West Ranch High School rising senior Emily Chang has spent the past few years pushing her limits and helping others.
“I’m very privileged, and I never really had to force myself to look beyond my comfortable Santa Clarita home and think about other people’s living situations,” Chang said.
In her sophomore year of high school, Chang started Stella and Luna, a jewelry company.
“It really started off as just a small side business because I really loved sewing and making jewelry and being creative,” Chang said.
After stumbling upon an old public service announcement that aired years ago about domestic violence, it triggered something in Chang.
“It really sent me down this rabbit hole of research and encouraged me to grow my business,” Chang added.
She then decided to turn Stella and Luna into a nonprofit, with funds going to local domestic violence centers.
“Just talking with the people at the shelters, it has really made the issue become real and more than just statistics and numbers — it’s real people,” Chang said, “so that is what continues to motivate me all the time. … And it’s definitely been one of the biggest parts of my high school experience.”
Now, through a Student Leaders internship with Bank of America, Chang has found herself once again pushing her limits, as the program has transitioned entirely virtual, which Chang actually feels like was a unique opportunity.
“There are times when I kind of forget that it was meant to be in person and that I was supposed to be in Washington, D.C. for a week because there’s so much content to do,” she said.
That content includes a number of nationally programmed webinars, where Chang and her peers have had the opportunity to hear from experts on current issues.
“So, I feel like being virtual kind of gave us the opportunity to meet even more people because there are no limits to the geography, and we can just sit down in front of our computers and hear people from across the country talk about really important topics,” she added.
One of those important topics was the incarceration system and college behind bars, which again spurred Chang’s interest.
“It was once again another instance of me having to look outside of Santa Clarita,” Chang said. “It kind of forced me to think more about my civic responsibility, like what do we as people owe each other? And so it’s really made me more empathetic to the struggles that people around the nation are going through that I might not see in my own eyes, but are very much real.”
Among the webinars, the interns are also working on a project for the Santa Clarita Valley Boys & Girls Club, creating a tool for members to submit testimonials to show the impact the club has had on them.
“I think what the Boys & Girls Club stands for is really important and something that I believe in in how they’re kind of stepping in and helping these families and these children be on a better path for their life,” Chang said. “So, even though we can’t go in every day and interact with the children, being able to help this branch of the Boys & Girls Club grow and prosper is really special.”
Chang’s participation in the program has once again sparked the desire for her to do more with her nonprofit.
“Beyond just raising money and selling jewelry, I’m also trying to expand more locally,” she said. “And more recently, I have been working with the Single Mothers Outreach in Santa Clarita, and together we’re working to create these jewelry making classes for the mothers and their children.”
Chang has also begun to fundraise with some of her items, donating profits to families affected by the current climate.
“I think it’s really just encouraged me to recognize that there are so many ways that I can help, and I have this vehicle through which I can do that,” Chang added. “I have a platform and I have a business, so it’s encouraged me to kind of see where it is needed the most.”