Oak Ridge students reach out to impoverished kids

By: Penne Usher Telegraph Correspondent
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Sixteen miles away from El Dorado Hills in an impoverished Sacramento neighborhood, elementary school students get in trouble so they can attend Saturday school and be fed. Third graders say the streets are safer than home. It was the story of these less fortunate youngsters that led a group of Oak Ridge High students to start a movement for change. Hayley Padau-Dean, 17, said school officials at Oak Park Elementary School in Sacramento noticed a spike in suspensions and fighting in the afternoons — usually on a Friday. “Come to find out if you get in trouble on a Friday you have to go to Saturday school,” she said. “The kids wanted to go (to Saturday school) so they could be fed. If not they wouldn’t eat until Monday when they returned to school.” The Oak Ridge leadership class learned of the plight of the inner-city school from Jason Harper, director of “Be Change” at the elementary school where he said 100 percent of the student body — 500 in all — receive free lunches. Harper said it was Marcia Moya, a teacher at Oak Ridge High, which approached him suggesting they create a partnership for change. “I’m an Oak Ridge High alumni and the director at the elementary school. I felt a strong connection to the project,” Harper said. With Harper and Moya’s guidance the leadership students have taken the imitative to facilitate change at the inner-city school. “I’m thrilled, overwhelmed and humbled. Their compassion is vast,” Harper said of the high school students. Alex Bennett, 18, a senior and member of “Be Change” said the group is planning a charity dance for Oak Ridge High students to raise money and canned goods for the “Oak to Oak” fundraiser.” “The cost is $10 to get into the dance, but they can bring cans of food to benefit the elementary students — one can equals one dollar,” Bennett said. A food bank in the Sacramento area is now providing the 500 elementary students with four pounds of food each Friday so that they won’t go hungry on the weekends. That equates to 2,000 pounds of food each week. Beginning Nov. 30, each day the high school is a fundraiser day for the Oak-to-Oak drive with monetary donations and t-shirt sales.