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Maria Shriver Visits Bethune Homeless Center

California First Lady Maria Shriver recently visited the Long Beach Unified School District’s Mary McLeod Bethune Transitional Center for Homeless Students, where she encouraged students to pursue their dreams despite life’s obstacles.

"I want to congratulate you all for being in school because an education is the ticket to your dreams," Shriver said. "My husband talks a lot about growing up poor and being really motivated and having a dream. As he says, it doesn’t matter where you were born. What matters is where you are going."

The First Lady’s visit to the Southland later included a stop at Cal State Long Beach for the Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games. Special Olympics, Inc. the largest sports organization in the world, was founded in 1963 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver to serve the needs of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The new Bethune Center was dedicated in February 2006. The west Long Beach facilities replace two old bungalows that formerly housed the homeless center. Two years ago, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, an advocate of education for the homeless, committed a million-dollar grant to construct the new building, which serves more than 300 students each year. The center allows children to attend classes without any stigma or embarrassment. It minimizes the loss of education from homelessness, and helps students catch up with missed schoolwork. After a few weeks at the transitional center, most of the children enroll in classes at a regular school in the district.

Bethune’s facilities include two classrooms, nurse’s, counselor’s and administrative offices, a parent center, kitchen and restrooms. The center is located at the Villages of Cabrillo, which provide temporary housing to families while they get back on their feet and find housing in the community. Shriver also toured The Villages during her visit.