As the coronavirus pandemic continues and many extracurricular activities have come to a halt, many Santa Clarita Valley teens are using their newfound free time to give back to their local community.
West Ranch High School junior Shaira Busnawi is unsure of when she’ll be playing tennis again.
“My team is pretty unsure of what’s going to happen, and that’s really hard for us because we’ve been undefeated for four years now,” Busnawi said. “We don’t even know if we’re gonna have a season, how tryouts are going to be held or even have summer practices, which are crucial for our team.”
Even so, the varsity tennis captain has been trying to find ways to engage her team through the quarantine, hosting Zoom workouts twice a week.
But between schoolwork, tennis workouts, and exploring her curiosities, which includes writing a research paper that takes a look at the criminal justice system during the pandemic, Busnawi has also been volunteering with a number of organizations.
“Bridge to Home (has been) a huge thing for me,” she said. “I had a really good relationship with them before (the pandemic), and I’ve been making 80 lunches per week for the unhoused.”
Busnawi even enlisted the help of her teammates to donate food or clothes, which she then offered to pick up from their homes.
And with more time to spare, Busnawi has also been spending a lot of time helping to renovate the shelter, which is currently vacant as the organization has been using the Newhall Community Center.
“We’re just looking to redesign everything and make it a lot more welcome, so when they return to Bridge to Home, it’ll be completely new,” she added.
Busnawi’s efforts don’t stop there, as she is also volunteering with Six Feet Solutions, a student-run organization that works to help those at risk in various ways through the pandemic.
In addition to grocery shopping for Six Feet Supplies, a branch that provides grocery delivery free of charge to the at-risk population, she’s assisted in creating another branch: Six Feet Support, which provides mental support to those in the community feeling lonely or isolated.
“One of the biggest groups that we’ve been working with is Oakmont, the retirement center here in Santa Clarita,” Busnawi said, so for Mother’s Day and National Nurses Week, she and her fellow volunteers decided to do something special.
“There are a bunch of health care workers over there and a bunch of mothers that are isolated and lonely and can’t spend time with their family, so what we did was we made cards and posters and we got balloons and cute roses, and we donated it to Oakmont for them to distribute it to the mothers and the nurses there,” she added.
For Busnawi, she simply feels happy that she’s making the best of this time, “exploring what I love and just giving back to the community,” she said.
Six Feet Saviors
Another junior at West Ranch, Christine Riel, has also been volunteering with Six Feet Supplies, and she, too, wanted to do more, hoping to find a way to support the essential workers at the front lines of the pandemic.
“My mom is a nurse at Henry Mayo, so I kind of have a firsthand view of what’s happening, and I just think that it’s so important to recognize that they’re working so hard at the front lines,” Riel said. “They’re going through so much right now that, as a community, it’s our job and our duty to have their back, and to step up and to do whatever we can to help them and the hospital.”
With that in mind, Riel started Six Feet Saviors, a branch of Six Feet Solutions that strives to give back to the local health care heroes in the community, with the goal of gathering a large monetary donation for Henry Mayo.
“Obviously right now, since the hospital is going through a financial struggle because … not a lot of people are going to the hospital, we decided we wanted to help them financially,” she added. “It is our duty as a community to come together and step up to financially support our local hospital and its health care workers.”
In addition, Riel wanted to find a way to acknowledge and thank health care workers everywhere, so the organization has been producing a series of videos.
“We have gathered videos from members of our community, The Lakers, The L.A. Dodgers, ‘The Office,’ and many other special guests,” she said.
These videos are then posted on social media, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tik Tok, under the username “6feetsaviors.”
Valencia High School sophomore Aditya Patki also had his tennis season canceled.
“I was just sitting at home and doing online assignments, but overall, I had a lot more time on my hands, and so I decided I want to actually do something,” Patki said.
Though he was already involved with the RUSH (Remote Underprivileged School Help) Foundation, a student-run organization that strives to assist underprivileged schools, those efforts, too, were put on hold during the pandemic.
“So here we are with the money that we’ve raised, and now I feel like the priorities have shifted maybe a little bit towards … helping hospitals, homeless shelters and food banks,” he added.
That being said, Patki decided to organize a campaign to raise funds for those efforts.
“I feel like during the pandemic especially, one neglected demographic usually is the homeless community,” Patki added.
Already, they’ve made donations to Bridge to Home, using funds raised to purchase supplies, including canned food and other essentials, such as socks, razors, masks and gloves.
He’s also partnered with the Sukarma Foundation and Westwood Cricket, a nonprofit sports club his father runs, to support those struggling across the world in India, distributing food packets and footwear to the migrating crowds of laborers.
“When we’re all at home, we often forget that we’re all in this together,” Patki said. “But in these tough times, it’s very important to stay united, to stay involved in the community and to help out.”