ACHS Club supports financially struggling students and families

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© Iris Smoot/Acorn Newspapers
Members of Adolfo Camarillo High School’s TEENS Club raise money to provide basic necessities for students whose family are strugglingfinancially. © Iris Smoot/Acorn Newspapers
Twenty backpacks, 400 rolls of toilet paper, stacks of canned food and dozens of toiletries may seem like a random pile of household wares, but to teenagers in financial need it means getting by for one more day.A variety of basic necessities were donated to local families through Adolfo Camarillo High School’s TEENS Club, or Teenage Endeavors Elevating Neighboring Students.

The club works to assist students on campus who are in financial need and can’t afford everyday items.

“Camarillo is a nice area, but most people don’t realize there are a lot of families struggling here,” said club co-president Akemi Levine. “We want to educate everyone else in Camarillo and raise awareness.”

“We wanted to start the club to help other students in the school because we thought there couldn’t just be one (student in need),” Jordin said.

A year later, the club has helped 11 Camarillo families.

The identities of the teenagers in need are unknown to the club members. Sue knows only a handful.

ACHS teachers are asked to look for signs that a student may be struggling financially, such as wearing the same clothes every day, borrowing school supplies from other classmates, never bringing lunch and not buying a uniform for P.E. class.

The teachers then approach the students and ask if they need help with basic necessities.

Akemi said the students “are usually embarrassed,” so their identities remain a secret.

The 35 club members have raised money through food sales and classroom donations and plan to hold a car wash. They have held donation drives for toiletries, school supplies and canned goods.

At Christmas they gave $50 each to eight families and helped one family pay one month’s rent.

“I feel that the families are really appreciative, and it’s very emotional whenever we make a delivery,” Sue said. “I guess it’s hard enough for them to speak up about their situation, but then they actually receive the stuff.”

In addition to helping the school’s students, the club members volunteer once a month to feed the homeless with the Many Meals nonprofit at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Camarillo.

“We’re just so blessed, and it’s important for us to realize how lucky we are,” Akemi said.

“I think it’s important to somehow make a difference in the world.”

The club members have also organized donation drives for toiletries, Christmas presents, backpacks and Halloween costumes for Casa Pacifica, a Camarillo based nonprofit that aids abused, neglected and at-risk children.

“It’s just a really rewarding feeling that just a little group of people can make a big difference in peoples’ lives,” Akemi said.

ACHS freshman Brandon Pillado said he never knew how many people his age needed basic necessities. He joined the TEENS club because he would want another student to reach out if he was in a similar situation.

“There’s a lot more people than we think who need help and are struggling right now, and if more people know about it then more people can help, and those families can get back on their feet.”

Brandon said the TEENS club is important because young people should feel compassion for their peers. If the club wasn’t on campus, he said, many students would probably not get involved.

“I think it’s important for students to help other students because they’re in your community and they’re people who live around you, and they could even be your friend,” Brandon said. “You learn responsibility and you figure out there are other people going through struggles you might not being going through.”

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