IVAN VALENZUELA/Coachella Uninc
SALTON CITY, Calif. – Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez has joined the Sea View Elementary School student effort to save the California red-legged frog with the introduction of Assembly Bill 2364, which would establish this endangered frog as the official state amphibian.
“It started when Ms. (Virginia) Haddad was looking for extracurricular things to bring to the after-school program for the enrichment of the students,” said Dr. Timothy Steele, principal of Sea View Elementary School.
When Haddad came across the Save the Frogs Campaign, founded by ecologist Dr. Kerry Kriger, she saw an opportunity for the Prodigy Cats, the after-school club for academically gifted and advanced students.
“They (students) started doing some research, and when they looked into the red-legged frog, they saw its plight and what was happening to it,” says Dr. Steele.
The California red-legged frog is federally listed as a threatened species that is protected by law. The frog is endemic to California and, due to habitat loss and destruction, it has been ranked among America’s most threatened frogs and toads.
When the Prodigy Cats contacted Kriger and received a reply, they realized that California, unlike twenty other states, did not have an official state amphibian. They wrote a letter to Pérez who decided to propose the bill to the 79 other members in the State Assembly.
“We’re going to do everything we can to convince them,” said Pérez, a former educator and Coachella Valley Unified School District board member.
The bill’s co-author is Assemblymember Frank Bigelow, whose Northern California district includes Calaveras County. This is setting of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” a short story by Mark Twain that also served as inspiration to the students’ desire to save the frogs.
“It started right here at this campus,” said Pérez. “I’m particularly proud of our students, who through their voices are saying, ‘I want my world to be different.’”
Pérez gave a presentation entitled “How a Bill becomes a Law,” noting that AB 2364 still has a long way to go. He walked the students through the route the bill would take through the state government and, eventually, to the governor’s desk.
“I think it’s super empowering,” said Steele of having the Pérez speak at the school. “Mr. Perez is no different than the students who were sitting on the floor. His beginnings were no different from these kids’ beginnings.”
Pérez, who grew up and attended public schools in the Eastern Coachella Valley, went on to graduate from the University of California at Riverside and Harvard University.
During his presentation, Pérez asked, “Can the red-legged frog become the official amphibian for the state of California?”
As he looked out to the auditorium filled with Sea View students, he said, “Why not? It’s a nice frog.”