The Oracle

Students make difference in community, share passions through school clubs

The Oracle

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Written by: Erica Lee, Emily Yao and Anuva Ganapathi

Happiness through Service

During club day, the quad was packed with students perusing through the eclectic club stands. Among them was the Happiness Through Service club, started by juniors Isabella Costanza, Misheel Enkhbat and Paul Kang. According to Costanza, the club’s goal is to relieve the stress that builds up for students as the year goes on. “I’d like it to revamp the meaning of community service to change it from somewhat of a burden and a dreaded obligation, into something that genuinely makes people happy, on both the receiving and especially the giving end,” Costanza wrote in an e-mail.

Although the club is brand new, they have ideas on how to create a happy environment. “We try to do small everyday things that can make a small impact on random people,” Kang said.

The Happiness Through Service club joined up with Not In Our Schools Week to create a random act of kindness wall. Students wrote down Random Acts of Kindness that they have done, seen or received on notes and stuck them on the wall. The purpose of the wall is to promote a sense of community among fellow students. “The idea came to our minds when we were brainstorming ideas of how to better the environment,” Costanza wrote. “Because Gunn has a more stressful atmosphere, we thought that the wall would be a good way to bring a smile to any student on campus.”

The club is planning on having a teddy bear drive, where students will be able to donate teddy bears to patients at a children’s hospital. In order to ensure quality and safety, the teddy bears will have to be new and have their original tags. The size of the teddy bear will not matter. “Everyone loves teddy bears, and a teddy bear drive is a great way to spread the love,” Kang said.

As a group, they plan on doing community service activities that are relevant to Gunn students and mean something personal. “We do not want to do something just for the sake of getting community service hours,” Kang said. “We want to create a club that will have an impact on the community and on people.”

Students interested in the club should report to room M-1 during Tuesdays during lunch.

Math Circles

They’ve got 99 problems, and calculus, algebra and geometry are just a few of them. On Feb. 2, members of the Math Circles club participated in the annual Stanford Math Tournament (SMT), a student-run math competition held at Stanford University. Gunn Math Circles sent two teams: Gunn A and Gunn B. Gunn A, which consisted of seniors Helen Jiang, club president Utkash Dubey and Harrison Ho, juniors Calvin Huang and Charles Liu, sophomore Quinn Wu and freshmen James Shi and Justin Yang, placed 14th overall with 546.45 points. “Our team was a mix of a few veterans and some newcomers, so it was great to be able to place when math competitions get more competitive every year,” Liu said.

In addition, Gunn A scored seven points  out of 15 in the team test, which includes algebra, geometry and number theory among other topics. According to Liu, the problems are more difficult and require collaboration among team members to coordinate and solve all of the problems. Their score landed the team in a seven-way tie for fifth place out of 82 teams.

In the individual tests, Huang placed second out of 144 participants in the calculus test, while Liu qualified for the algebra test tiebreakers. He was in the top 15 out of the 267 participants in the algebra test.

The team also put their skills to the test on Feb. 16 at the Harvard-Massachusetts Institutute of Technology (MIT) Mathematics Tournament (HMMT), an annual math tournament for high school students that alternates between taking place at Harvard University and MIT. The club sent seniors Dubey, Jiang, George Yu, and sophomores Armin Namavari, Wu and Elizabeth Chang-Davidson to represent the club.

The tournament consisted of three individual tests-in algebra, geometry and- combinatorics and two team events: the 60-minute Team Round and the 80-minute

Though the team did not place, a few individuals, including Dubey and Jiang, improved significantly from last year’s HMMT standings. “We didn’t have a lot of preparation going into HMMT, but we still had a lot of fun at the tournament,” Jiang said.

While the team prepares for the Berkeley Math Tournament, the members already have their sights on next year’s goals. “Right now we are building a strong foundation for the team with the underclassmen, so they can continue competing after the seniors leave,” Jiang said.

 YCS Interact

Every year, the Youth Community Service (YCS) club provides students with an opportunity to give back to their community in a variety of different ways. One of their biggest events of the year is Service Day, which allows students to get involved in their community and expose themselves to new situations and opportunities that they might not have otherwise explored. Students can choose from several locations and organizations to work with. “It is our hope that through Service Day students will create an impact in their community and in turn be inspired to continue serving the community outside of school,” said YCS Palo Alto Youth Program Director Alicia Gregory.

Service Day started in the 1990s when former mayor Yiaway Yeh was looking for a way to get more involved in the Palo Alto community after participating in service at Jane Lanthrop Stanford Middle School (JLS). “Yeh wanted to create the same experience for students on his campus and create change in his community,” Gregory said.

This year, in order to accommodate more students, YCS is adding on-campus projects for students to participate in during lunch. “We recognize that missing a day of school is simply not feasible for some students,” Gregory said. “However, we want to be sure to create a space for all students to participate in service.”

Though Service Day is meant to benefit the numerous organizations involved, it is also meant to encourage high school students to participate in and enjoy community service. “To high schoolers, community service is often seen as an obligation,” YCS president junior Justice Tention said.  “YCS uses Service Day as a means of highlighting not only how service benefits the entire community, but also how it can be enjoyable and how the volunteers can get something out of it as well.”

Participants all receive six community service hours along with free breakfast before they start volunteering.

The club has continued to make changes in its plans  in an effort to improve Service Day each year. Last year, almost every spot was filled up. This year, every single spot filled up a week before sign-ups closed. “Last year’s Service Day had a couple of locations that did not get the positive response we had hoped for,” Tention said. “This year, we have replaced those locations with a few new ones that will hopefully receive a more positive response, including the Nine Lives Foundation, where students will get to work with at-risk kittens.”

Students have had positive responses towards Service Day, and most choose to participate in the event in ensuing years. “It’s a really good experience, and you feel really good about it afterwards,” freshman Elisa Alfonso, who participated at JLS, said. “You get to know the people you are working with, and you’re doing good for the community.”

The variety of organizations available to work with also allows students to explore new fields and opportunities. “You can choose to work with certain organizations that might help you decide or learn more about certain careers,” Alfonso said.

Regardless of where one chooses to work, Service Day is a great opportunity to bring the community closer because it allows students to help others and benefit themselves as well. Community service should be about more than volunteer hours recorded on a piece of paper. According to YCS members, Service Day is about bettering the community as a whole, helping a good cause and getting youth to continue service beyond high school.


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Students make difference in community, share passions through school clubs