Century High School Best Buddies/KEEN USA
Individuals with disabilities are often subject to discrimination, so let us unite strength and celebrate dis ABILITY to initiate change!
National Nobody Eats Lunch Alone Celebration! So many students across America carry on day by day with nobody to eat lunch with and feel like they don't belong. From personal experience, I felt the pain of having nobody by your side, especially when you need them most. This year, I took the initiative to host the National Nobody Eats Lunch Alone Day at Century High School, which was generously sponsored by our Higher Education Coordinator.
National Nobody Eats Lunch Alone Celebration at Century High School helps students learn how to make friends with each other. We gathered all of the students eating lunch alone, Best Buddies members, as well as a diverse handful of involved students to create an inclusive environment where everyone could feel comfortable. We hope that by hosting events like these which brings students of all interests together, we can learn to accept others and give a helping hand, especially when most needed.
Lunch party for everyone who has been involved with Best Buddies/KEEN USA kindly hosted by Century's higher education coordinator, Beau Menchaca. At first, we had a hard time getting the students to open up and talk to one another, but after giving a warm welcome to all and explaining why we were where we were that day, they began to feel like they belonged, which allowed for many students to ake life-long friends with others.
Century Best Buddies Keen USA Co-presidents (Yatziri Salgado and Myself) featured on Kiwanis of Santa Ana's Newsletter. Partnering together with various organizations, such as Kiwanis of Santa Ana, we have been able to significantly grow the chapter of Best Buddies/KEEN USA at Century High School. They granted our club with a check that will be used to purchase modified exercise equipment for the students with disabilities. Kiwanis also hosted a day in the park for our students!
Getting ready to display Century's abilities at Special Olympics. Andrea (right), Vanessa (middle), and I (left) are setting up our tent at the district-wide special olympics. Both of my mentees have been training hard every day during P.E. class to build the endurance needed for this day's events. During P.E. class, a group of about 100 students at Century have volunteered to work with all of the program's members and many of them have become very close friends over the course of the year.
Getting those good vibes going before the district-wide Special Olympics officially begins. Jerry (left) and I (right) are hanging out in the bleachers, waiting to receive instructions for the games. Jerry is a little bit nervous, but we are all there to support him and we are proud of everything he has accomplished this year. Jerry loves to run and has been able to receive training through P.E. class as part of KEEN USA. We are super excited to see how Jerry does in his events!
Best Buddies for life! Vanessa (right) and I (left) met each other through Best Buddies/KEEN USA and have ever since become vary close friends. Vanessa and I both have a passion for dance and we sometimes like to jam out to our favorite music regardless of how we are feeling; when we feel down, the dancing lifts us up, and when we're happy, the music serves as a platform through which we can express our happiness!
Jerry (pictured at left with me on his right) did amazing in the district's special olympics. He competed in three events and came home with 2 gold metals and 1 silver metal. Jerry's training has really paid off and we will continue to train for next year's games which are bound to be a blast. Keep an eye out for this future olympian!
Jerry displaying his metals from the events he won! At the games, there were over 1,000 out to support students with disabilities, and it was a great source of encouragement for those competing, because they felt the care others directed towards them. It was a great chance for me to meet the student leaders from local middle and high schools and I look forward to partnering with them this upcoming year!
Disney Dreamers and Doers Recognition Luncheon. At this event, Disney recognized me on behalf of Century High School's Best Buddies/KEEN USA chapter with a $1,000 donation. It was inspiring to hear about the projects guided by other young leaders in the local Orange County community, and I had the chance to meet some incredible students now stand as some of my best friends; they have helped is connecting me with the right resources needed to expand the support network at Century High School.
The Century family coming out to support the Centurions participating in the St. Baldrick's event for children with cancer. Yari and I (Co-Presidents) promoted the event throughout the school and the outcome was incredible! We had so many students who wanted to create a sense of understanding for young patients with cancer and sent so much love towards them. The great number of our school's staff, students, and classified employees came out to support the students taking such a brave stance!
Century High School's principal, assistant principal, two counselors, and 38 students participated in the St. Baldrick's event to shave their hair off for children with cancer! This event was hosted by the Best Buddies/KEEN USA program and we were able to fundraise over $3,000 dollars for children with cancer. Part of creating an inclusive environment for individuals with disabilities can be achieved by setting an example to follow; we hope to inspire those around us to follow in our footsteps.
