Photo: Holly Smith
“[Ours] won't be the biggest check you get this year, but for these kids and this community, it represents something significant: sacrifice and generosity of spirit.”
-John Glover, Founding Principal, Alpha: Blanca Alvarado Middle School
Alpha: Blanca Alvarado Middle School in East San Jose, California is wrapping up its inaugural year. The majority of its student population is economically disadvantaged, but Alpha: Blanca Alvarado is dedicated to ensuring all of its students can access the opportunities their hard work and perseverance merit. Alpha: Blanca Alvarado empowers its students to transform their lives and their community, and the new Student Government Group has already spearheaded several service projects close to home, such as cleaning up local parks and holding a food drive during the holiday season. This spring, despite the myriad challenges the students face in their own communities, they impressed the school’s staff by announcing their plans for a fundraising carnival to send support beyond their neighborhoods, to villages in Africa.
Africare is honored to be the students’ selected recipient for the carnival’s proceeds, and we recently spoke with John Glover, Alpha’s Founder, and Holly Smith, Alpha’s Operations Manager and Student Government Liaison, to learn more about their school and their students.
What do you think compelled the students to focus their fundraiser on African development?
There is a lot of public information out there about poverty in Africa. Kids have seen commercials about other kids who are starving. Some of the students read an article about Africa for their Language Arts class, and found out that many people in Africa lack basic resources and need better education.
How did your students ultimately decide to donate to Africare?
We went on Charity Navigator and picked out a few potential charities, all with positive ratings. Some of the charities we considered targeted just kids, or just women, but Africare's target population wasn't limited by any demographics. The kids really believe that Africare will stick to its mission and serve the people of Africa. The kids also liked that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated to Africare, because Alpha also received a Gates Foundation grant (Next Generation Learning Challenges Wave III) - so they liked that we had a connection with the charity.
Okay, now tell us about the carnival! Did the students conduct practically all the planning and implementation?
The carnival was entirely the students’ initiative. There was guidance and encouragement, but they made decisions independently and had great leadership from their Student Body President, seventh grader Linda Soto-Lopez. The students came up with the idea, developed the budget, created the flyers, got the supplies and staffed the games on the big day.
They had to make strategic choices like determining whether the cost of a dunk tank would outweigh its expected proceeds, and they went to the school board and parents for contributions like food and even moon-bounces for the event to decrease costs.
Did they go for the dunk tank?
Yes! The students got to dunk their teachers…and it was cold!
Photo: John Glover
It’s evident that community service is central to the mission of Alpha: Blanca Alvarado. Could you elaborate on why you place such importance on it?
Everyone who works at Alpha is an advocate of community service. We work hard to make this a great community for our kids and their families, and we love to see kids working hard to improve their own community. When you do something nice for someone, you feel good about yourself. Community service is a great way for kids to build confidence while learning the importance of being a good person. When we asked the kids why they wanted to participate in community service they said, "Alpha students participate in community service because we want to make our community the best that we can. We want to represent Alpha well."
To the community who participated and Alpha’s staff, but most especially to the students who were behind it all, Africare says thank you! We will use the money you raised to empower Africans to transform their communities. If another one of your goals was to represent Alpha well, we have to say, job well done!
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