A club at Canyon Crest Academy (CCA), a public high school in San Diego, has raised $1,480 to provide Mona scholarships for three girls to attend Badi School in Panama next year. “People are very willing to support students,” said Samiya, 16, who cofounded the club, Sustaining Humanity through Education (SHE), with her friend Ella when they were both 14.
Sustaining Humanity through Education seeks to improve the world and decrease poverty by advancing the rights and education of women and girls. “This improves the community as a whole,” said Samiya.
To raise money for Mona scholarships, the club held six bake sales at the local post office. The first sale raised $300. People proved thirsty for an organization like Mona.
“You just have to give people the right cause,” explained Ella. “One elderly man came to two of our bake sales, and each time gave us a $100 bill because he was so touched. People were excited that their money goes directly to educate children in need.”
The club of 14 girls and one boy is having impact both locally and globally. SHE members tutor girls and boys from disadvantaged backgrounds in grades K-12 at Casa de Armistad. Each week, club members spend 90 minutes tutoring students one on one or in small groups. After helping with homework, they tackle other needs, such as improving reading skills.
“Building someone’s academic confidence makes them feel more valued and inspired to empower them to make a change,” said Ella. “Tutoring also helps us step out of our shoes for a second and help others.”
“Club members are passionate about making a difference in the world through selfless service,” said Samiya’s mom, Deborah. “I saw Samiya, Ella, John, Frances, and others inspired at their bake sales, handing out pamphlets about Mona projects with a sense of being part of something greater than their efforts at Canyon Crest Academy. They are energized by working toward a world that promotes education for all, and values girls as much as boys.”
Ella’s mom, Ramesh, agreed: “SHE has done a wonderful job feeding the passions of such a caring group of kids. Their two-prong approach of fundraising for Mona and serving the local community is a perfect way to practice ‘think globally, act locally.’”
The club is also supported by Canyon Crest Academy’s culture of giving. Founded in 2004 on the principle of inclusivity and dedication to the arts, the high school uses the arts to serve the community. The following are a few excerpts from a delightful hour that Mona spent interviewing Samiya and Ella.
What inspired you to support the Mona Foundation?
Samiya: “Mona’s grassroots philosophy drew the club. Its approach is unusual, in that it isn’t top-down. With Mona, I saw for the first time how I can use my values as a Bahá’í to make the world a better place.
Ella: “Ever since 6th grade I’ve been inspired about education. It’s hard to say no to an organization with such a pristine cause like Mona. It restores your faith in humanity.”
How did you choose Badi School?
Ella: “Panama City is San Diego’s sister city. One of our teachers heads up our sister city project for our school. Samiya and I visited several schools in Panama in March this year, and since learned about Badi, and that $500 pays for a full year of education at the school for one student.”
What did you learn from your fundraising effort, and what advice would you give other students who want to raise money for a great cause?
Ella: “I’ve learned perseverance. Move forward, one step at a time. Have an open mind. Start with one thing, like a bake sale. At the end of the day, three girls in Panama have a scholarship now. It’s touched our hearts.”
Samiya: “I learned how supportive people in our community are. Also, having a small group of dedicated members helps us get results because we’re all fully engaged.”
What’s next for your club?
Samiya: “We’ll continue fundraising for Mona. We’ll also keep tutoring, but we now want to incorporate art into our program, leveraging art students at CCA.
Ella: “One idea is to create a mural that shows the power of educating young girls.”
Samiya and Ella plan to return to Panama in two years to visit Badi to see how their efforts have paid off. We’re excited about what SHE is doing to increase Mona’s impact. For every child Mona supports, there are 10 more waiting. You can find SHE on Instagram at @shecanyoncrest.