Century High School Counselors, Tomas Hernandez and Marta Sanchez participated in the St. Baldrick's event! To see that staff was participating in the event was very powerful, because it solidified the idea of a Century family in that we support one another with our actions. It was an honor to have to many individuals throughout the school participate in the greater cause!
Jesus, one of our fellow Centurions, shaved off his hair for children with cancer as part of the St. Baldrick's foundation. His hair was at least 8 inches before he shaved it off, and he had been waiting for the right moment to do so; he decided that his best opportunity was waiting for him and we are so proud of this brave step he has taken. Many of our mentees part of the program look up to him for his bravery and compassion towards others.
Jesus, one of our fellow Centurions, shaved off his hair for children with cancer as part of the St. Baldrick's foundation. This picture is marks the halfway point for Jesus's haircut. His hair was so long and curly that they had to first cut off a few inches, then use the trimmer to shave the rest of it off. Jesus had the support of so many friends and teachers in the process, and we stand as a proud family for what he has done.
This is the end-product of Jesus after he shaved off his hair for children with cancer as part of the St. Baldrick's foundation. He is always such a happy students and serves as a mentor for the students with disabilities in the Best Buddies/KEEN USA chapter. Jesus loves to help others and is a key role model on campus as a star athlete, musician, and scholar!
Yari, Best Buddies/KEEN USA Co-president, and Dr. Swanson, Century High School's Principal. Dr. Swanson shaved his hair off to raise money for children with cancer; he is proud of his school and the great ways in which we are contributing to the local community.
Mr. Nick, our advisor for the Best Buddies/KEEN USA program at Century High School, before shaving off his hair for the St. Baldrick's foundation. Check out the after photo...notice a change?
Mr. Nick radiating with positive energy after shaving his hair for children with cancer. He has been such a great support his past year with the establishment of the chapter. Working alongside him and his students with disabilities, we've been able to accumulate over 400 mentoring hours in the pst nine months!
Waiting for the bus so that our buddies can enjoy a nice day at the park! The Best Buddies/KEEN USA program at Century High School plans community-based excursions for the mentees so that they can exercise different skills they have learned from their mentors. In this picture, they have learned how to plan the routes to arrive at a desired destination by using the OCTA bus app.
Having fun at the park! A part of Best Buddies/KEEN USA program at Century promotes the carrying out of healthy habits. After learning about various aspects of health from their mentors, they are trying to maintain a nutritious diet and exercise balance. Three of my mentees are pictured at the park and are enjoying the wonderful Southern California weather!
Biking at the Park with adult mentors. Pictured are three of the program's mentees with two volunteer adult mentors enjoy spending time together. One of the mentors is a basketball coach at Century High School and works on improving the healthy habits of the mentees.
A wrap to the fun day at the park! The mentees learned a lot that day, from taking a bus to renting a bike, the day was quite the experience and the program looks forward to planning more excursions like this. Partnering with other schools in the local area, we can host district-wide events in the future, so that all students with disabilities can get together for a good time!
Hanging out with some of my mentees! Social skills are a main focus of the Best Buddies/KEEN USA program at Century High School, and we want to ensure that students feel comfortable when around others; we teach them how to interact in casual environments but also teach them to dress professionally, give handshakes, and make good impressions when in professional environments.
Abel, one students with a disability at Century High School, loves being part of the support network. He was an incredibly shy young man when we first met him and didn't want to talk much. However, after checking in with him every day, initiating conversation, and playing games, Abel began to reveal his incredibly sweet personality to us. As a freshman, he is preparing for his next year in high school, and we, as his mentors are making sure that he on track for graduation .
Having fun at lunch ft. Mr. Nick (Best Buddies/KEEN USA advisor at Century High School). During lunch, the other mentors and I enjoy hanging out with our mentees in their kitchen; sometimes, we will play games, talk about our day, or just get up to dance! We want the students with disabilities to feel comfortable interacting with their peers, so we focus on successfully communicating with one another when together.
Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?
