In distance learning, many students had to learn to collaborate while physically apart for the first time. Now with in-person instruction, one student has taken that lesson and used it to build stronger bridges between her school and community during this holiday season.
In 2020, Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School junior Sandra Chavez felt limited by nationwide school closures and the fluctuating state of safety amid the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Once we left school due to quarantine, I believe many people really got to see what America was like and what the real world truly was,” Chavez said. “So, I decided to come up with a club in my school that would benefit my community.”
Over remote instruction, Chavez organized We Rise Together, an online club where students discussed issues that directly impacted their community. Chavez collaborated with Ánimo South Los Angeles English teacher Chanti Burnette to host discussions with students over Zoom. Burnette was impressed with how Chavez led the club. “We started meeting every week and talking about different issues that were important to us. We watched documentaries, learned about things that were important to us and it grew a following,” she said.
Giving Back in Person
By August of 2021, Ánimo South Los Angeles students returned to in-person instruction, and Chavez turned her distance learning discussion group into an in-person club. “When we transitioned back into in-person learning, Sandra really wanted to come up with a way to give back directly to our community. Homelessness and unhoused populations had been on the top of mind during our quarantine,” Burnette said.
Chavez and her peers in We Rise Together launched a drive to collect hygienic items and non-perishable food for the local unhoused population in their South Los Angeles community. We Rise Together began collecting items and donations in advisory classes and club meetings in October with a plan to give them away during the Thanksgiving holiday. By November,“we [had] boxes and boxes of supplies,” Brunette said, with cash donations to buy even more goods.
In November, We Rise Together members filled bags with deodorant, femine products, soap, and pre-packaged snacks, and passed them out to unhoused neighbors near ASLA. “I believe the most rewarding thing about giving away these supplies to my community is that [We Rise Together] has made a change in someone's life and put a smile on someone's face,” Chavez said. “I hope We Rise Together inspires the Ánimo South Los Angeles community and our local community to speak up in what they truly believe is wrong in our community, that they learn to give back and they learn that they have a voice they just need to learn how to use it for good.”
Today, Burnette is proud of these students continuing the school’s longstanding tradition of giving back to its community. “We have a family bond at ASLA that’s very strong,” Burnette said. “Now our family bond has extended outside of our gates. Now we're extending out into the community. We have something great here and we want to spread it to others in the community.”
At Green Dot Public Schools, we encourage all students to find new ways to help communities in need—and to take the helm of leadership along the way. Through access to clubs, leadership-based advisory lessons, and on-campus role models, our students have built a community around helping others and spreading joy along their path to success.