TPHS classes use finals to give back to the community

AP Seminar, Callender

To combat food insecurity during the holiday season, TPHS English teacher Lisa Callender encouraged students in her AP Seminar classes to participate in a donation drive benefiting the San Diego Food Bank in the weeks leading up to winter break.

“In AP Seminar, one of the philosophies that we focus on is utilitarianism and the true motivation behind doing good work,” Callender said.

During finals week, Callender’s three periods of AP Seminar walked to Ralphs in the Del Mar Highlands to complete the donation project and wrap up their Wealth, Poverty and Social Class unit.

In preparation for this trip, students recorded their meals for three days to observe what foods they ate. Students then located their dietary staples when visiting the store, noting the costs of each to figure out how expensive their diet was. In addition, students could voluntarily challenge themselves to buy food to donate to the San Diego Food Bank using $5, the amount that some must use to feed themselves for three days, Callender said. 

This proved to be difficult, particularly in a time of inflation and crowded stores during the holiday season.

“I paid the most attention to buying baby formulas, dry pantry products and canned goods,” Gigi Speziale (10) said. “Soon, I realized how difficult and frustrating it was to find a healthy and sustainable amount of food for under $5.”

Through their participation in the field trip, students were surprised to learn how high food prices  prevent the impoverished from consuming a nutritional diet. 

“I think Torrey Pines students should understand the entirety of our community and the vastness of different people’s needs,” Camille Kraft (11) said.

Taking the opportunity to donate packets of rice, AP Seminar student Krishna Visanakarrala (11) agreed.

“I learned a lot about the lives of some individuals and realized how fortunate I am to live the life that I do,” Visanakarrala said. “If you have the opportunity, volunteering will most definitely make a difference in our community.”

U.S. History, Drake

Before winter break, TPHS students in history teacher Chris Drake’s classes donated 20 boxes of school supplies to the Monarch School, a drive that replaced their final exam. 

The Monarch School, founded in 1987, provides kindergarten through 12th grade education for students with unstable housing situations in San Diego. Donations like  clothing, hygiene kits and school supplies are accepted.

Many of the school’s donations come from places of worship, volunteer groups and schools, according to Zaira Martinez, one of Monarch School’s Volunteer and Community Engagement Coordinators. They receive approximately 15 donations from academic institutions a year, and approximately three donations per week from other public institutions.  The back-to-school and holiday seasons are especially popular times for donations.

After Drake informed students in both his AP and College Prep U.S. History classes that they would not have to take a final exam if they collected 15 boxes of donations, his five classes brought in 20 boxes collectively throughout the week of Dec. 12.

“We just wanted to get a lot of donations to help [the students] out during the holiday season,” Melina Toppi-DeLeo (11) said. “There’s definitely a lot of kids with families struggling financially.” 

Once the donation drive was over, some students enjoyed not taking a final exam, and instead were able to “feel really good while donating to people who need it,” according to Riley Huffstutter (11). 

“I would 100% recommend this to other teachers and students; it’s a great way to get donations to people who need our help,” Huffstutter said.

The donations from Drake’s students may benefit other schools in need, Martinez said. 

“Many schools have a large demographic of underrepresented students, and we support them with the excess donations we receive,” she said.

As of now, it is unclear if the students will be assigned another donation drive for finals week in June. Drake declined to comment for this story. 

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