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The Foothill Dragon Press

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The Foothill Dragon Press

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From 60 hours to a lifetime of good: Community service at Foothill Tech

Lily Toreja
Though Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) has done away with its previous 60-hour community service requirement, students play a key role in contributing to local causes, offering them field experience, industry connections and future career ideas.
Gill speaks on the overlapping expertise academy students can gain through community service. (Lily Toreja)

In October of 2021, administration announced that the 60-hour community service graduation requirement for Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) had been lifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic which caused social distancing difficulties with onsite volunteering. In a message to Foothill Tech families, principal Russell Gibbs wrote, “[Foothill Tech] has a long tradition of students serving the community in many aspects, and we plan on continuing that tradition. Performing community service is not only beneficial to the community and to the students, but it is often required for (or strongly encouraged on) college, scholarship, internship and job applications.”

Prior to this announcement, Foothill Tech had incentivized student involvement in community service. “We try to encourage students to continue volunteering by publicizing community service opportunities, inviting guests to present in the Media Center and offering awards to seniors who have completed and logged more than 75 hours of community service with approved organizations while in high school,” Diane Fergus reported, Foothill Tech’s community service coordinator and Interact Club advisor. Additionally, students with community service can be eligible and are encouraged to apply to receive both local and national scholarships for college or other secondary education.

Then that summer I went to camp CAUSE and I was able to connect with people from other cities who also were involved in CAUSE and … it was really cool just seeing people who shared the interest of advocating for social justice and change.

— Lola Tennison '24

Foothill Tech offers its unique DTech, Bioscience, ASB, GRAF-X and coding academies as well as various electives and CTE (Career Technical Education) programs for students interested in a variety of career pathways, such as design, engineering, scientific research, medical professions, leadership and coding. Whether they choose to pursue the academies, take CTE classes or other electives, another way students have chosen to pursue specialized career interests is through community service involvement, offering them learning experiences beyond the classroom and opportunities to develop professional relationships.

Though the graduation requirement is no longer in effect, the benefits of community service can be reaped not only in a collective group of people but as great contributors to one’s own intellectual pursuits and personal virtues. 

Lola Tennison ‘24 volunteers with the Ventura chapter of CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy), a network of local initiatives across Ventura County dedicated to promoting justice and equality throughout California’s Central Coast by addressing quality of life concerns such as housing, environmental and wage justice. They assist families facing sudden evictions, environmental issues primarily in communities of color and improved, fairer wages for farmworkers. Tennison has worked with connecting CAUSE with district office candidates.

Tennison offers insight into the self-exploratory side of community service and how it may guide one’s future plans.
(Lily Toreja)

Tennison has volunteered with CAUSE since her sophomore year and has assisted district office campaigns by canvassing, or going door-to-door with crucial information on relevant neighborhood issues and helping connect voters with policymakers. She started attending more meetings and becoming more active in the spring of 2022.

In addition to the project-based learning students can receive through Foothill Tech academies and elective coursework, students have found community service to be a great confidence booster for themselves and their career goals. As part of the curriculum, academy students, especially those in Bioscience, are already encouraged to participate in community service to begin developing crucial skills to succeed in advanced fields of study and eventually professional positions. 

Rhea Gill ‘25, a student in both Bioscience and ASB, recounted how her Bioscience experience works hand-in-hand with Foothill Tech’s Red Cross Club, for which she also serves as president. 

The newest addition to Foothill Tech’s student facilities is the Wellness Center — a calming haven for students in the middle of busy school schedules also serving as a comforting connection to professional health services. Run by upperclassman Wellness Peers who oversee the upkeep and operation of the center as well as agency over school-wide Wellness events, Foothill Tech students with a variety of skills and interest in collaboration are encouraged to apply and join the team.

Fergus champions community service to Foothill Tech and enjoys creating connections between aspiring students and local organizations for great causes. (Lily Toreja)

In preparation for Foothill Tech’s upcoming Wellness Week, Wellness Peer Leo Pankratz ‘24 is working on procuring prizes from local contributors and businesses as additional incentives for participating in the week’s activities. 

“I think I have great communication skills. So I try to highlight that I’m not the most organized. I tend to give the people that are more organized those jobs and take the jobs that require more confidence in public speaking.” Pankratz noted.

Though students may hesitate to pursue these greater commitments as they balance their academics and personal lives, finding the time for simple service tasks can be the start of a personally and skillfully rewarding journey. 

“Go at your own pace, you know, do what is best for your schedule,” advised Tennison.  “If you choose something that you’re passionate in and that you really do want to pursue … just kind of run with it, take it and take every opportunity you can to go show your support. It’s just kind of nice because even though we’re just high schoolers, you still can make an impact at your local level.” 

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About the Contributor
Lily Toreja
Lily Toreja, Writer
I sew, I love mochas and I would most likely die for you if we have a five-hour phone call.

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