Above: Eight-year-old Quinn Pruitt held a special event to raise money to find a cure for Angelman Syndrome, which affects his twin sister, Emma.
A few years ago when Quinn Pruitt was learning to walk and talk, he noticed his twin sister, Emma, wasn’t able to do everything he could and wondered why. He learned she had something called Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurological condition that can cause lack of speech, seizures and problems with movement and balance. Those affected typically require lifelong care.
But, Quinn has a dream that during his sister’s life time that will change.
“A lot of people are trying to help people with Angelman Syndrome,” the eight-year-old said. “I hope that if more people pay attention and help there will be new ideas and we can find a cure faster.”
A couple of years ago when Quinn was getting ready to start kindergarten, the Pruitt family moved to the neighborhood near Kenter Canyon Elementary School. Quinn set his eyes on a big lemon tree growing at his new house and came up with an idea.
“He told me he wanted to have a lemonade stand,” Quinn’s mother, Shannon Pruitt, said. “I didn’t think much of it at the time. Kids like to have lemonade stands. We were happy to help him with whatever he needed…squeeze some lemons, make some signs and help him to sell some lemonade.”
Quinn earned $40 from lemonade sales. It’s what happened next, his mom said, that was a major turning point.
“He told me he wanted to donate the money to find a cure and help Emma,” she said. “To say we were blown away would be an understatement. We saw he had a dream. And, as parents, it’s our job to support and empower our kids to realize their dreams.”
With his family’s encouragement, Quinn got right to work. He started thinking of new ways to raise money.
“We already sold lemonade, so we tried to think of something we could sell in the winter,” he said. “So, we decided to sell cups of cocoa.”
Quinn set out on a journey to sell 5 million cups of cocoa for $4 a piece, which would mean $20 million for research on Angelman and other nervous system afflictions like autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Thus began Quinn’s Cocoa for the Cure. To date, the effort has led to sales of about 25,000 cups of cocoa, which is about $100 thousand toward finding a cure.
Quinn said his school really helped get his movement off the ground. In his first grade year, he approached his school’s principal, Terry Moren, asking if he could make announcements about Quinn’s Cocoa for the Cure.
“Of course,” Moren recalls telling him. “As a school, we were thrilled to support Quinn any way we could. We helped him record a message that went home to the school community. He’s talked to the student body at assemblies and at our talent show.”
With the community quickly rallying around him, Quinn organized an event midway through his first grade year selling cups of cocoa — complete with marshmallows — in front of a neighborhood supermarket. Fellow students and their families stepped in making cookies and other baked goods to go with the cocoa. A family with a printing company pitched in and made special aprons and other items with a bright colorful logo.
The event brought in $4,000 and also caught the attention of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, which added a web page where supporters could buy ‘virtual’ cups of cocoa and make donations online. That brought in another $36,000.
This year, Quinn held a second event, which included a whole host of new volunteers, face-painters, more baked goods, printed merchandise and even a DJ. This time around, the event brought in $7,000 followed by another $53,000 in online donations.
“This all began from a little boy with hope,” Quinn’s mom said. “It’s happening because he and others are clinging to that hope that this will have a positive outcome. It’s about Quinn’s belief in an idea then having a whole groundswell of supporters getting behind that idea and offering any help they can.”
She said many other children Quinn’s age who also have siblings with special needs started to emulate his efforts and think about ways they could start movements of their own. Quinn’s and Emma’s four-year-old sister, Mia, also has an idea for her own movement called ‘Mia’s Muffins.’
“I am honored that my son is at the heart of such a powerful movement,” said Quinn’s dad, Scott Pruitt. “Sometimes it just takes someone like Quinn, who is really smart about picking out the positives in life and making amazing things happen. At his age he doesn’t think of reasons why something can’t be done or is hard to do. He just dreams it and makes it real.”
Moren said he’s overjoyed his school could play a role in galvanizing the movement that began with one of his students.
“Quinn is an inspirational student who captures the heart of everyone who meets him,” he said. “The beauty of his work is how it’s shown that with dedication and drive any person — no matter how young he may be — can make a major difference.”
Moren said Quinn’s penchant for setting admirable goals and his tenacity in working toward them represents some of the most important lessons educators strive to teach their students.
“He is a role model for our school’s character education program that emphasis Initiative, kindness, respect, responsibility, teamwork, cooperation and citizenship,” he said. “He’s got drive, determination and promise.”
As Quinn reflects on what he’s done, there is no astonishment or amazement in his voice. Most of the time he says he’s just focusing on doing his homework and looking forward to science class. It’s clear though, that his twin sister — who is in second grade in the classroom next door to his — is always at the forefront of his mind.
“I am glad that she is able to go to school here with me,” he said. “I think it helps her relax knowing I am near by.”
