Students participate in Community Service Week


City Controller Wendy Greuel speaks about the homelessness crisis. Credit: Crystal Baik/Chronicle

Joie Zhang

Community Council coordinated the second Community Service Week of the year from Feb. 24 to 27 to raise awareness about homelessness. The week included a bake sale, speakers at the sophomore and junior class meetings and a hands-on activity to assemble hygiene kits at the senior class meeting.

The goal of Community Service Week 

Michelle Bracken, Interdisciplinary Studies and Independent Research Teacher, Counselor and Community Council Adviser, said Community Service Week was aimed at changing students’ perspectives on community service.

“The goal of Community Service Week is to find creative ways for us to come together and be inspired to look at community service as part of a lifestyle as opposed to just a 12-hour requirement at the end of the year,” Bracken said.

Community Council member Grant Keller ’21 said he wanted the hygiene kits’s seemingly mundane components to make students realize how much they take their privilege for granted.

“I honestly hope they recognize that small stuff like even a toothbrush or a shaving kit can make a difference,” Keller said. “For a lot of Harvard-Westlake kids, that stuff comes naturally from parents or buying it themselves and letting it disappear in their house. Hopefully, packaging the kits makes these students realize the sheer scale of how many people are missing these daily supplies.”

Monday – Bake Sale for the NHIFP

Keller, Delaney Klace ’21, Amy Kronenberg ’20 and Chronicle Assistant A&E Editor Celine Park ’21 coordinated the bake sale Feb. 24 and raised $1240 for Community Council to purchase cans and fresh produce for the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry (NHIFP).

Joy Ho ’22, who bought banana bread from the bake sale, said she thought the fundraiser benefited everyone involved.

“I find it interesting how I’m buying food to help my hunger, while the money is also going to someone else to end their hunger,” Ho said. “In this way, this bake sale helps both parties.”

 Tuesday – Gabriele Hayes and Mark Hayes spoke about “Skid Row Marathon” at the Sophomore Class Meeting

Producer Gabriele Hayes and Director Mark Hayes spoke about their documentary “Skid Row Marathon” to the sophomore class Feb. 25. The film follows Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell’s journey to kick-start a running club on Skid Row to give second chances to 12 people experiencing homelessness.

Kronenberg said she hoped Mitchell’s selfless journey with the Skid Row runners motivated students.

“[Mitchell] thought it was unfair to put people in jail and not care about what happens to the rest of their lives,” Kronenberg said. “I hoped the sophomores would be inspired by these people who went out of their way to make an impact on people’s lives.”

Julia Coffey ’22 said the documentary clip from the assembly taught her to put her setbacks in perspective.

“This assembly has given me a better understanding and a better attitude for when I have my downfalls in life,” Coffey said. “If some people who have an even worse situation [than me] can bounce back up, then so can I.”

 Wednesday – Wendy Greuel spoke at the Junior Class Meeting

Former LA City Controller and Councilmember and current Commissioner of the LA Homeless Services Authority Wendy Greuel (Thomas Schramm ’21) spoke at the junior class meeting about her work surrounding homelessness and how students can help by volunteering hours , donating books and serving the homeless on Christmas morning.

“It’s not only about what you get out of doing this,” Greuel said. “It is also for the people we serve to understand that someone cares, and they are not just a blank face. It is incumbent upon all of us to see that there is hope and there is something we can do.”

Andrew Gong ’21 said he thought the documentary clip provided him with a more profound connection to the stories of people experiencing homelessness.

“The moment when [marathon runner Rebecca Hayes] just broke down crying in happiness and said that she hoped her children didn’t have to experience what she did really puts in perspective how hard homeless life can be and how similar all of us are to the people we walk by on the streets,” Gong said.

Thursday – Hygiene Kits assembled at the Senior Class Meeting

Community Council member Carli Cooperstein ’20, Keller and Park purchased toiletries for seniors to assemble 500 hygiene kits at the senior class meeting .

LA Family Housing Programs Coordinator Lesem Puerto said the hygiene packages will make a meaningful impact for the hundreds of families LA Family Housing serves.

“These hygiene kits go to individuals that we house at our bridge housing locations as well as to people on the streets who are not ready to come indoors yet,” Puerto said. “Each week, we turn around about 200 hygiene kits, so this is going to be a huge impact.”

Alex Mieszala ’20 said the speed with which the senior class was able to assemble the hygiene kits underscored how easy and simple it can be to help out .

“Each dean group only spent a few minutes packaging, which showed me that a little bit of effort goes a long way to help,” Mieszala said.

Puerto said individuals can become a part of the solution by starting with something as simple as a mindset shift.

“I want to emphasize that homelessness is an issue in LA but not necessarily an identity, which is why we like to refer to the people we serve as people experiencing homelessness and not homeless people because that marginalizes their identity more,” Puerto said. “I think on the day-to-day, [youth can help by] acknowledging that people who are experiencing homelessness are still people. Sometimes just a smile really helps and goes a long way because this is all about that human interaction and connection.”