Education / Schools

Baler Community Service Program brings student volunteers to nonprofits

Recent canned food drive with Community FoodBank yielded 1,200 nonperishable items.
SBHS students Tina Javid, Mikhaila Tamondong and Denae Rivera work to collect nonperishable food items. Photo courtesy of Faith Fernandez.
Baler Community Service Program founder Faith Fernandez. Photo courtesy of Faith Fernandez.

San Benito High School students with the Baler Community Service Program recently partnered with Community FoodBank of San Benito to help fill volunteer needs while gaining community service hours at the same time. Founded and driven by current SBHS students to provide volunteers to local nonprofits and organizations, the collaboration saw the service program organize four canned food drive-thru events between Nov. 12 and Nov. 21. Volunteers collected about 1,200 nonperishable food items in total.

“The Community FoodBank assistance project was prioritized, being that the current need for their resources is so great,” said Faith Fernandez, a senior at San Benito High School and founder of the service program. “The COVID-19 epidemic has left many families in our county in a vulnerable state, so we needed to try and help them first by supporting the food bank’s efforts.”

Fifteen students volunteered for the canned food drives. “We keep track of the hours that the students put in, so that they get full credit and can include their valuable community service on their future college and job applications, which is a requirement for many,” Fernandez said, adding that certificates are given to volunteers when service-hour milestones are reached.

“Community service makes students more attractive to universities, trade schools and helps with many other post-high school career plans,” she said.

Fernandez grew up in Hollister and is also director of community service for the school’s Associated Student Body. She helped get the service program off the ground with the help of sophomore Laci Lemos, the program’s deputy director.

“Laci is an energetic go-getter that I can always count on,” Fernandez said. “I’m fortunate to have her as a partner and I can definitely see her taking this program to the next level in the coming years.”

Lemos, active in the community through programs such as 4-H and Girl Scouts, said, “Faith is very organized and a great partner to learn from because she wants to expand our program safely during the pandemic. Community service has encouraged me to be involved and break out of my shell to encourage others as well.”

She added, “I enjoy helping the community because I know my efforts are always appreciated.”

The Baler Community Service Program is open to all San Benito High School students interested in gaining community service hours. The group meets remotely twice a month, and is required to follow the school’s rules of engagement as they apply to how and where students can volunteer.

“Now in the age of COVID-19, there is an extra layer of complexity that we have to account for when planning a project,” Fernandez said. “Our No. 1 priority is that our students are safe.”

The service program’s collaboration is expected to continue, with volunteers resuming their efforts starting Dec. 5.

But it doesn’t stop there. Fernandez has set her sights on getting more student volunteers to help and other nonprofits to reach out for help.

“The Baler Community Service Program is a living legacy and reflection of Baler pride, through meaningful and impactful service to our local community for many, many years to come,” she said. “I envision a day when the students collectively reach 1 million hours of community service. I know that will take many years, but it’s possible nonetheless.”

For more information about the Baler Community Service Program, email advisor Catalina Lemos at [email protected] or call (831) 637-5831 ext. 343.


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Patty Lopez Day

Patty Lopez Day,  has been a reporter for Benitolink since August of 2019.  A journalist and writer by trade she's had work published in print and online media throughout the Bay Area most notably La Oferta, the longest running Bi-lingual, Latino owned media outlet based in San Jose California where she started her journalism career after graduating from UC Santa Barbara with degrees in English and Chican@ studies in 2005.   Lopez Day covers Education, and Local News for Benitolink and remains open to new story ideas, sources and tips on any subject matter of interest to the community at large.