RUSD marks 10th annual “Puttin’ on the Ritz”

A decade’s worth of student talent was celebrated Saturday night at the annual Puttin’ on the Ritz Fine Arts Gala, benefiting the Rialto Unified School District.

Courtesy Photo Ahlana Ruiz of Hughbanks Elementary received a standing ovation for her rendition of Adele's, "Rolling in the Deep" April 26 at Puttin' on the Ritz.

Courtesy Photo
Ahlana Ruiz of Hughbanks Elementary received a standing ovation for her rendition of Adele’s, “Rolling in the Deep” April 26 at Puttin’ on the Ritz.

As the event showcased 11 new student acts–featuring everything from song and dance to instrumentation–the 10th annual effort also highlighted that tradition continues to lie heavily in the heart of the district as well as students.

Bringing that tradition to the stage this year was the Togagae Family, a group of six students from Kucera Middle School performing their version of The Temptation’s classic, “Shout.”

Made up of Lui Togagae, 14, Raymond Togagae, 14, Kevin Togagae Feliuai, 13, Natasha Togagae, 11, Valeriah Togagae Masoe, 14 and Violett Togagae, 13, the family group was excited to perform in front of the hundreds in the crowd to show what family traditions and unity is all about.

“I feel that this is a great opportunity for us to represent our family, traditions, school and community,” said Raymond.

“It’s really exciting for us because we’ve been doing this since we were young and it lets us show people who we are,” Violett added.

For Interim Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam, the importance of highlighting traditions is also a key element to RUSD.

“We’re one community, one family,” he said. “This (event) is our way of helping to restore fine arts programs and what better to show the importance than through these talented kids. The community is here to see that and support (the efforts). I’m proud that the community came out to be a part of that–a part of us.”

The Ritz was founded 10 years ago after budget cuts threatened funding for district-wide fine arts education. Since its inception, more than $375,000 has been raised to help RUSD classrooms keep fine arts related programs alive.

Held at Wilmer Amina Carter High School, the campus’ namesake, beamed as each act took to the stage.

Carter, who was one of the original Ritz committee members has attended the fundraising event each year and said she wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“What a way to help fund your schools,” Carter said. “What a way for the community and parents to participate to keep the arts alive.”

Proceeds from the event were raised through ticket sales and silent auction items donated by area schools and district departments.

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