Del Campo High School students turn volunteer club into fundraising powerhouse

Del Campo High School’s group Kids Helping Kids now has 120 juniors and seniors working to help students in need and to launch community projects. In just its second year, the group has raised $74,000 and provided tutoring and other services.
Del Campo High School’s group Kids Helping Kids now has 120 juniors and seniors working to help students in need and to launch community projects. In just its second year, the group has raised $74,000 and provided tutoring and other services. Sacramento Bee file

When the nonprofit Kids Helping Kids launched two years ago at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, it attracted buzz as a small campus club, recalled senior Sarah Warner.

In little time, the group has grown into something of a fundraising powerhouse, generating $74,000 in its second year of operation and setting a goal of more than $100,000 for this year. On Friday night, the group held its third annual fundraising gala at the Harris Center for the Arts at Folsom Lake College.

Kids Helping Kids now has 120 members, all Del Campo juniors and seniors, who aim to help students in need and launch community projects at Del Campo and other campuses in the San Juan Unified School District.

No longer just an extracurricular club, Kids Helping Kids has found a home as a first-period class, giving many of the students time to hone their skills, practice their pitches to prospective sponsors, provide tutoring at Del Campo and Carmichael Elementary campuses and participate in other activities of the group, said Warner, 17.

At Carmichael Elementary School, Principal Brandei Smith said the students’ offer last fall to tutor third-graders provided a huge boost. The offer came just as teacher Harpreet Jolly began exploring how she could provide more help to students she knew would benefit from tutoring.

Nearly 9 in 10 students came from low-income households that qualified for free or reduced-price lunch in 2012-13, according to state data. That year, the school was in the lowest decile of academic performance, based on test scores.

The teacher and nonprofit collaborated daily, pairing nine students with individual tutors and exchanging online messages about where each student needed guidance and coaching.

“To be able to give her (Jolly) this help was awesome,” Smith said, adding that Jolly already was tutoring students before and after school.

The individualized testing showed the gains from the added tutoring, Smith said.

“Eight out of the 9 kids met their (progress) goals.” Smith said. “And half exceeded their goals. Out of Mrs. Jolly’s whole class, 93 percent of her kids made their goal,” a result Smith said was among the best in the district.

In September, Kids Helping Kids also started an arts project for third- and fourth-graders at Cameron Ranch Elementary School in Carmichael. “We pitched to Target and they gave us all our art supplies,” Warner said.

In the spring, students will break ground on a garden project at Coyle Avenue Elementary School in Carmichael.

The group also chooses and fulfills applications from families in need, Warner said. She cited the help provided recently to a family with too little money to buy hearing aids for both of their school-age children; a woman who unexpectedly became caregiver to four grandchildren and needed basic supplies such as toiletries and clothing; and a three-wheeled cycle to a family whose 8-year-old boy with special needs struggles with mobility.

Beyond helping people in need, students learn business-savvy approaches that many adults never encounter: How to generate sponsorships from businesses. How to organize a school or community project. How to reach those in need. How to get results.

“I think one of the most rewarding things for me is to not only outreach but to see all the teenagers and high school students put away their social media. They come in interested in helping students and are seeing meaningful, measurable results,” said Warner, who is this year’s Del Campo student body president.

At the start of each year, students organize and collaborate on a chosen focus, such as outreach, or production, or marketing. Those who want to make corporate pitches for sponsorships have a week or more to learn a script and then to make presentations. The best are chosen to participate on teams that perfect an opening, middle or closing pitch.

“Everyone is extremely prepared,” Warner said. That dedication helped win top sponsorship for the second straight year from Wells Fargo Bank, which has a volunteer who sits on the Kids Helping Kids board of directors and coaches students on their approach.

The students have progressed exponentially in their ability to reach “corporate America,” said Wells Fargo’s Kären Woodruff, vice president of community affairs in Sacramento.

“They have crafted their messages,” she said. “They’re using social media. They’re really very impressive. They are passionate. They show that passion. And they engage more and more kids to get involved in their community.”

Students in Advanced Placement economics classes at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara started Kids Helping Kids a dozen years ago, according to that group’s website. The Santa Barbara nonprofit has raised over $1.4 million since its inception.

Del Campo students organized under the Santa Barbara group’s nonprofit umbrella and is only the second group to form.

Call The Bee’s Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee.