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San Marcos AAPLE Academy Students Plan Visits to Local Nonprofits for Day of Service

During last year’s AAPLE Kids Caring Day, San Marcos AAPLE Academy students volunteered at the Flower Empower Dream Foundation creating floral arrangements that were later delivered to a nearby nursing home.
During last year’s AAPLE Kids Caring Day, San Marcos AAPLE Academy students volunteered at the Flower Empower Dream Foundation creating floral arrangements that were later delivered to a nearby nursing home. (San Marcos AAPLE Academy photo)

For San Marcos AAPLE Academy students, learning often takes place outside of the classroom, and this Saturday, April 11, kids will get a lesson in community service when nearly 70 students visit six local nonprofits during the academy’s semiannual AAPLE Kids Caring Day.

Community service is integral to the AAPLE (Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment) Academy, and this day of giving has been a tradition for the past four years with all 132 students participating in either the spring or fall event.

“Hands-on, service-learning projects are one of the key aspects of the AAPLE Academy,” said Erik Nielsen, AAPLE Academy director.

In addition to the academy’s 200-hour community service graduation requirement, students are obligated to participate in one service day each year, giving them exposure to some of the charitable opportunities in Santa Barbara.

“Students have a chance to give back to the community, brighten someone’s day, and hone their leadership skills while having fun with their peers," Nielsen said. "This creates a positive association with community service and hopefully encourages students to maintain a lifelong dedication to charitable work.”

The service projects vary by organization, giving students exposure to diverse nonprofits and distinctive ways of practicing social action. This year’s recipients include Special Olympics, Hillside House, Channel Islands Restoration, the Dream Foundation, Casa Esperanza and Valle Verde.

“AAPLE Kids Caring Day has really given me a chance to use the leadership skills that I have gained both in AAPLE and in other programs,” said Sophia Gaynes, AKCD co-chair. Her fellow classmate and co-chair Kate Winterbauer said the event is important because it helps students get involved in their community and also lets the community know that students want to give back. “There is so much experience and insight you can gain from stepping out of your comfort zone and into someone else's shoes."

Last year, Sophia Gaynes stepped into the shoes of seniors in our community when she volunteered alongside her peers at Flower Empower Dream Foundation creating floral arrangements that she later delivered to a nearby nursing home.

"The look on one woman's face when we brought flowers into her room was full of brightness," Gaynes said. "She could not stop thanking us, telling us how we had made her day so wonderful. That moment made me really feel like what I was doing made a difference.”

“Flower Empower would not be possible without the compassion and energy of our volunteers who so generously donate their time to make a difference in this community we cherish,” said Kisa Heyer, Dream Foundation executive director. “We are so grateful to San Marcos High for participating in Flower Empower and are thrilled that our bouquet-making and delivery activities can help teach students about the importance of giving back, along with the intrinsic rewards that come with helping others.”

Now in its fifth year, the Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment at San Marcos High School is designed to offer the most rigorous four-year academic pathway in the county while simultaneously providing hands-on, leadership and service opportunities for a diverse group of the highest achieving students in the district. In addition, the program provides students with a broad spectrum of opportunities to extend and enrich the classroom experience through guest speakers, theater, summer programming and field trips. Click here for more information.

— Ann Pieramici represents the San Marcos AAPLE Academy.

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