Putting a CAP on their education

Jasmine Higareda stands next to the bench she helped restore as her Community Action Project. — Todd Guild/Register-Pajaronian

Watsonville High seniors show off their projects

WATSONVILLE — From the time they set foot on campus as freshmen, Watsonville High School’s students become a part of their community. It’s a giant community to be sure, with hundreds of people, several educational pathways and numerous ways in which to they lay the foundation for the future.

With their Community Action Projects, they hope to leave their mark upon that community. More than 400 seniors presented their work in the school library Friday, with projects that ranged from arranging a community movie night to raising money for local charities.

Also known as the CAP, the projects are a graduation requirement for which the students must find a mentor and reach out into the community for help.

The main thrust behind the projects is for the students to learn that they can solve problems entirely on their own, said WHS teacher Hilary Kluger Reid.

“We really try to push our students to find creative ways to have an impact on their school,” she said. “We want to create a generation of not just talkers, but doers.”

Logan Villines searched out a pile of scrap wood and metal and, with his carpenter father as his mentor, built a sturdy bench that will soon be bolted into place in an as-yet undetermined place on the campus.

The permanent structure, he said, gives students a place to relax after being cooped up in tiny desks all day.

“This was based on improving the aesthetics of the campus,” he said. “When you do that, students feel better about the school.”

Jasmine Higareda and her team were hoping to create a mural at the school. But after the red tape between the city and the school proved too much, they opted instead to create a bench of their own. Their restored creation sits near the library.

Izayuh Sanchez worked with two other students to learn about invasive plants, and then worked over the course of several days to remove them from the area around the Watsonville Nature Center at Ramsay Park.

Sanchez’ team then contacted Watsonville Wetlands Watch, which provided them with native plants.

“I wanted to do something that was really beneficial,” he said.

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Marisol Martinez and Karina Ramirez show off the "cell phone hotel." They raised money to purchase several for classrooms so students will have a place to store distracting electronic devices during class. — Todd Guild/Register-Pajaronian 

Knowing that many young people are too easily distracted by their electronic devices, Marisol Martinez and Karina Ramirez raised money to purchase “cell phone hotels” for several classrooms.

The creations contain several transparent plastic pockets, where students can deposit their phones during class.

“We noticed that in a lot of classes, people are more interested in their phone than what the teacher is saying,” Ramirez said.

Other projects tended more toward social justice.

Rocio Navarro was inspired by the plight of homeless women, who she said experience sexual harassment and violence at far higher rates than other women. In addition, keeping clean is difficult when living on the streets, Navarro said.

And so for the solo project, Navarro raised $50 by selling hair scrunchies she made by hand. She plans to donate the money to a homeless shelter to purchase condoms and supplies such as tampons and menstrual pads.

“Especially in this day and age we need to help women who are homeless,” she said.

Eve Murillo and Juana de la Torre wanted to help take a bite out of the large amount of plastic pollution that increasingly is choking waterways and landfills.

And so they discovered a way to make a shopping bag out of an old T-shirt, a lesson they brought to Rolling Hills Middle School.

“We wanted to educate the community about recycling, and that starts with youth,” Murillo said.

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Eve Murillo displays a T-shirt shopping bag she created as part of a youth-based lesson on plastics pollution. — Todd Guild/Register-Pajaronian 

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