Faith Fernandez ran for class president when she was in the fifth grade, the first time she got a taste of what it was like to serve and give back to her community.
Since then, she’s been figuring out ways to help out whether it was working with the city mayor or the school superintendent.
“There’s always a way to give back to our community,” she said. “It’s just figuring out the needs.”
The San Benito High senior continues her passion for giving back as the founder and director of the Baler Community Service Program on campus.
The first big project for Fernandez and her deputy director, sophomore Laci Lemos, was to set up a food drive to assist the Community FoodBank of San Benito. Their task: to gather student volunteers to collect canned goods for the holiday season.
“I think growing up I always had this passion for helping others,” Fernandez said. “Cliche as it may sound, I feel like when I’m able to do these small things that impact someone’s life, even if it’s just the smallest way, I feel like I’m doing something to better our community and at some point have a further impact.”
The school usually collects 30 barrels during the food drive, but this year they’re trying to get at least half of that amount because of Covid-19 guidelines that forced the campus to shut down.
Fernandez pointed out the patterns of participation isn’t what it used to be and the incentives aren’t the same as if having the event on campus.
“There’s a lot of different factors, and publicity is very different because often times teachers would push within the classroom and there’s not that same thing,” she said.
The goal at this point is to collect as much canned goods before Nov. 21, which is the final day of the food drive at the tennis court parking lot from 9am to noon.
The San Benito High ASB hosts a food drive every year, but Fernandez wanted to give it a real title this time around, calling it the Baler Community Canned Food Drive.
“I feel like when you put the title ‘Baler’, because we’re in these tough times, it creates this sense of unity,” she said. “It gives you that pride to say, ‘Hey, I’m a Haybaler, I’m supporting our local high school and we’re uniting during these tough times.”
Fernandez was accompanied by ASB senior president Alec Garcia, culture and climate commissioner Adrianna Omar (senior), publicity coordinator Emma Zamora (senior) and representative to the school board Heidi Andrade (sophomore). San Benito High activities director Catalina Lemos, Laci’s mom, was also on hand at the canned food drive.
Sarah Nordwick, community engagement and development director at Community FoodBank, said they’re just the barrel supplier. It’s Fernandez that’s been the “hands and feet,” collecting all the food.
“Other than supplying the barrels, she has run with this,” Nordwick said. “We have Community FoodBank in our name and she’s embodying that community part to make this happen.”
Nordwick mentioned that they’re operating at 80 percent more than normal distributions compared to last year. The need for food continues to grow, but the work the students are putting in should bring in enough canned goods to where they won’t have to turn people away.
“Hopefully if we get more people that need food, we’re able to meet that need because of this food,” she said.
Shelf stable ingredients are the best to have in stock, but Nordwick also mentioned that monetary donations can go a lot further because of the contracts they have with various groups.
“Essentially, a dollar can do almost four meals,” she said.
In March, Fernandez had the chance to create her own ASB position but instead chose to start the BCSP. The new program is all but ready to deploy resources into the community to support the efforts of local nonprofit organizations including undertaking special projects such as a food drive.
Fernandez said she’s lucky to have someone such as Laci as the deputy director because of their similar passion for community service. Their current primary goal is to get the message out to the community so that local organizations know that they’re available to help.
Overall, they just wanted to create a program that they knew would have a lasting impact.
“I thought it would be wonderful to structure something that could continue to give back to our community and the students as the years go on,” she said.