Written by Jenna Marvet
On Feb. 25, Gunn’s Youth Community Service (YCS)-Interact Club took part in We Day, a conference recognizing their exceptional community service achievements.
YCS Palo Alto Youth Programs Director Ashley Yee-Mazawa works closely mentoring the students in the YCS-Interact clubs at Gunn and Paly. “I hope that the students that attended We Day came away with the knowledge that they are not alone in their passion and commitment to making their local and global communities a healthier, kinder, happier, and brighter place for everyone,” she said.
We Day is a large stadium concert event that started in 2007 in Toronto, Canada. The California show this year featured performers including Cher Loyd and Joe Jonas as well as speakers such as J.R. Martinez and Kid President. “The speakers were chosen to inspire us and I’m really excited for our We Day attendees to bring their energy back to Gunn,” senior YCS co-president Sandie Luo said.
The goal of We Day is to bring youth together and educate and inspire them to make the world a better place. YCS echoes this sentiment and pushes to integrate the importance of building community locally and outside of Gunn and Palo Alto. “Gunn students are very diverse, and I am happy to know that YCS brings us all together to work towards common goals when we are doing community service,” Luo said.
YCS programs in the area encourage youth to engage in service learning that develops awareness of the needs of their community. “Both YCS the organization and the YCS-Interact Club are deeply committed to bettering our communities,” Yee-Mazawa said. “I say communities plural because each of us is a member of multiple communities, both on the local and global levels.”
To receive tickets to the event, clubs were required to participate in both local and international community service projects in the past year. Gunn YCS contributes to Interact District 5170’s community project, Open Heart Open Arms, which focuses on pushing kids to strive for success in both academics and as individuals. “We want to empower youth through food, education and fellowship, and have the same impact as a big brother and big sister program,” Luo said. “We want to connect with the kids on a deeper level.”
For their international project, YCS has partnered with Free the Children to fund a village in Kenya which suffers from drought and famine. The club members pay for the project using the proceeds they make organizing the spring YCS dance. “We are not sponsoring a specific element of life in the village, but trying to make a large impact on the village as a whole,” junior YCS board member Giannina Yu said.
Although YCS participates in many local community service outings and fundraisers such as volunteering at the Juana Run, doing environmental work in the Arastradero Preserve and organizing their yearly Service Day, sometimes it is hard for members to see the full effect of the work.
“I hope that the members that went to We Day got super excited about what We are doing,” Yu said, “Some people go to meetings every week but do not recognize the large positive impact of YCS and other clubs on our communities.”