Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference, a local non profit that empowers youth in leadership and service, expanded its school club-based education program to Folsom Middle School this academic year. The recent expansion is a high note in a year when so many cancelled programs and activities made opportunities for youth to serve rare.
When COVID-19 restrictions tightened in Spring of 2020, a strong showing of student interest by Folsom Middle School students and support from school administration and the PTO encouraged the Hands4Hope staff to move forward with the new club, which joins the already established Folsom-based Hands4Hope Clubs at Folsom High and Sutter Middle Schools.
“This organization helps our community and teaches young people how their actions touch so many lives,” said Margie Komatsu, Folsom Middle School Counselor and advisor for the new club. Following the Service Learning Model, the club’s 30 participants discussed what social issues they were concerned about in the Folsom community and the majority chose to have their first project focus on supporting and thanking local medical personnel persevering through COVID -19. Little did the students know as they started their project planning in November that their efforts would be even more appreciated in the new year than originally anticipated.
The youth are working on raising funds through an online website to purchase supplies for gift bags to be distributed to doctors and nurses starting at Mercy Hospital in Folsom. In addition, they created a video to encourage all students at Folsom Middle to join them in making heartfelt thank you cards to be included with the gifts. An example of one such student’s card reads: “To the nurses, doctors and front line workers of the pandemic, the Hands4Hope Club would like to thank you for the daily sacrifices made to keep us safe. This selfless act of risking your life for others is greatly appreciated. You have inspired us to persevere through the hard times.”
President of the Folsom Middle Hands4Hope Club Azalia Mutebi said she is glad for the opportunity to help others and leave an impact on her community. “Despite the challenges and setbacks that come with being in a pandemic and being in quarantine,” she said, “I’m thankful that we are having this journey because it allows us to grow and learn as a team and gives us time to reflect on ourselves.”
That theme of resilience was echoed by Treasurer Tanish Shirolkar, “Social distancing and Covid in general have brought up a problem for us because it makes it so that we can't interact with people as much as we used to. We have overcome this by scheduling our club meetings on Zoom every other week. We also follow strict Covid guidelines when we do events like the Stop, Pop and Go food drive for the Folsom Community Serve Day in September.”
“I am excited to be a part of Hands4Hope because I feel like even the smallest differences,” said Shirolkar, “have a massive impact on our society.”
Helping her students find that passion and their voice is why Komatsu says she wanted to bring Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference to her school. “I am so pleased and excited for Hands4Hope to be at Folsom Middle School as this is something I have wanted for many years,” she said, “since my nieces joined during middle and high school in El Dorado Hills.” Watching their experience made her proud to be a part of an organization where she feels like she can make a difference.
With Folsom Middle’s club underway now, Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference has been laying the groundwork for starting a new club at Vista del Lago High School. A Folsom steering committee has already been formed and meets regularly. This club would round out clubs at all middle and high schools in Folsom. Our Folsom expansion has been made possible with the generous support of The New Home Company and dedication of the Folsom Middle School administration.