From the Issue: Student Activism Reaches New Highs at RHS


Students show off their newly-decorated TOMS shoes. TOMS donates a pair of shoes for every pair sold. Seniors John Wambach and Jessica Smith led the shoe sale and Style Your Own Sole event. — Photo by Anne Wagner

Students show off their newly-decorated TOMS shoes. TOMS donates a pair of shoes for every pair sold. Seniors John Wambach and Jessica Smith led the shoe sale and Style Your Own Sole event. -- Photo by Anne Wagner

With the array of problems facing the nation today, students could easily resort to an apathetic, melancholic outlook on life; however, many students find inspiration in these adverse situations and adopt a completely different outlook, turning to activism as recourse.

The public saw the power of youth action first-hand when a group of Charles County High School students took a groundbreaking step in December 2011 by meeting with the environmental congressional committee to protest the proposed Keystone Pipeline project a�� a major project to transport crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada to various locations in the United States, including Illinois, Oklahoma and refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Now, an increasing number of RHS students are making advancements in areas that concern them, taking stands on the serious issues that our community faces in smaller, yet impactful ways.

Junior Emily Janes and sophomore Danny Hoffman are currently working with community organization LearnServe in the Fellows Program, following five other RHS students who worked with the program in previous years. As Fellows, Janes and Hoffman work in a year-long program that gives them and other high school students from across the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, the opportunity to create their own non-profit organization based on an issue that matters to them.

The LearnServe Fellows program takes students through an in-depth curriculum in which they find their issue, gain experience with budgeting and, ultimately, pitch their proposal to a panel of donors who determine whether the students are eligible for a grant of up to $1,000.

Through LearnServe, Janes found an interest in working with patients at children’s hospitals, Janes’ venture program, Artists for Hope, brings students and children’s hospital patients together to work on various arts projects that provide a way to take their minds off their current health conditions.

With the support of the RHS Young Changemakers in addition to LearnServe, Janes has been able to create a team and organize fundraising events, such as an art supply drive and use social networking campaigns to raise awareness for her cause.

Through LearnServe, Hoffman found a way to share his love for reading with the community as a whole. Hoffman’s venture, Book to Book, aims to bring older, unused books back into circulation within the community. “I always saw tons of unused children’s books at different friends’ houses and realized that they could still be useful to other kids out there,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman’s Book to Book program donates these unused books to different sites like inter- faith donation centers to ensure that children in low income areas gain access to a variety of books, giving them the exposure to reading at a young age they may otherwise miss out on. Hoffman plans to fundraise for Book to Book with a student-teacher volleyball game in the spring, where students would have to donate a book to attend.

This active spirit is becoming more evident throughout RHS as more students take action on the issues that concern them. Seniors John Wambach and Jessica Smith also took a stand on an issue they felt passionate about, turning their interest in the popular TOMS shoe brand into their IB CAS project.

Smith and Wambach brought the Style Your Own Sole event, which allowed students to purchase and decorate a pair of shoes while TOMS donated one pair of shoes for every pair sold. Smith and Wambach, along with the many RHS students participating in community service projects school wide, show the often underestimated power of students motivated by a meaningful cause.