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Student Writers Advisory Group reports on the good in their local communities

The Student Writers Advisory Group (SWAG) took a look at the responses to social issues in their communities, instead of just the issues themselves. Lack of community activities, lack of available blood for medical patients, unhoused people, empty shelves at food pantries — are all issues being tackled by nearby communities.

Youth Action Council fundraises for Children's Healing Art Project

Over the course of two hours, dozens of families crowded through a gallery of student art, chatting with neighbors and unfamiliar faces as they navigated the maze of booths.

In recent years, the Lake Oswego Youth Action Council (YAC) has hosted Outside the Art Room, a showcase where students in grades six through 12 have the opportunity to display or sell their art. On Feb. 21, over 55 artists participated.PMG PHOTO: ASIA ALVAREZ ZELLER - YANG

The centerpiece of the event was the silent auction, composed of a variety of donated pieces. Its proceeds, which totaled over $1200, benefited the Children's Healing Art Project (CHAP), "a nonprofit organization that provides free art programs to children who are affected by illnesses or disabilities," according to LOHS senior Sera Lew, who volunteers regularly with the charity. She's always felt a deep connection to CHAP's mission, explaining, "I love putting smiles on the kids' faces and getting the opportunity to foster connections with them. It's amazing to witness the power of art and the happiness it can bring to them despite the hardships they face."

LOHS senior Lauren Welton is in the midst of her second year on YAC. "I love it because everyone is really connected. It's just a bunch of kids having fun and putting in our two cents to improve the community," she reflected.

YAC provides an effective platform from which high school students in the Lake Oswego School District are able to create and implement projects of their own. They work closely with the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation department, and their events target community members of all ages and backgrounds. Their influence is indelible. This year, YAC has collected and constructed blankets for the Clackamas Children's Center, hosted a free book swap, face painted on the 4th of July, set up a Monster Mash for kids during Halloween and volunteered at the Lake Oswego Holiday Tree Lighting.

As for the group's next undertakings, they hope to host a STEM fair, Earth Day Clean Up and Animal Shelter Drive. Their work is emblematic of how high schoolers can get involved in community service, as LOHS junior Clark Jones noted, "There are so many ways to be active … whether it's through volunteer organizations such as YAC or through high school clubs. An even simpler way is to attend the events that the community puts on -- participation is really important."

Andrea Yang, Lake Oswego High School

Saving lives at West Linn High

Hectic and immediately in session, the West Linn Red Cross Club settled in quickly to handle it's business — doing what they can to help save lives.

According to the Red Cross website, nearly 21 million blood components are transfused every year. Daily, that's 36,000 units of just red blood cells as well as 7,000 platelets and 10,000 units of plasma a day. The need for blood is constant. It is also the main goal of the West Linn High School Red Cross Club.PMG PHOTO: BRIAN MONIHAN - GILL

Meeting every Thursday in a health classroom at lunch, the Red Cross Club spends it's meetings figuring out the best ways to get people involved and willing to donate in the next of their three blood drives.

"We meet every Thursday in the F Lab and just kind of talk about things that are happening," Bryan Geurts, health teacher and the adviser to the Red Cross Club said. "As we get about three to four weeks out from a blood drive we really start organizing and giving students reminder packets about who is eligible."

The gift of blood is an important one according to members of the club, as well as those who donate.

"My grandpa is a doctor. So I grew up knowing the importance of certain stuff like giving blood," Maddie Selby, junior said. "It just seemed like an obvious thing to do."

Selby has donated blood twice, with the first occasion being in the October 2019 Blood Drive.

Due to her family's history in the medical field, Selby knows the importance of donating blood.

"Multiple diseases and injuries require blood transfusions. If healthy people can donate healthy blood it will save lives," she said. Selby also pointed out an interesting aspect of donating blood.

"When you donate your blood, you also learn your blood type and hemoglobin a1c for free, which could be expensive when just testing," she said. Selby learned with her letter that she was type O+. A universal donor type of blood.

In between blood drives though, the club fills it's time with ways to spread the word about the club. Each one steeped in some form of a good deed.

"They sold some stickers to raise money for the people that were affected by the fires in California. They've written well wishes and thank you letters to veterans,' Geurts said, "But the main focus, obviously is running successful blood drives."

Which, based on the reactions from those who give blood is something the club succeeds act.

"A few seconds of pain can save 3 lives,' said Selby 'Donating blood is one of the most humbling things I've ever done."

When asked if she planned to give blood again, Selby had a single word for an answer.

"Absolutely."

