Monterey Herald Article

Carmel High students accept community service challenge

Carmel >> A few months back, Carmel High School junior Noah Bernal Parker was asked by his teacher what he would like to do to help out the community.

The athlete in him motivated him to say he’d like to help kids who can’t play a sport because of the lack of equipment or because they simply don’t know how to play.

That idea might actually come to life after he was introduced to the Spero Challenge during a workshop at the school on Wednesday. There, a group of members and non-members from This Club Saves Lives were given the task to take on a project that aims to help change lives

“This is really going to happen, that’s why I’m excited,” Bernal Parker said. “I can actually do this. I can actually create a baseball game with kids that have never played before and I can teach them how to play … Give them something to do.”

The Spero Challenge was recently launched in Monterey County by Brian Bajari. He started the movement to help improve local communities by empowering students to identify challenges and providing solutions. The idea is to get students from fifth grade and higher to attend workshops where they identify community challenges, create a business plan, propose solutions, receive funding and launch their projects.

“That’s the beauty of it, (it’s) giving the freedom to think and act and the permission to act on their own,” Bajari said. “These students are going to come up with unique, creative and powerful solutions for our community. It’s going to have a ripple effect into the fabric of our neighborhoods and into the fabric of how we see each other.”

The students will also have a chance to work with mentors and are given the opportunity to be the CEO of their own student-led service projects in their local community. Bajari, who has organized outreach efforts to the homeless in Monterey among other things, said the kids are encouraged to collaborate with other students to achieve their goals.

Leigh Cambra, a Carmel High health teacher and This Club Saves Lives coordinator, has been trying put to together a class at the school similar to the Spero Challenge.

“This would be an amazing way to kick off that idea because we have so many students here that are really passionate about helping other people,” Cambra said. “To be able to give them an organized way to do it and to give them a mentor, I think that’s so neat.”

Human trafficking, mental health and helping the elderly were just some of the issues that students shouted out during Wednesday’s workshop. The club is currently working on gathering school supplies like backpacks, pencils and notebooks for an elementary school in Salinas so that kids can start with all the tools they need to begin the school year.

“It’s things that they see, it’s things that they hear about and then some of it is really close to home for them,” Cambra said.

Bernal Parker said there’s this idea of people wanting to make a change but nobody really continues to push through and do it. He grew up in Salinas and was always around his dad, who would help those in need with food and water.

“So, I learned from him and then our school would do donations where I’d sponsor a kid. That’s originally where I thought of it,” Bernal Parker said.

Bernal Parker already had some experience of giving back to the community last year during Christmas. He decided that he didn’t want to receive any gifts and instead wanted to supply people in need with care packages for the holidays. That was also about the time he met with Bajari where they came up with the idea of asking his teachers and classmates to help raise funds.

“They have so much empathy themselves and I think this generation just feels so empowered that one person can make a difference,” Cambra said.

Cambra said she’s taken the club on trips where the students meet people who have started a movement like WE Day, which was created by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger more than 20 years ago.

The brothers started the movement with a vision to empower children and connect them with both global and social issues.

“You see that just a couple of people with an idea and then you just start getting it out there and you get some movement behind it,” Cambra said. “It doesn’t take much money, it doesn’t take a lot of celebrity to actually make a big change and I think this generation sees that.”

Bernal Parker said he’s going to continue pursuing the sports program for less fortunate kids, even if it means getting a big van to round them up for a baseball game.

“If we can take them from their home to a baseball field with equipment there, it’d be amazing,” he said. “And I’m not trying to go with one event, I’m trying to create something that can be sustainable and go on for as long as I can make it go on for…. I’m trying to keep this going.”

Juan Reyes can be reached at (831) 726-4360



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