Founding Date: 8/22/17
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Our society can often times marginalize individuals based on their external appearances without appreciating who they are as a whole. This is especially true for individuals who have a visible disability or handicap. It is not the wheelchair nor the braille letters that define the individual but rather the limits that society imposes on them. My goal is to help resolve discrimination against individuals with disabilities to ensure equality.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
I will approach the issue of discrimination against individuals with disabilities through community education and goal-specific workshops to create a level playing field and better integrate disabled individuals into every-day society. I plan on developing a support network for individuals with disabilities in my immediate community. The first aspect of this plan is to host a series of workshops where members can enhance their skill set, and learn about various work and educational opportunities available to them; examples include health resources, educational pathways, as well as job openings. As part of these workshops, I would also like to bring inspirational speakers with disabilities who can reflect on their own journeys to success and encourage others to set after their goals. This support network will be open to all individuals with disabilities and there will be a series of age-specific activities hosted that will focus on their specific needs.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
This example will analyze Steve's involvement with the program: Steve is one of my mentees and is starting his senior year of high school. He is very excited for what the future year holds for him but he doesn't know about how he can prepare for his future aside from the minimal amount of educational instruction he receives during class. As part of the program, a handful of mentors, including myself, will help Steve plan a post-high school educational plan. As Steve's mentor, I will regularly meet with him to ensure that he completes his high-school courses, meets with the DSPS office at the local community college, and takes an entrance exam for the placement of his classes. In doing so, Steve can successfully prepare for the next step in his educational journey and be better prepared to enter a career after his studies.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
This program will be open to individuals with disabilities of all ages and will allow for exposure to opportunities from a young age to help prepare the members for real-world interactions. The program will be a large network that is home to various resources that individuals can reach out to as desired. The program focuses on the socio-economically disadvantaged community in Santa Ana, which is home to approximately 25,000 disabled individuals under the age of 65. With this program, we will initiate change in the community by inspiring people to achieve great feats and overcome barriers.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
In less than nine months, this support network, which was established at Century High School by the name of Best Buddies/ KEEN USA, has involved over 500 community members at and outside of school, in an effort to develop an inclusive environment for all students with disabilities. The idea for this project stemmed from my own challenges with epilepsy, a neurologic condition that causes me to have sudden and uncontrolled seizure. My own struggles made me realize that the problem of social isolation was not unique to me and that many of my peers with disabilities felt the same way. By planning excursions that focused on interactions with others in our community, I've been able to foster a sense of security and instill confidence in those involved in the program. In doing so, I've created a network where people which disabilities have access to more resources and have a sense of belonging.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
This upcoming school year my group and I are planning on partnering with the special education departments at other local high schools and adult continuation schools in the district to host events where members can congregate and grow their social network. In these events, we will also invite community organizations to host informational fairs for members. Partnering with the local community will allow for direct support in program activities and funds. The goal of this program's support network lies behind the idea of people helping those around them. In this way the network can continue to grow via social media and provide help to disabled individuals on an even larger scale.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
1) Continue to partner with community organizations focused on helping individuals with disabilities.
2) Raise funds to host social events that will foster interaction skills and the growth of a steady support network.
3) Create a social medial platform to publicize this resource to the greater community.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100
Donations between $100-$1k
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
The presence of a support network for individuals with disabilities relies on the contributions of everyone as a whole, and as we grow in numbers, the greater we are able to contribute to the community. At Century High School, the network of students helping spread the word, friends showing support in our actions, classmates aiding in projects, teachers fostering confidence, and administration hosting school-associated events have unitedly established an all-embracing community for students with disabilities at school. Outside of school, community organizations have given a helping hand by providing resources to support the incorporation of individuals with disabilities into society; by working together as a family, leaders in and outside of school have made this network possible. Our future lies in the hands of young leaders who are making plans to improve certain aspects of our world and as a young leader myself, I find it important to share ideas amongst other leaders so we can unite strength. Leaders can support one another by giving advice and finding ways to work together towards a common goal such that we can grow upon the scale of impact in our local communities and beyond.
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?
White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian) (7)
Middle Eastern or North African (for example: Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian) (11)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?
Communities of color
How did you hear about this challenge?
Recommended by others
Word of mouth
Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?
Beau Menchaca, Century High School Higher Education Coordinator