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Weston Ranch MEChA reaches out for holidays
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WESTON RANCH – A group of Weston Ranch High School students is finding niches of needs in their community and filling them with service.

In the short span of time that Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA has been in existence on campus, the club’s members have “managed to not only start the organization, but also help their community,” said Weston Ranch Spanish teacher MEChA advisor Valente Aguilar Jr.

For the next few days, the group will be staging the following outreach activities which they have been planning for the last couple of months:

• On Saturday, Dec. 17, from 4 to 7 p.m., they will be at the Stockton Homeless Shelters to help the needy.

• A coin drive that the students conducted during the last two weeks raised more than $500 which will be donated to the Stockton Homeless Shelter.

• They started a food drive by contacting several area businesses and asking them to donate food that they will give to the homeless shelter so the people there can have a warm meal during the holiday season.

• They have joined forces with the members of another campus group, the Black Student Union, in collecting coats which they will personally deliver to shelter residents in need.

In addition to delivering those items to the homeless shelter, “they will also be providing entertainment so that the residents can enjoy a warm meal and something else to take their minds off of the stress that comes with not having a home during this cold season,” Aguilar said.

On Sunday, Dec. 18, the MEChA students will “give their time and service” to the residents at Prestige Senior Living in Manteca where they will go Christmas caroling. They will be singing traditional Christmas songs for an hour starting at 1 p.m.

“These are just a few things that MEChA has managed to implement this first semester of their existence as a chapter. All of this will be done the weekend before they will be taking their final exams. However, giving back to their community is one of the main things that they wanted to accomplish and are doing so with stride,” Aguilar said.

The club advisor said he was inspired to form a MEChA  group at Weston Ranch High because of his own experience in college.

“I used to be in it when I was at Delta College. It was a really good experience in college, and I thought it would be good for high school students here, too,” said Aguilar who graduated from California State University, Stanislaus in 2006.

He was active in MEChA for more than two years.

But when he started teaching at Weston Ranch in 2004 – first as a bilingual aide while he was still in college – he noticed that the campus has never had a MEChA group before.

“I guess nobody really decided to start one,” he said, prompting him to post an announcement about starting one at the begining of the school year.

“I just announced it and said, any students interested in getting more information, just show up in my classroom. And 40 students showed up!”

Aguilar said the club is open to every student on campus regardless of age and grade level. “It’s open to anybody,” he said.

While there is no set academic requirement, Aguilar said that MEChA members should have at least a 2.0 grade point average and “be good students.” Membership is not limited to just students of Hispanic origin either, he said.

“We have students of all ethnicities – African-American, Asians – not just Hispanic.”

About half of them will be participating in the community outreach projects planned for this weekend at the homeless shelter in Stockton and at Prestige Senior Living on East Louise Avenue in Manteca.

“I think they have done so many things this semester and they have been very enthusiastic with a lot of things while keeping their grades up,” said Aguilar.

“They are very excited doing the things they have been doing. They are ready to fly next semester,” he concluded.