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Gahr High Students Changing the World, One Dollar at a Time

Above is the class room in Nicaragua that has been the focus of a fundraising effort on the Gahr High School campus.

Above is the class room in Nicaragua that has been the focus of a fundraising effort on the Gahr High School campus.

(HMG-Cerritos) It is a simple question.
Can average high school students do something so extraordinary that they can literally change the world around them?
For a group of dedicated and determined students for Gahr High School in Cerritos, the answer is a resounding YES, and they appear to be doing it one dollar at a time.
According to Justin Velez, Director of Student Activities at the campus, 2000 students at Gahr are in the midst of an all-school fundraiser where every student has been “invited” to donate just one dollar to build a classroom for the tiny village of Guadalupe Arriba in Nicaragua.
Velez has become a major cheerleader and organizing force with the student who he says “have challenged them to do something great for the world.”
“So many students today feel isolated and impotent,” said Velez. “This is a way for every student in our school to become connected and competent. And it only costs one dollar.”
Gahr High School students take their message directly to the entire campus and community.

Gahr High School students take their message directly to the entire campus and community.

Gahr students did a similar drive last year. They raised $3,000 in one of the most effective fundraisers the school had ever conducted. The funds went to help build a classroom and kitchen for the village of Tepayac, also in Nicaragua.
Gahr senior Colleen Siongco said when she saw photos of the school when it was finished it literally left her without words. “I couldn’t believe we had done that,” she said. “It was, like, the first time in my life I had actually helped someone besides myself.”
Senior Jennifer Avila was just as surprised, though for a different reason. “I had never thought about what teenagers could do if we all worked together,” she said. “This is definitely one of the best one dollar investments I’ve ever made.”
The school in Tepayac that the students helped fund last year has 151 students, but not enough classroom space for all of them at the same time. It was running school in shifts, with older students coming in the morning and younger ones in the afternoon.
This interfered with families, as older children frequently help with rearing younger ones. It also required multiple trips to school for families which interrupted work schedules.
With the new classroom, all students can now attend at the same time. The project also built a kitchen so mothers can prepare food for the students at the school.
The Gahr students are working with the national non-profit One Dollar For Life (ODFL). ODFL helps American students build schools and other infrastructure projects in the developing world from students’ donations of one dollar.
According to Robert Freeman, Executive Director of ODFL, every dollar a student donates goes into a developing world project.
The funds from this year’s drive will help build a classroom at the Guadalupe Arriba school in the Matagalpa mountains in west-central Nicaragua. The school has 231 students but its buildings are decrepit.
Gahr’s Velez says there is no pressure on any student to donate, but most do. “None of us are made smaller by helping others. We’re made bigger,” said Velez. “The great thing about this idea is that everyone can participate. Everyone can find one dollar.”
This year’s goal is $4,000 ($1,000 more than last year). Besides collecting donations in students’ homerooms, the school will host a basketball tournament, poster contest, and will sell student art projects where all of the monies raised will go to the project.
Mr. Velez, who is known for his signature long hair has pledged to allow students to shave his head in front of the entire campus if the school meets its goal. Several other teachers have also promised to die a purple streak in their hair upon attaining the goal.
The drive is expected to continue through Feb. 24th.
The classroom and kitchen for the village of Tepayac, also in Nicaragua. Funds from last year’s fundraiser helped build the facility. Now the students are raising funds to build another classroom in Guadalupe Arriba in Nicaragua.

Gahr High School students gather to make a difference with new campaign called “One Dollar At a Time.” Photos provided by Justin Velez from Gahr HS.

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