The 16th Annual Rialto Unified School District Family Summit soared to new heights while featuring two remarkable speakers who left an audience of families, students and staff inspired.
Emmy Award-winning CNN producer and Eisenhower High School graduate, Vanessa Rumbles and California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond took center stage at Rialto High School Knights Gymnasium on Saturday to deliver a powerful and uplifting education-based message at this year’s event, attended by over 1,500 community members.
Rumbles, who was invited in August to be the keynote speaker at the Family Summit, attended RUSD’s Lena M. Preston and Lida M. Henry Elementary Schools and Ethel Kucera Middle School before graduating from Eisenhower High School in 2003. She has gone on to have a distinguished career in television, which includes two Emmy nominations and an Emmy win in 2020. She currently serves as the producer at CNN for the three-hour morning program “CNN News Central.” From humble roots in the City of Rialto to working for one of the largest cable television media outlets, Rumbles said she was never afraid to “work hard and dream big” and encouraged students and families to do the same.
“Stay focused, work hard and I want you to dream big,” Rumbles cheered during her speech. “In fact, I want you to have the biggest of dreams. I say this because I sat where you are. I care. Your teachers, your parents, this District cares, and we are all cheering for your success. Even if you are struggling or feel discouraged, never give up on yourself. Never let anyone tell you that the dream is too big or impossible, never let your environment stop you from where you want to be. I wish you guys nothing but the best for this school year and on the road ahead.”
The audience erupted with cheers and claps as Rumbles finished her inspiring speech.
After Rumbles’ speech, in a surprising turn of events, RUSD Superintendent Dr. Cuauhtémoc Avila, asked the crowd to stay in their seats a bit longer because he had a surprise guest — Thurmond, who made a special visit to the Summit.
Thurmond, who was sworn in as the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2019, was making his second visit to the RUSD. He toured Georgia F. Morris Elementary School, Rialto High School, and Dr. John D. Milor/ Charles Zupanic High School in 2019. The bilingual State Superintendent whose mother is from Panama, spoke in Spanish as well as in English at the Summit.
“There’s no barrier that you can’t overcome,” Thurmond stated to a crowd of engaged families, staff (teachers, administrators, classified) and students. “You’ve already overcome the pandemic. What you’ve already overcome shows that you can handle anything! Nothing is insurmountable. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t be. If you can dream it, you can be it, and it is our job to help you get there. Rialto Unified is an incredible school district. I love coming to Rialto. This is one of my favorite school districts in the entire State.”
The applause rose.
After the RUSD Board of Education, including President Stephanie E. Lewis, Clerk Joseph W. Martinez, Members Edgar Montes and Evelyn P. Dominguez, along with Student Member Keiyne Galazo ( a senior at Wilmer Amina Carter High School) helped Thurmond off the stage, the State education chief headed to the school booths outside to meet RUSD families and students from various schools.
“It was a pleasure to meet Vanessa Rumbles and the State Superintendent, Mr. Thurmond. Galazo stated. “Their speeches were encouraging and inspired all students to keep working toward their goals in life.”
With the theme “Future Ready: Champions of Change,” the Family Summit offered an array of activities, including workshops, school activity booths, and even a parade of schools that showcased students, families and staff coming together in a celebration of education. Families enjoyed delicious food from food truck vendors and had the chance to connect with representatives from more than 32 colleges and universities. Prizes and giveaways added to the excitement of the day.
“This year’s Family Summit Committee did a fantastic job in preparing a robust event filled with informative college booths for students, education workshops for families, plenty of food vendors for attendees and hosting two dynamic speakers,” stated RUSD Communication/Media Services Agent Syeda Jafri. “Ms. Rumbles, although a modest and unassuming person, is a powerhouse in her media profession. We were so pleased that Ms. Rumbles took time from her busy schedule at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, to fly back to her hometown of Rialto to inspire so many. Additionally, thank you to Superintendent Dr. Avila and Mr. Joseph Williams, RUSD Community/Strategic Partnerships Agent, for the surprise visit of State Superintendent Thurmond. Both of these high-profile speakers created a memorable experience for our District.”
Registration began at 7:00 a.m. The School Rally was held at 9:00 a.m. and by 1:30 p.m. the event ended. Although the day was hot, students from all 30 schools represented, with cheer, band and ASB in full force.
“It’s a hot day,” smiled RUSD high school student, Mario,”but talking with Mr. Thurmond and hearing Vanessa (Rumbles) was pretty legit! This is fun.”
RUSD parent, Kenya Gray, whose son and daughter attend Kucera Middle School, was one of a handful of parents who appreciated Rumbles coming back to inspire students. Gray also had a chance to speak with State Superintendent Thurmond.
“This was one of the best Summits that I’ve attended,” replied Gray, who is also the Chairperson of the North End Collation African American Parent Advisory Committee (AAPAC). “Mr. Thurmond was intuitive, friendly, kind and generous with his time in visiting our District. It was awesome watching him genuinely interacting with children, parents and staff. The fact that he flew in from Sacramento, last minute to support students and parent initiates speaks volumes. We hope Vanessa and Mr. Thurmond will come back soon.”