Marcel Guerra is a young but energetic track coach and physical education activity leader for the Fremont School Magnet Program, which is tucked away in a working poor neighborhood a few blocks away from Union Avenue and East Brundage Lane.

This is a busy time for Guerra and his little runners as they train and compete against kids from other schools with hopes to qualify for the Bakersfield City School District and Valley championship meets in April and May. At a recent regional meet against Chavez and Harding school runners, the young Fremont student athletes -- some wearing worn shoes, such as Vans, clearly not designed for running -- clamored their race results for their coach's attention.

That moment reminded Guerra that he has two goals to accomplish this season: To see as many of his Fremont students at the district and Valley meets and to figure out a way to find them running shoes.

He and Henry Valderrama, a Fremont Magnet Specialist and school PTA president, are starting a fundraiser for new track uniforms and shoes for about 60 students. The school PTA is the group that raises funds for the Fremont track team and run primarily by staff since parental involvement has proven to be unfortunately limited.

Having to run in inadequate shoes for a race can be challenging enough without worrying about whether others will notice.

As I volunteered at the recent regional track meet, I encountered a group of girls nervously lining up for their race. As they waited, one of them innocently asked another how come she wasn't wearing running shoes. Searching for an answer in her head, the embarrassed child later replied, "Because I don't like to run in track shoes," then shrugged her shoulders.

The inquisitive student processed the response then wished her good luck in their race.

Those interested in helping can contact the Fremont Magnet Office (661) 631-4531 and ask for Valderrama or Guerra. Donations should be made out to the PTA and are tax-deductible.

TEACHER OF THE YEAR: Congratulations goes to Elvira "Elvie" Mota, who was awarded Teacher of the Year from Golden Valley High School on Feb. 17. Her proud son, Eddie Mota, a newlywed who is wrapping up his bachelor's degree at the University of Phoenix, send me a note to boast about his mother's achievements.

She comes from humble beginnings, being born inside a mud house in Mexico. Shortly after that, her family moved to the United States seeking work out in the crop fields. Her parents and seven siblings traveled all over the country, starting in the southern states, and then the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest until they settled down in Central California where she grew up in the small rural community of Orange Cove, southeast of Fresno,

The 60-year-old now teaches English Language Development and has been teaching for 6 years.

"I believe she enjoys teaching because she feels that it is rewarding and that she is actually doing some good with today's youth," said her son. "When past students, who have struggled with certain situations in their lives, come back to her classroom years later to thank her for all that she has done to pave the way for them after high school, that must be the ultimate feeling."

Her son considers himself a fortunate son.

"Personally, she has influenced me by just the example she sets," he said. "She has always been a hardworking individual. Being a daughter, wife, mother, career woman, and at the same time pursuing a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in education for the first time in her 50s and successfully earning them, that is what motivated me to realize I can do anything I want to in life."

Mota and other teachers from respective schools who also have received the same honor will now be reviewed by a panel that will select one of them as the Kern County Teacher of the Year. The decision will be announced at a reception May 1.

POKER TOURNEY: Sofie Zimmermann is inviting the public to attend the 8th annual Texas Hold'em Night "Remembering Kern County's Law Enforcement Heroes" dinner and poker tournament 5 p.m. Saturday March 31 at the CHP 420 Club, 3910 Alfred Harrell Highway. Zimmermann is a board member of the nonprofit the Kern County Law Enforcement Foundation, which is organizing the event and is using the proceeds to support various police agencies in the county and provide scholarships for local students g.vv. seeking a career in that field.

Poker players stand the chance to win $2,500 in prizes. But Zimmermann said there is be plenty of room for those who just want to attend for the New York steak dinner and entertainment. Tickets are $100 for poker entry and $30 for dinner only. For more information, contact Zimmermann at 661-342-1532.

These are the opinions of Olivia Garcia, not necessarily The Bakersfield Californian.

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