grant from the Dorothy Shea Foundation — and a lot of parent volunteer hours — the Boyle Heights K-8 parochial school has gotten a much-needed facelift. 

“Our school has been the same for too many years. Nothing had changed. It was always getting hot, and we didn’t have any air-conditioning vents, which now they added,” explained eighth-grader Delilah Anguiano. 

“To say ‘renovation’ isn’t strong enough,” remarked Daughters of Charity Provincial Supervisor Sister Julie Kubasak during a blessing ceremony Sept. 10.

The upgrades include a state-of-the-art STEM laboratory, freshly painted classrooms and hallways, new projectors, a brand new gym, and a playground for its youngest students among this year’s upgrades.

The parish of Our Lady of Talpa was founded in the 1920s by families from the Mexican town of Talpa de Allende in Jalisco, driven into exile by religious persecution during the Mexican Revolution.

In 1951, the parish opened the school, and since then sisters of the Daughters of Charity order like former principal Sister Adella Armentrout (the nun with the scissors) have helped staff the school, educating students from low-income immigrant families in the Boyle Heights area. (Today, there are fewer sisters, but the school is still “co-sponsored” by the order.)

According to Rojas, more than 90 percent of enrolled students currently receive help with tuition aid. 

That’s in part thanks to a firm mandate from the Daughters of Charity Foundation, which helps fund the school, to turn no family away, and to “trust in God that somehow, some way, we’ll make it work financially” for them, said Rojas. 

While construction on the campus buzzed away this summer, parents stayed busy, too, using their spare time to paint walls, move equipment, and wax floors before the school year started. In May, they helped organize a walkathon fundraiser together with the school’s Vincentian Marian youth group that brought in more than $30,000 in donations for the project. 

“These children come from poor families, but when it’s time to give and serve, it’s like the parable of the widow giving all she has,” said Belinda Pantaleon, vice principal. 

Pantaleon, who has worked at Talpa for 31 years, credits the school’s faith foundation and the dedication of parents to making “what seemed to be impossible become possible.”

“What you see here is from parents giving everything they have. This is the richness of Talpa.” 

Full story at Angelus News.