Ethan Gill, West Linn High School

Lending a hand

In our contemporary society that often targets its attention toward the bold, quiet change can sometimes go under the radar. However, rooted in the heart and soul of a healthy community is the positive change enacted by those who care about the world they're living in- the volunteers, teachers, parents, students. And within this range is Hands Helping Hands, a community service group for high schoolers in the West Linn Wilsonville area that aims to involve citizens in the practice of giving back. PMG PHOTO: BRIAN MONIHAN - MOORE

HHH, formed by community member Meg Wolfe in 2015, was a group Wolfe initiated for her daughter Abby Wolfe and eight of her soccer friends. It started off as an all girl group, but it's since progressed to include all genders, and consists of high schoolers from all grades. "There's just not a lot of opportunities for high school students to do community service," Wolfe said.

Unlike other, single event volunteering options, HHH centralizes a large focus on interpersonal relationships between group members. Bonding activities are organized and social events are held with the intent of helping build connections.

"A lot of these kids got to know each other really well," Wolfe said. "So there's been some really great friendships that have come out of it."

Centralized around advocating for change, the group takes part in two to five projects a month that can range from helping sort dresses at Abby's Closest to collecting treats for the Humane Society.

"We've donated to the food pantry and they've seen people they know, and it kind of gives them a different perspective," Wolfe said. "Not everyone in West Linn drives BMWs."

So far, HHH has donated over 4000 hours of service to the community, all of which was contributed by the high school students from the seven schools involved: West Linn, Wilsonville, Sherwood, Newburg, Jesuit, Wilson and Horizon Christian.

Currently the group has 85 members, among them Noelle Herrick, a sophomore at West Linn High School. Now an officer on the HHH leadership board, Herrick has been involved in the group for a little over a year.

"To me this group is a way to give back to my community. It's super fun to be involved and I always enjoy the events we go to," Herrick said.

Herrick's cousin, Carson Winscott, a sophomore at West Linn High School, has also found involvement in the group. Winscott has been a member since her freshman year, and originally joined because she heard about it through Herrick.

"I have learned more about helping other people, and how helpful volunteering can be to other people," Winscott said. "I think it has been a fun experience, and I have gotten to do fun things that I otherwise wouldn't have done."

For students interested in getting involved in their community through service projects and volunteering, HHH welcomes new members.

"It's important to get along with all different kinds of people and not just the ones that you've always been around," Herrick said. "HHH is a great way to do that."

Skylar Moore, West Linn High School

The Power of Compassion and Community

The Heart of the City is a ministry of Grace Chapel located in Wilsonville, and is dedicated to partnering non-profit organizations in order to promote health, wellness, and compassion not only locally, but throughout the world. This organization hosts community gatherings, activities, and programs to unite a diverse community and help others to tend to their mind, body, and soul. PMG PHOTO: BRIAN MONIHAN - SCALISE

Anybody in the community in need of any type of assistance is welcome at the Heart of the City. Interior as well as exterior health is addressed with the promotion of sports, fitness, nutrition, and counseling. Services provided by this mission aid those suffering from hunger, poverty, and mental health issues. Heart of the City distributes food and clothing, and provides access to medical clinics, counseling, transitional housing, spiritual guidance, educational opportunities and employment aid.

As Lyn Whelchel, Director of the Heart of the City, explained, "The Heart of the City is making an impact in people's lives through loving the whole person."

"We are also maximizing the use of our 3 counseling offices, as well as our group room, through our low-fee and professional counseling services," Brad Peterson, a Pastor of Grace Chapel, stated. "Wilsonville Community Sharing was able to expand and operate right here in our building since we opened in 2015, hundreds more people in our city are serviced through their programs each year!"

"We do events like 'Share the Warmth' where we collect warm coats and warm clothes for families in need," Whelchel stated. "We also have another event called 'Gear Up for School' where we provide backpacks, school supplies, haircuts, and we provide lunch. We are able to serve around 80 kids at this event."

Some of their partners include the American Red Cross, Wilsonville Community Sharing, Goodwill, Compassion Connect, CityTeam Portland and more. By working together, these organizations are able to combine and have a great impact on hundreds of lives. Heart of the City is able to provide these organizations with the venue needed to carry out events and programs. Furthermore, they refer individuals experiencing certain circumstances to organizations that are specialized in that situation, pointing them in the right direction.

Peterson stated, "If any business, organization, family, or individual has a heart to support what we do, they can always partner with us and contribute to the cause!"

The Heart of the City is constantly looking for additional ways to aid the community as it continues to grow and influence more lives. Peterson expressed, "In addition to making ourselves and our programs visible and accessible to all those who visit or attend Grace Chapel, we utilize The Wilsonville Spokesman for our major events and drives, put up posters & fliers around the community, post and interact on social media as much as possible, and of course word-of-mouth, which is only gaining momentum as we celebrate our fifth year anniversary this February!"

