Modern Family Actor Helps High-Poverty School

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Modern Family’s Rico Rodriguez is a kid with a big heart and compassion for others. At just 14, the teen actor who plays Manny Delgado on the hit television comedy started his own foundation with sister Raini, 19, also an actress in Disney sitcom Austin & Ally.

The Raini and Rico Foundation helps support Head Start, a long-running federal program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that "promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development," it states on the government web site.

Comprehensive services are provided "to enrolled children and their families that include health, nutrition, social, and other services determined to be necessary by family needs assessments, in addition to education and cognitive development services. Head Start services are designed to be responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage."

Rodriguez, who spoke with Samaritanmag when he was in Toronto to present at the 2012 MuchMusic Video Awards in June, attended Head Start in his hometown of College Station, Texas, before going to kindergarten.

“A few years ago I went back to visit my old school and all the books I read were still the same and maybe in worse condition, and I really didn’t like that,” Rodriguez says.  “So I told my mom and dad.  I said, ‘You know, I really want to make a difference for the school.’ So we created the foundation in support of the Head Start program.”

The annual federal budget for Head Start is approximately $7 billion for 900,000 children nationwide and the program — which was launched in 1965 by Jule Sugarman as part of Lyndon Johnson’s War On Poverty and has served more than 22 million pre-school aged children to date — has been under close scrutiny the past year after the long-delayed release of the government-ordered Head Start Impact Study, which was begun in 2002.

This is something that was obviously not talked about with the teenaged Rodriguez who has happy memories of his time in the College Station program and sees its worth for children from low-income families.

The Rodriguez family moved to Los Angeles when he was six years old to pursue his sister’s dream of acting. He soon followed. The siblings’ success in the field gave them the means to start their own foundation and help the Head Start school, which needs resources regardless of a study’s findings about “fade out” (learning loss over time).

Rodriguez says he talks about The Raini and Rico Foundation “whenever you guys [the media] ask” and has had help from other sources as well, including other charity events he attends and from Kmart, for which he has been the “Fun Ambassador” two years in a row.

“Kmart is helping me with getting some Uno cards and different cards and books, back to school supplies, and all this stuff from Kmart,” he says. “They’ve given me so many and we give them all to the kids at the school. One year, we had a Christmas party and we had Santa Claus there and we had gift bags and a little cool dinner.”

Rodriguez says soon The Raini and Rico Foundation will have a web site so that fans can follow more closely what he is doing charity-wise.

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.