by Ronnie Estoque
Sophomores at Cleveland High School in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood have spent the last few weeks gathering donations for a mutual aid drive that they have been planning alongside the Humanities Department, staff, administration, and the school PTSA. The event was made possible due to an identified need to better support families of Cleveland students that may have experienced intensified financial hardship in the past year due to the pandemic.
The mutual aid event aims to help address a lack of basic household goods for students and their families. “We’ve been supporting families this year in a variety of ways … the reality is that a lot of the resources that we have available aren’t supporting those basic needs,” Cleveland High School social worker Trisa Ibarra said.
Veronica Chea, who is an intern for Ibarra, was also a part of conversations that identified the needs of students in the school. When they found out that sophomores were working on mutual aid projects in their humanities classes, the collaboration occurred seamlessly, and more people became involved with the project.
Tymmony Keegan is in her first year as a 10th grade humanities teacher at Cleveland and introduced the topic of mutual aid to her classes this past semester. She has been a main staff organizer behind the mutual aid efforts and has encouraged students to take up key leadership positions within the planning and execution of the project. A big emphasis of her teaching pedagogy is the concept of liberatory education that addresses social justice issues affecting the community.
Keegan explained that liberatory education is “providing students with the skill sets that they’re going to need to organize their way out of the chaos that they were born into.”
For the past few weeks, the mutual aid organizers from Cleveland have been able to collect laundry and dish detergent, shower and bath hygiene items, toilet paper, paper towels, sanitizing wipes and gel, food, and clothes to help provide support to an estimated 300 Cleveland families. On April 7, donations collected will be available for families of Cleveland students to pick up in the parking lot from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“I’m really proud of everyone that has been helping with this project — we’ve really come a long way,” sophomore Nathan Chau said.
But there’s still a way to go toward reaching the event’s goal of supporting 300 student families with a wide variety of basic goods. Those interested in supporting Cleveland High School sophomores’ efforts can donate on the Cleveland Mutual Aid fundraising page or via PayPal. Monetary donations will allow the organizers to purchase goods that will diversify the items available to families in need of support.
Members of the Cleveland High School community wishing to pick up donations gathered from the mutual aid drive can register by filling out the RSVP form.
Ronnie Estoque is a Seattle-based storyteller and aspiring documentarian. He is driven to uplift marginalized voices in the South Seattle community through his writing, photography, and videography. You can keep up with his work by following his Twitter and Instagram.
Featured Image: Students and Cleveland High School staff members have been meeting virtually via Zoom to plan and coordinate the mutual aid drive. Families of students can pick up donations April 7 in the Cleveland High School parking lot. Photo courtesy of Tymmony Keegan.
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