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Local students undeterred by coronavirus

We are juniors at Olympia High School. After hearing about people suffering both directly and indirectly from the coronavirus last December, we felt driven to help. Students Against Coronavirus is a project under a student organization we created called “AI Benefit Projects.”

Getting official approval to expand the project

We started with a fundraiser at our high school, to send direct relief to Wuhan, but since then we have expanded into much more. We worked for a month to get our project approved by the Olympia School District with an expansion to include more community activities besides fundraising. Thanks to our Associated Student Body president and other student body leaders, the project has grown to include all the high schools in greater Olympia.

From left to right: KayLee Chen, Jenny Jang, Joy Matsuoka

Through “Students Against Coronavirus,” we have found out how students can have an impact in their local communities. By expanding from OHS to five other high schools, the project connected students to help at the local food bank, to provide childcare for medical workers, to assist the elderly and to raise money for direct relief and vaccine research.

Coming up with ways for students to help

The childcare idea came from Abby Burtner, a senior at OHS. Together we created a form for students to sign up to provide child care for medical workers. This was before the statewide stay-at-home order, so we were still able to go out. Many schools had already shut down and since medical workers had to work extra during COVID-19, we thought it would help if they had someone to watch their kids while there was no school. Students from many high school responded and we contacted hospitals to spread the word.

The food bank idea came from our ASB President, Chandler Sam, who worked with the Olympia Food Bank. Many food bank volunteers were over sixty years old, so it could be unsafe for them to continue working at the food bank. Our student volunteers were able to help until the stay-at-home order was issued.

Learning leadership through experience

Being able to expand AI Benefit Projects into our community has been a blessing. It taught us many life lessons about leadership, hard work and responsibility. As leaders of the project, we learned the hardships that come with starting a project as well as the determination it takes to be a leader through the hard time of COVID-19.

Taking a breather to reflect on the human condition

Sadly, throughout this pandemic we have seen unfortunate actions, from racism against the Asian American community to people hoarding supplies, preventing members in our society that need supplies the most from getting them. Through these troubling circumstances, this pandemic allowed us to reflect on the human condition and ourselves, teaching us invaluable life lessons.

We have learned that the world is beautiful, yet people often get consumed in themselves and take for granted the small things that bring us joy. “The things we take for granted, someone else is praying for.” We forget what truly makes us happy until it is taken away from us. We have learned to appreciate what we have — safety in our homes, daily meals to share with our loved ones, video chats with close friends, technology that can still bring us education, time to spend with family among many smaller things. This pandemic has allowed us to take a breather to take care of ourselves and those around us.

Making an impact through aspiration and love

We originally chose “AI” because we planned to send relief to Wuhan. “AI” means “love” in Mandarin and is the character we use in our logo. “AI” also stands for Aspiring Impact in recognition of our expanded project. We believe that students can make a positive and lasting impact in the world, ultimately shaping the future we envision. So our name “AI Benefit Projects” shows our goal and our means to achieving it: to make an Aspiring Impact through love or “ai.” Through this organization, we are looking to start new projects in the future, expand, and continue to inspire others.

As we go through this time together, we hope our community will stay healthy. Thank you for supporting students and organizations such as AI Benefit Projects as we move forward amid this pandemic.

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