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ESL teacher raises $21,000 for immigrant students hit hard by coronavirus

Mariel Vallano says four of her students now have coronavirus, and some are confronting death in their families.

WASHINGTON — Mariel Vallano says it’s the honor of her life to teach her seventh and eighth-grade students, young scholars who are now acclimating to their first year in America. But the cruel challenges of coronavirus were never within the realm of possibility for the families Vallano now knows so well, families who were struggling to begin with.

A month ago, Vallano was a few hundred dollars short of her initial $2,000 fundraising goal. She set out on a mission to distribute $100 grocery gift cards to all of her students’ families in Ward 4, with numerous parents’ service jobs slashed and food insecurity a growing threat.

RELATED: ESL teacher creates GoFundMe to help struggling immigrant students during pandemic

Vallano’s GoFundMe page in the weeks since has been supercharged. A fundraising effort that once aspired to approach $2,000 has now surpassed $21,000. More than one individual donated their entire coronavirus stimulus check to help pay for students’ groceries and rent assistance, Vallano said.

"I am overwhelmed with the generosity of our donors," she said. "So many people have recognized the need to give as much as they can for people who are suffering with so little." 

Credit: GoFundMe

The generosity is perhaps commensurate with the costs the virus has exacted on her class. Four of her middle schoolers have coronavirus, Vallano said, and 12 have family members who have either been hospitalized or died from the virus.

RELATED: These DC neighborhoods have the most COVID-19 cases in the city

"The need is growing as Ward 4 has more positive cases of COVID-19 than any other ward, and my students and families are becoming increasingly affected," Vallano said. "Our students who have tested positive are isolated in bedrooms with nothing to do, so we are using our funds to buy them books to read and activities." 

DC Public Schools have only one more full week of instruction. Vallano said she would like to continue her fundraiser past the final day of classes, May 29, in order to ensure her students have plenty to eat during the summer.

RELATED: Fairfax County teacher creates 'Soap for Hope' with students to raise money for parents who lost their jobs due to coronavirus

RELATED: Fairfax County Public Schools lays out plan for transitioning students back to in-person learning

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