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Transforming Challenge into Service: O’Dowd Students Lead by Serving

While the call to serve is threaded throughout O’Dowd’s culture, curriculum, and programs, students who have been unable to engage in direct service to others amid COVID-19 and Shelter-in-Place orders have found creative ways to contribute to the common good.

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Volunteer-mapping for Reading Partners Reading Partners, a national nonprofit, helps children become lifelong readers by empowering communities to provide individualized instruction with measurable results. Their mission and work relies on the recruitment of literacy volunteers. O’Dowd students Abigail Pagila ‘20, Sariyah Shabazz ‘21, Sebastian Madrigal ‘21, Steffi Smith ‘21, Connor O’Leary Herreras ‘21, Neha Gupta ‘20, and Olivia Yau-Weeks ‘20 reached out to regional colleges, seven in total, and created an asset map of leaders at these colleges who will serve as points of contact to recruit volunteers at their schools to participate in the important work of child literacy in the Bay Area.

<img class="alignright size-full wp-image-36360 lazyload" src="" alt="" width="193" height="193" srcset=" 193w, 150w, 45w" sizes="(max-width: 193px) 100vw, 193px" />Advocating with Coalition for Concerned Medical Professionals (CCMP) CCMP is a nonprofit that advocates for comprehensive medical care for low-income workers in the Bay Area. Former faculty member Fritz Bloom is a huge advocate and made their connection with O’Dowd. After teacher and Anawim Project Coordinator Sara Bauermeister sent a request to O’Dowd partner organizations asking how O’Dowd may be of service during this time, CCMP reached out with a request for student advocates. To date, seven O’Dowd students have received training via Zoom to serve as advocates. Esmeralda Pedroza ‘21, who is engaging with CCMP as part of her Anawim service project, shared, “Volunteering at CCMP has made me aware of all the things we have that we take for granted, such as basic necessities.” Maeher Parihar ‘21, who is interested in pursuing a medical career in her future, shared, “I’m very excited to be a part of the team at CCMP that helps to get health insurance for the families that need it most especially during this pandemic.” Says Maya Pérez ‘22, of her experience, “I was partnered up with a good friend of mine, Alana Mieses ‘22, and we went straight to work! We reached out to recipients in need of medical care and resources and learned a lot about them and their challenges, especially during this horrible pandemic. Being able to assist them and communicate with organizations and clinics that are able to provide them with what they need during all of this chaos has been wonderful. CCMP has truly inspired me and brought things into perspective for me.”

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Delivering care and joy to community elders and those in need Other O’Dowd students have shown up for the elders living in care facilities and retirement communities where no visitors have been able to go since the shelter-in-place orders. Luke Olmos ‘21 was an active volunteer at the retirement community Oakmont of Mariner Point in Alameda prior to the coronavirus pandemic. After shelter-in-place, he was encouraged to create cards for the residents. He and his family made approximately sixty cards and dropped them to “provide some joy” to the residents during this challenging time. Kelly Murphy ‘21 and Ciara Murphy ‘21 made and delivered 70 cards for residents at Oakmont of Santa Clarita. Kelly shared, “We had a great time doing this! I have also been making a bunch of masks for St. Anthony’s and volunteering every week at an elementary school handing out free meals for kids.”

Peter Schmitz ’21 is volunteering at Youth Employment Partnership. “I’m cooking meals for homeless people, and some of them come help with the cooking (don’t worry, I’m still practicing social distancing).”

Virtually assisting students at the Boy & Girls Club Several O’Dowd students have also been on group Zoom calls where they’ve done things such as help with homework and lead art activities for younger children who are quarantined at home in East Oakland. Bella de Jesse ‘21, Steffi Smith ‘21, and Connor O’Leary-Herrera ‘21, have all been involved. Said Connor, “So far I’ve led the kids in a drawing activity, participated in math puzzles, and played trivia games with them. It’s been super cool to spend time with the kids and connect with them!”


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