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Local woman named to Gambit’s 40 Under 40

LAPLACE — Angel Chung Cutno, daughter of Al and Chung Cutno of LaPlace, has been named to Gambit’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2021 for her efforts in making the city of New Orleans a better place for the next generation.

Cutno, 36, is the founder of RE(ad) TREAT, a traveling library that delivers books and mentorship to children ages 4 to 14. Children attending RE(ad) TREAT events read and present oral summaries of books to earn school supplies, STEM kits and other educational tools.

Cutno made an effort to diversify the library with books highlighting the voices and experiences of Black youth. Representation matters, according to Cutno, and she did not have access to children’s book with characters that resembled her when she was growing up.

She plans to partner with schools in the New Orleans area and establish long-term relationships with local children to boost childhood literacy rates.

“When we invest money in scholarships, we are awarding the scholars at the top, but if we take that same money and invest it into the entire student body, we would see a larger return from investing in so many students,” Cutno said. “Through Rotary Club and Asian Pacific American Society, we give away a lot of scholarships. We felt like we could be doing so much more to reach a bigger population of children. It would make a great difference to us to establish deeper relationships with the same children because that’s the only way we will see growth.”

Childhood literacy is close to Cutno’s heart, and she’s felt drawn to education her entire life.

Cutno was raised in St. John the Baptist Parish and completed her K-12 schooling in LaPlace and Reserve. She volunteered at First Baptist Church in LaPlace from an early age and found herself working closely with young children as a camp counselor. She also volunteered as a tutor while studying art education at LSU, and going on to become a teacher felt like a natural progression.

Cutno currently teaches grades K-5, but she has also taught middle school and one year of high school. She moved to California for a period of time, where she volunteered for a program that inspired her to start RE(ad) TREAT in New Orleans.

Cutno will always consider South Louisiana to be her home. She recently began researching her family history and learned she is descended from five generations of Cutnos spread along the Mississippi River.

“To be able to come back from California and really be able to dig into my familial history and to learn about where I come from has really rooted me in wanting to invest in the next generation of youth. I realized so much of who I am is because of the people who have come before me, so I want to do the same for the people who have come after me,” Cutno said.

Growing up in the River Parishes, Cutno often interacted with people who thought differently than her. Being raised in a diverse environment helped her navigate a lot of different social circles and circumstances in a way that felt natural.

She credits her parents, Al and Chung Cutno, for shaping her into the person she is today.

“My parents are vastly different people, and they are both very creative in different ways. The similarity that they do have is being involved in the community, volunteering and serving people. They always instilled in me the value of doing well and achieving the best that is possible for you. I owe them so much,” Cutno said.

Cutno is active in the community as a member of the Rotary Club of New Orleans and the Front Yard Bikes mentoring program in Baton Rouge. She serves on the board of the Fauborg St. Roch Improvement Association and the Asian Pacific American Society. She is also the Queen of the Eighth Ward Black Seminole Masking Indians, which has become an important part of her identity.

Cutno felt humbled and honored to be part of the “40 Under 40,” but she also recognized that there are many other people who are doing great things to better the City of New Orleans.

“I’m glad I get to spread the word about RE(ad) TREAT, but at the same time, I just want to honor the people that weren’t recognized this time. I hope they are in the future,” she said.