Five hundred students, chosen for their achievement of academic and civic goals, enjoyed the many attractions of Pacific Park at Santa Monica Pier on Thursday, June 7. The early evening event was part of the Rewards for Results program of the Resilient Youth Foundation, a nonprofit group created by Santa Monica High students committed to instilling good work habits and self-confidence in students in low-income neighborhoods.
Josh Miller, a Samohi junior and president and founder of the foundation, acknowledged the over 40 volunteers who committed their time over the past two years, and particularly the 15 student volunteers who worked the June 7 event. “The pride, strength and genuine gratitude [the students] carried themselves with was humbling and inspiring, and further showed why these students are remarkable,” he said. The foundation worked with Pacific Park to provide the students with unlimited ride wristbands, food and refreshments.
The honored students came mostly from Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles, Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy and Buford Elementary School in Lennox. Teachers, counselors and administrators at the schools set academic and civic goals for their students, and those who achieved the goals came on the Rewards for Results trip.
Martin Sandoval, for six years the principal of Park Avenue, said that many of his 116 students on the trip had never been to the Pier and were delighted with the trip. He explained that Cudahy is a densely populated area with 28,000 people living in one square mile. When he told Miller that they had 12 students killed in two years, Miller was moved, thinking of the grief in Santa Monica over the single student death of his friend Eddie Lopez last year.
When Miller was awarded the Princeton Prize for Outstanding Work in Advancing the Cause of Race Relations last month (Santa Monica Mirror, May 17-23), he dedicated the prize to Lopez and said that he hoped “to motivate students to succeed and excel in school and in life.”
Motivation seems to be central to the work of the Samohi students in the Resilient Youth Foundation. Daniel Garcia, a Samohi junior and community liaison for the group, said, “Many people look past the fact that motivation directly affects grades and test scores. I feel a great sense of achievement knowing we were able to give these kids something to work for.”
Echoed Claire Rush, operations manager for the foundation and also a junior at Samohi: “All of the work we have done this year is really given meaning when I see all of these kids walk in with huge smiles on their faces. The greatest satisfaction comes from seeing that an individual, even if they are in high school, can truly make a difference in their community and motivate students to set high standards and work hard to achieve their goals. I’m just happy that I was able to help coordinate this event for these kids and reward them for their effort they’ve put forth.”
For more information, go to resilientyouth.org.