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Celebration of Outreach: uplifting the community

By Muskaan Grewal, Ashley Lee, Nam Nguyen and Jonathan Yue June 3, 2020

As a result of the shelter-in-place regulations enforced due to the COVID-19, schools are forced to close and businesses are facing financial instability. Despite the changes that it has brought, San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) and its students have been seeking ways to help the community.

Since closing on March 13, SJUSD has taken proactive steps to address several concerns. The district, which serves more than 29,000 students, partnered with the City of San José to initiate a comprehensive meal service for families in need, providing over 17,000 meals a day.

“I decided to donate to SJUSD’s meal program because I wanted to support families in need. I hope I can help provide meals and leave a positive impact on the community during this pandemic,” Sophomore Chloe Yun said.

The district also provided free Chromebooks and prepaid cell phones with high-speed internet for students with technological issues at home. By bridging the online access gap between students, the district aims to better help students with their distance learning. Along with SJUSD’s initiatives during this shutdown, many students are taking on projects to assist the community. Seniors Sarika Sriram and Uditha Velidandla have organized a tutoring program through the Almaden South Asian Women’s Association’s (ASAWA) youth branch to remotely teach math, English and science to elementary and middle school students during school closures. Juniors Edward Hwang, Brian Kim, Bobak Pourrahimi and Parthiv Seetharaman and Sophomore Dhruv Anish also founded Valley Tutors, a student-run service to provide free tutoring on a broad range of subjects for younger students.

“I want students to understand that even though the current situation is terrible, it does not mean that everything is on pause. Ultimately, we still need to keep fighting and continue learning,” Sriram said.

Before the shelter-in-place policies, Sophomore Kaylyn Choi leads a book club for all K-8 students called the Book Place. She continued the book club online and opened it up to a larger range of students. Meanwhile, Juniors Sam Chock and Anjulee Rusnak and Senior Jasmine Shao have created the Instagram account @switch_the_ lens to advocate for Asian-American solidarity after hearing about the intense racism towards the Asian community.

“Our Instagram account strives to encourage people to look at others as individuals first instead of the stereotypes that correspond to their identity. Our wonderful ambassadors have gathered the statements of students talking about their Asian-American friends to share out in hopes of not only spreading positivity but to also show solidarity against hate,” Chock said.

Even though many antagonistic actions that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic... people have made the best of this situation and left a positive impact on others

To combat a different problem, Juniors Sparsh Garg, Ranjana Raghavan and Riya Shukla founded the ASAWA Meals to Medics program. Upon receiving donations from the community, they purchase meals from local restaurants and provide them to hospitals. By advertising on social media, Meals to Medics has received over $1,600 in donations and delivered over 80 meals to the Good Samaritan Hospital. “Many restaurants—especially smaller, local restaurants—are in a difficult position right now because they are not receiving a lot of business. Therefore, during the weekdays, we try to order 20 to 30 meals per restaurant. Not only does this service help restaurants, but it also helps the medical workers because most hospital cafeterias have closed,” Shukla said. Also tackling the food problem, Junior Katie Le established PseudoServe with her sister and friends, which delivers groceries to senior citizens in the neighborhood who may need their services around five times a week. Additionally, 10 percent of the grocery prices that PsuedoServe delivers are donated to Off Their Plate, an organization that provides economic relief and meals healthcare workers on the frontline. To alleviate the lack of medical supplies, Junior Andrew Kang has been working with his mother and other families around the community to create masks out of coffee filters, leggings and wires for senior centers. Members would go to Kang’s house to drop off or receive materials and return to their homes to work individually. After three weeks, they had donated 960 masks to centers such as Stonebrook, Canyon Springs and Redwood Post Acute. On the other hand, Juniors Dheerj Jasuja and Shreya Thayaparan, as well as Sophomore Riddhi Kulkarni, started a project to provide personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves to homeless shelters. They began a Facebook page as well as a PayPal account and reached out to the community to provide for the four homeless shelters they had chosen. Jasuja said that they wanted to focus on the most at risk in our community, as the team noticed that not many organizations are giving to the homeless shelters. Even though many antagonistic actions that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also brought about many inspiring examples of individuals within the community coming together and reaching out. Every day, people have made the best of this situation and left a positive impact on others. 

What do you think about these kind souls? Let us know in the comments below!

Correction: Previously, we had incorrectly reported Parthiv Seetharaman's name as Parthiv Seetharamdhruv. The correction has been made on Sep. 9, 2020.

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