When they see each other during classroom breaks, it’s evident they are close. She smiles, claps and clings closely to her brother whenever she gets the chance.
“Quinn is definitely Emma’s favorite person in the world,” mom said, smiling. “I think that’s been true since they were in the womb and always will be true.”
She said that at this point, Quinn may not realize just how much of a difference he’s made.
“His work has created so much awareness,” she said. “In 2012 when Emma was diagnosed, no pharmaceutical companies were investing in research on Angelman Syndrome, because it just wasn’t as common or well known. Now, there are five major companies investing.”
When it comes to Quinn, she says, it’s not as much about investment, research and development as it is about staying focused on a dream.
“What he represents is kindness,” she said. “He demonstrates the most important rule we teach our children: that it’s all about treating people how you want to be treated. For him, his sister is just special and unique the way everyone is special and unique, and all he wants is to help her.”
Quinn maintains that it’s all very simple: he just wants his sister to be able to talk, walk and play the way others can. While he doesn’t see any problem getting to five million cups of cocoa, he’s not sure if it will end there.
“I won’t stop until there is a cure,” he said. “You should never give up on your dreams. My dream is to find a cure for my sister, and I will keep doing this until it comes true.”
Deaf and hearing-impaired students at the Mayall Academy of Arts and Technology Magnet benefitted from a presentation in American Sign Language on the Red Cross Pillowcase Project, helping them prepare for emergencies.read more
Audiences were electrified, entranced and enthralled as more than 1,400 students from 46 schools in Local District Central showed off their artistic talents during the Youth Dreaming Performing Arts Festival.read more
Paul Perez, a music teacher at the Esteban Torres East Los Angeles Performing Arts Magnet High School, was recently honored for his musical accomplishments and leadership in the classroom by the Exploring the Arts Foundation, co-founded by Tony Bennett and Susan Benedetto.read more
The landmark Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) was renamed Tuesday in honor of retiring Superintendent Michelle King, who started her 30-year education career as a science teacher and rose through the ranks to become the first African-American woman to lead the nation’s second-largest school district.read more
Undaunted by stormy skies, some 6,000 students from more than 500 elementary schools around L.A. Unified crossed the finish line Sunday at Dodger Stadium, their week-long, 26.2-mile “marathon.”read more
Advanced Placement students from Verdugo Hills High school are participating in the city’s annual Big Read LA, with guidance from poet Ashaki M. Jackson.read more
Celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Wonderland Avenue Elementary’s student leadership committee presented its annual Peaceful Warriors showcase, with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders performing as historic and contemporary figures who embraced the messages of peace and non-violent expression that are the legacy of the civil rights leader.read more
Purple T-shirts emblazoned with the message: “Strong Women. Strong America. Strong World” were worn by students across L.A. Unified on Thursday as they celebrated International Women’s Day.read more
Q&A with Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian – The Pearl Post (Daniel Pearl Communications Magnet)
Military veterans recruited for teaching positions – KABC-Channel 7
CSTA and Code.org announce the 2017 Champions for Computer Science – Medium magazine
How L.A. Unified Cultivates Districtwide Digital Citizenship – Common Sense Education
Around the world, and earning all A’s – The Newport (R.I.) Daily News
LAUSD, IBU and DAS Collaborate to Create the New Merchant Mariner Apprenticeship Program – Apprenticeship/California Department of Industrial Relations
Opinion: Students accepted through preferred gender pronouns – Los Angeles Times Insider
These 10 L.A. high schools are the best at getting their graduates to college – Los Angeles Times
LAUSD Making a Comeback with Instructional Technology – Converge Magazine
Dr. Frances Gipson honored as Top 30 Award recipient – Converge Magazine
New EdD in Educational Leadership graduate Michelle King named National Superintendent of the Year – USC Rossier School of Education
Pin Up, Don’t Shut Up – Public High School Art for the Scapegoats of Humanity – Random Lengths Magazine
East Bay Softball Inks Catcher Desiree Jimmy – Cal State East Bay Pioneers Athletics
California Teacher of the Year from North Hills to throw first pitch at Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles Daily News
Cleveland High band program marches on after years with no teacher, little money – Los Angeles Daily News
LAPD officers spread holiday cheer at Van Nuys elementary school – Los Angeles Daily News
Burrowing Owl delights students, staff at urban school – SoCalWild.com
Dorsey students complete College Board pilot class. – L.A. Sentinel
Girls Academic Leadership Academy: A unique opportunity.– Jewish Journal
West Valley Occupational Center celebrates 50 years. – Los Angeles Daily News
Linked Learning the focus of innovative high school. – Education Writers of America
Music, arts programs at LA schools increasing after years of decline. – Los Angeles Daily News
Coeur d’Alene Elementary: One school’s journey towards instructional excellence. – Cotsen Foundation
Student identity through the arts. Huffington Post
Click here to see previous entries