"We are growing and have more people in need reaching out to us," Whelchel explained. "Our only goal we have yet to do is providing showers, washers, and dryers. We have limited space and we would need to fundraise to be able to achieve it. It would be so valuable for our clients as it would take away barriers to get a job or access to just be clean and have clean clothes."

"We have committed from the beginning to make sure we are making the most of what we have now and doing all we can. There are still goals, as well as dreams, we have that will require a little more footprint to accomplish, but there is still plenty to celebrate now," Peterson expanded.

Those looking to contribute to this cause can make a financial donation at www.theheartofthecity.org, or donate supplies such as hygiene packs. There is also the opportunity to volunteer and help to spread this positive impact.

"Under Grace Chapel's 501(c)3 Non-Profit organization status, all financial donations to Heart of the City are tax-deductible," Peterson explained. "Currently, all operating and staff costs of HoC are paid by the generous contributions of our church members, so 100% of donations to Heart of the City go directly to the needs of the clients we serve! This is very unique and quite unprecedented as far as I know regarding community outreach organizations!"

Isabella Scalise, Wilsonville High School

Reaching out to LGBTQ+ Youth

Wilsonville High School has many people who work with their communities with outreach programs and volunteer organizations, Vic Frolov, a senior at Wilsonville High School, being one of them. Frolov serves in leadership roles as a council member of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club at Wilsonville High School, and a member of the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) at The Living Room which is an organization that started about ten years ago to provide a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ youth ages 14-20. It focuses on providing educational resources for communities throughout Clackamas county.PMG PHOTO: ASIA ALVAREZ ZELLER - MAYES

Frolov started attending drop-in meetings that The Living Room offers for LGBTQ+ youth in January of 2019 and made a few friends there who encouraged them to join the Youth Advisory Council at The Living room that April. The Living room offers resources for LGBTQ+ youth through their drop-in meetings that may also have opportunities to take part in activities focusing on self care, life skills, and LGBTQ+ education. The Living Room also organizes community events for youth including GSA summit, and alternative prom.

After enjoying meetings at The Living Room Frolov gradually got involved in leadership within the organization, and began working to help plan events.

" I started helping with the planning of Alternative Prom, mainly in small ways like giving opinions on colors of masquerade masks (the theme was maskQUEERade) I slowly got more involved," Frolov said. "By October, I was on a youth panel for a workshop the Living Rooms' Youth Advisory Council did at the Basic Rights Oregon Conference, and most recently, I was involved with GSA Summit, where I ran a workshop and was also a keynote speaker."

Frolov has greatly enjoyed working with the living room and looks forward to continuing to lend their help in planning events with their next focus being to help plan this year's alternative prom.

Outside of their work with The Living Room Frolov has also worked with a team of students to start the GSA at Wilsonville High School. The club had a group of seniors when Frolov was a freshman that helped run the club and created a hangout space for LGBTQ+ youth at Wilsonville High School. After those students graduated, the GSA didn't have a council to keep it going. However, during Frolov's junior year they worked with two other students at Wilsonville High School to start the club up again with the aspiration to create an educational and supportive environment for students at Wilsonville High School.

"Revamping the GSA was an awesome opportunity for me to really create something brand new, and I'm excited to see how it evolves." GSA council member Lane Walter said.

"I wish I had had a GSA like the one we have now when I was younger as it would have been so helpful to the young and confused me. The joy I feel from helping and teaching others has been incredible." GSA council member Logan Demarais said.

The GSA at Wilsonville High School has grown tremendously over the last few months, the club meets once a week during lunch and offers educational information for anyone attending meetings and a space where LGBTQ+ students and allies can hang out and have fun together.

"A short term goal would be to continue having that environment and increase the number of support we can give to students. A mid/longer term goal would be to get more underclassmen involved in the leadership aspect so I can lead past myself with my involvement in the GSA," Frolov said.

The GSA council has high hopes for the club's future and students look forward to seeing it continue to grow.

Through their involvement in outreach, Vic is happy to feel that they have made an impact in bettering their community and helping their peers to feel safe in their identities.

"It has taught me how to accept myself for who I am. That I am allowed to love myself, and if people don't think I'm allowed to do that, that I can advocate for change. Regardless if it has to do with my gender and sexual identity or not, they said.

Vic is excited to continue their involvement as a YAC member of the living room in the future, and looks forward to seeing the GSA continue to grow after they graduate this year.

Ainsley Mayes, Wilsonville High School


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