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CUHSD in the News: South Bay teens share treasures with peers

Original article by Judy Peterson in San Jose Mercury News
Helping their peers during the giving season is what Treasures 4 Teens organizers set out to do half a dozen years ago when they formed the nonprofit.

In the past few weeks they’ve delivered 1,000 presents to South Bay teens who might not otherwise receive any holiday gifts.

Two Los Gatos students who volunteered for a toy drive and noticed there weren’t any gifts for older kids founded Treasures 4 Teens in 2010 to raise money to buy gifts for youths 11 to 18 years old.

This year’s gifts include 100 used iPads donated by Hillbrook School.

“We also got a lot of bathroom kits with shampoo, conditioner and body lotion,” Treasures 4 Teens co-president Joselyn Penafiel said. “And we had socks, skateboards, art supplies, gift cards and remote-controlled cars.”

The iPad giveaways were the biggest hit, Treasures 4 Teens co-president Sophie Mortaz said.

Teens served by West Valley Community Services and Toys for Tots received 50 iPads, chargers and headphones, while the other 50 went to students at J. George Middle School in San Jose.

“Some of the kids were tearing up and saying things like, ‘We don’t deserve this.’ They were so grateful, but we’re grateful we’re able to give them gifts,” Sophie said. “To them it’s everything.”

The kids’ reactions really made their efforts worthwhile, the girls said.

“The counselor we worked with said the iPads would be the only source of technology in some of the kids’ homes,” Joselyn said. “It was interesting to see how teens can help other teens and have an impact on their lives.”

Joselyn and Sophie are Los Gatos High School seniors. They took over Treasures 4 Teens two years ago and have since recruited younger members to assume leadership roles when they graduate in June.

Treasures 4 Teens has about 15 active members.

“The one thing we made sure of is that there would be successors,” Joselyn said. “So, we have underclassmen and students from Fisher Middle School and Hillbrook School coming in to take over.”

Fisher eighth-graders Paige Craig and Alaina Fox are set to assume the co-presidents’ role, and they’ll have a full four years to continue building the program.

Meanwhile, Leigh High School’s Leadership Class has been busy raising funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“Kids wrote letters to Santa saying what they wanted for Christmas, and for every letter we wrote, Macy’s made a donation to Make-A-Wish,” Leigh sophomore Nick Norcia said. “Our leadership class wanted to have more community outreach, and this is how we did that.”

When Leigh students were told that Make-A-Wish would benefit from the Santa letters, they responded with a lot of enthusiasm, Nick said.

“Also, the leadership class informed the English teachers about it and they passed letters out during their classes,” he said.

Nick delivered the letters to Macy’s at San Jose’s Oakridge Mall on Dec. 9, which was “I Believe Friday,” and the department store donated $2 for each letter received. Letters donated on other days were worth $1, with Macy’s prepared to donate up to $1 million to Make-A-Wish.

The Leigh students and staff wrote 1,735 letters, bringing their donation to $3,470.