An inside look at Blair's budding service-based clubs
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL BLAIR CHAPTER
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than seven million people campaigning for justice and human rights. The organization focuses on investigating and exposing human rights violations, lobbying governments and companies and telling stories of activists. Blair's new Amnesty International Chapter brings this altruistic movement home to one of the county's largest and most diverse high schools.
The core of Amnesty International at Blair lies in school-wide monthly workshops and dialogues that club members plan at the weekly meetings. Events are centered around national and international human rights issues.
Chapter co-chair Cecelia Bauer (senior) recognizes the importance of diversity in their conversations about intersectionality and equality. "We hope to attract people with different backgrounds and opinions who can drive interesting discussions during our club meetings," she says.
Bauer and fellow co-chair Adiba Chowdhury (senior) also have plans to expand Amnesty International Blair Chapter's events beyond the school to the community as well.
As Takoma Park Middle School alums, sophomores and leaders Lana Anderson, Leela Mehta-Harwitz, and Shrujana Kunnam carry on their favorite club from middle school to Blair: Difference Makers.
The club meets weekly to prepare goods and plan volunteer events. In the past, Takoma Park's branch made piñatas to host birthday parties for homeless children and written cards to veterans. "This week, we're working on toiletry bags to help the victims of the recent hurricane in the Bahamas," Anderson says.
Anderson, Mehta-Harwitz, and Kunnam are set on organizing two events per month, often times partnering with other organizations such as Special Olympics and Snow Angels . "We try to pipeline volunteers there to shovel snow for the elderly and disabled," Mehta-Harwitz says.
Mehta-Harwitz wants to utilize the untapped potential of Blair volunteers to expand the scope of Difference Makers. "When you have older kids, there's a lot more versatility," she says. "People can get places on their own and do their own projects."
This versatility comes in handy with passion projects, a key component of Difference Makers. "Passion projects are where people have a particular cause that they're interested in, so they take charge and we just help them," Mehta-Harwitz says. The club hopes that a volunteer base comprised of older students will facilitate more intensive, ongoing project.
Kunnam alludes to the joy of helping others. "I like seeing people happy and seeing getting to understand how other people live," she says. "It's very eye opening and rewarding."
Anderson stresses that membership isn't necessary to participate— in fact, students can simply show up to events as a convenient way to earn SSL hours. "It's very low commitment. And people don't have to come to meetings every week to stay for the full length of the meeting," Anderson says.
Students can commit on an activity-by-activity basis. "It's more like a coalition of people agreeing to do good things," Mehta-Harwitz says. "If you want to do one good thing, please come and do the one good thing, and hopefully you'll do more."
Junior and Paper Bridges branch founder Yichi Zhang sits down with fellow club members to write letters to orphans around the world. "When we send out our letters, we are essentially building bridges between students in our area with orphans who can often feel alone," Zhang says.
According to Zhang, the idea was born two years ago by students at Richard Montgomery High School who visited a rural community in China. Moved by the misfortune of the large orphan population in the community, they established Paper Bridges as a nonprofit to communicate with the students. "It was heartbreaking to see young students struggle and fall behind both socially and academically as a result of a lack of love and affection from their caregivers," Zhang says.
At its core, Paper Bridges aims to provide the support these children lack. Zhang's goal is simple: care through communication. "Everyday people can make a superhuman impact on parentless children seas away," she says. "We want to remind them that no matter what happens, they have people who believe in them."
Paper Bridges meets every Thursday during lunch in room 147. Their next meeting is on Oct. 10. Contact Yichi Zhang with further questions.
SMART SACK CLUB
One look inside Smart Sack Club's room reveals a miracle: oriented in an assembly line around the room, students are packing a new set of meals for low-income families at Piney Branch Elementary School. "We provide those less fortunate than us with meals that give them enough nutrition for their developing minds," senior and club president Monica Cao says.
A paper bag starts at one end of the assembly line and makes its way across, filled with the beans, then the tomatoes and the oranges until it reaches the collection of completed bags. According to Cao, they bag 40 meals per week and load them onto teacher sponsor Ryan Gerasimowicz's car.
The meals are uncooked— usually canned foods such as vegetables, tunas, pasta, rice, beans, fruits, and dairy. "All the meals have a balanced nutrition palate like fruit, dairy, grains, etc.," Cao says, since the club's main goal is supplying healthy meals.
While Smart Sack Club successfully reaches their delivery goals, Cao knows that the organization could be much more. "I hope more elementary schools are able to have these meal programs so that no kid is left starving," she says. She hopes to expand to more high school partners as well.
Smart Sack Club meets every Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in room 148. Their next meeting is on Oct. 2. Students who participate are eligible for SSL hours. Contact Monica Cao with further questions.
Vivian Li. Hi! I love all things journalism, art, and the environment. When I'm not working on an article, I enjoy browsing fashion, baking, running, and reading. I'm a huge health nut and I love researching new recipes. At Blair, I'm on the debate and DECA team ... More »