Education Spotlight: Merced teens' service project helps students in foster care

Thursday, February 4, 2021
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ABC30's Landon Burke spoke with four high school freshmen about their new service project and how the rest of us can follow their lead.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In ABC30's segment, Education Spotlight, Action News Anchor Landon Burke will talk with Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) officials about some of the biggest topics in education.

Children in foster care are navigating the pandemic without many of the comforts we often take for granted. Landon Burke spoke with four high school freshmen about their new service project and how the rest of us can follow their lead.

Landon: My understanding is that you guys are raising money for foster youth, is that correct?

Siya Lakireddy: Correct. So we are part of a group called SEVA Merced. It is a group of high school freshmen, and our acronym SEVA stands for serve, enrich, volunteer and accomplish. But the word "seva" itself is from the language Sanskrit, in which it means "service." So we wanted to really use what we put in our acronym, and we wanted to help better our community. And, we started off with this Cookies for CASA project, which. Yes, it is to help local foster youth in Merced.

Landon: Awesome. So are you guys all involved in the Cookies for CASA?

Jessica Ma: Yes. So, for the Cookies for CASA, So all the fundings went to CASA and that money fund the training of volunteers, and these volunteers at CASA are appointed by a judge to represent foster children in court. And so they represent the foster children's best interest."

Landon: So, Jessica, let's start with you. Why is CASA a cause that is near to you in particular?

Jessica: Well, I mean, especially this past year 2020, it hasn't been easy for any person. And as you're nearing the holiday seasons, we realized we wanted to provide something for others that was provided for us. We wanted to show that we did care for those who might not have what we have. And so by giving back to the foster children that holiday season we were providing them new opportunities.

Siya: Same as Jessica, I've always felt like I am so privileged to have what I have. And 2020 was an especially difficult year for many people. And we believe that it might have been particularly hard for foster children and we really wanted to reach out and show that the community cares about them and that they are cared for.

Landon: Very cool. So, Ashwini and Anali, do you guys want to jump in there?

Anali Sebastian: For me, I know people that have foster children so it's kind of close there, and I really did want to help give back to our community by providing them with, like, what we did for the fundraiser.

Landon: Awesome.

Ashwini Elwin: Same as everyone else, I really want to get back to the community, too.

Landon: Say someone at home who's gonna be watching this segment wants to help. What's the best way for them to help this cause?

Siya: CASA has these piggy banks, and you can fill it up with change, money. And you can go to a CASA center, and you can donate that.

Jessica: As she said, the piggy banks that you fill with change and give it back. Or you can donate directly to CASA on their fundraiser. And if you want to support SEVA Merced, which is our little group, we're planning to establish ourselves as a more official club and make our own website. So in the future, people who support our cause and want to make a change through us can donate directly through our website.