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Hart High School students give back

Classmates make local impact with participation in community service projects

Posted: December 29, 2009 9:36 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hart High School students Danny Aguilar, left, and Pedro Herrera pose in matching outfits. Aguilar's shaved head and outfit are in support of Herrera, who is battling leukemia.

Students at Hart High School know the importance of giving a helping hand where it is needed.

The school's Honors Anatomy and Physiology students were given the opportunity to participate in a variety of community service projects geared toward benefiting cancer research and awareness.

From swim-a-thons to volunteering, students raised funds in a variety of ways in order to benefit the organization of their choice.

Participating junior, Daniel Aguilar, 16, commented on the opportunity of a lifetime that saves one life at a time.

"It was a pretty cool experience to get involved with something that helps other people," Aguilar said. "Time and money are both momentary. It's what you do with them that gives hope and can last forever."

Aguilar decided to use his time to raise money for his friend Pedro, 17, who has been diagnosed with leukemia.

Rallying for Pedro became a community effort, when Aguilar wrote letters explaining his friend's condition and asked for donations to support medical expenses and hospital bills.

"I knew that every little bit helped so I was hoping to get something like $100 to send to Pedro and his family," Aguilar said. "I ended up raising over $500! I visited his family to give them the money and they were so grateful, they cried. I'll never forget how good it felt to give and that will definitely last forever with me."

But other students had their own experiences that left lasting impressions.

Swim team students, Hayley Good and Sam Asencio, 16, suited up to use their aquatic skills in a whole new way.

"We swim every day anyway, so we thought it would be easier to help out if we apply it to what we are already doing in our lives," Asencio said.

Asencio paired with Good to create a swim-a-thon, asking teachers, parents and friends to sponsor them as they each swam three-and-a-half miles to benefit cancer research.

Lapping their way to their goals, the pair raised $500 and presented their donation to the Santa Clarita Valley branch of the American Cancer Society.

"It was so easy to do and we found that a lot of people wanted to help. We realized that there are so many different ways to contribute to helping others," Good said. "It doesn't have to take a lot of time if it can be applied to what you already do. This whole experience made me see that and now I'm inspired to do more."

Philanthropic pairs didn't stop at the swimming pool.

Classmates and Drama Club members Josh Kroll, 16, and Matthew Van Der Veld, 17, did what they do best and applied it to a worthy cause of their own.

"We act. That's what we do. So we held a drama showcase to raise funds for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital," Van Der Veld said. "It was really fun and we didn't even charge anything. People just wanted to donate and give to the children that need our help."

Fellow thespian Kroll shared his friend's sentiments.

"I have personally never met someone with cancer, so this experience brought me so much closer to it just by being involved. We were making a difference in our own way," Kroll said. "That's when I saw that even the littlest things you can do can make a really beneficial impact."

Other participating students gave a helping hand to community events for local organizations such as the Michael Hoefflin Foundation and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's fundraising walk, Light the Night.

The amount of lessons learned were far greater than any dollar value obtained.

"We volunteered for 10 hours and all I could think was, ‘It's only 10 hours out of thousands that we have in life,'" said Light the Night volunteer, Parisa Saleki, 16. "If you are someone who has cancer, every second is precious. So why can't we give some of ours?"

Honors Anatomy and Physiology teacher, Paula Bae had a comment of her own to share with the class.

"As a teacher, I am in the privileged position of being a role model for these kids and for me, my hope is to show them that it doesn't take much to make a big difference," Bae said.

Bae has conducted class community service projects for the past four years and this year won't be the last.

"These students are natural leaders," Bae said. "All you need to do as an adult is open that first door of opportunity. Then stand back and watch. They will do the rest."

Alicia Dukov is a student at Hart High School.


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