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January 20, 2014

Students present projects designed to help the community

(Continued)

Jason Velasquez, 13, and Bryan Martinez, 12, chose drug abuse as their topic.

“Drug abuse is a problem in our community, with people selling and using drugs,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he learned a lot, after he and Velasquez did extensive research on drugs.

“It encourages me not to try them, because I don’t want to end up dead at a young age,” Martinez said.

Research about environmental matters taught Eldred Costigan to recycle more and Jonathan Bruno to shut off the lights once he leaves a room and turn off the water while brushing his teeth.

“We can all help by doing a little bit at a time,” Bruno said.

The UP Academy at Leonard Middle School is part of Receiver Jeffrey Riley’s turnaround plan. It educates students in sixth to eighth grades from 7:25 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The school has 120 students in each grade and 47 staff members, said principal Komal Bhasin. They also have arts, music and fitness classes as well as daily tutoring and a computer learning lab to help students hone their English and math skills.

“We’re unlocking their potential,” Bhasin said. “I believe that when we set high expectations, they rise to them.”

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