From Nov. 28 to Nov. 30, the ChicanX-LatinX Student Union (CLSU) had a Mexican hot chocolate and “pan dulce” sale.

Senior Gabriela Alvarado, co-chair of CLSU, started thinking about a sale to help the Butte County fire victims because Country Day was closed for a few days due to the smoke.

“I usually don’t listen to the news at all,” Alvarado said.

“As I decided to open the news app for the first time, I started reading about the fires and the people who were affected by it. This started a conversation point for my family during dinner about what’s happening in Northern California. The air quality here was really bad, and the smoke was extremely thick, so I can’t imagine how bad it would be where the fires are.”

Over Thanksgiving break, Alvarado texted CLSU members and asked them about ideas to help the fire victims.

“When I went to Southern California over the break, the dichotomy between Sacramento and LA, where you can actually see the sun and breathe air, was incredible,” Alvarado said.

“This was a real eye-opener because it made Sacramento look so much worse, and I can only imagine how bad things were in Paradise. You take things for granted you never knew you could, such as the air,” Alvarado said.

Alvarado and senior Yanele Ledesma, co-chair of CLSU, started reaching out to the Chinese Club, LGBTQ club and Student Council. They wanted to get together with all student groups and hold multiple fundraisers because of the devastating effect of the fires.

“After constantly hearing how disastrous the fires were, I wanted to help as much as possible,” Ledesma said.

“Not too far from us, people are suffering. We shouldn’t just go about our daily lives if we can help. I pictured myself in the position of those families, and taking action made me feel better.”

CLSU adviser and Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo was devastated when she heard about another teacher on campus who was directly affected by the fires.

“I recently found out that (sophomore history teacher Bill Crabb) had relatives who were affected by the fires, which was heartbreaking,” Portillo said.

Crabb tried to help his close friends and relatives who lost everything in the fires.

“My brother had to flee without warning through the raging fire,” Crabb said.

“He told me that this was the scariest moment of his life, which was saying something because he has been shot before. He drove down to my house and stayed with me for about a week, and when he returned back to his house, the entire neighborhood was gone.”

“That same night, I had multiple families living with me who were fleeing from Paradise and Chico as well. That was when it hit me. Everyone smelled like smoke, and all they had were the clothes on their bodies. They lost their homes, cars, jobs and pretty much everything. I did not realize that they needed all the simple things, like clothes and toothbrushes.”

CLSU members agreed that because of the cold weather, they would sell warm cups of hot chocolate with sweet bread.

“Being part of CLSU, most of us have grown up drinking Mexican hot chocolate, and it’s part of our culture,” Alvarado said.

“I thought it was a great way of sharing this with the rest of our school community, and it was a nice change of flavor.”

Crabb said it’s “fantastic” that student groups are willing to help others outside of the Country Day community, as the affected people still have not recovered.

However, Portillo said the sales did not go as well as they had anticipated.

“CLSU did not tell others ahead of time about the sales, so that could have been part of the reason why the sale was low,” Portillo said.

“Also, the hot chocolate was not very accessible because the pots needed an outlet, so people might not have seen the sale.”

Portillo said CLSU had a goal to raise $200 but obtained only $125. Although club members had a large goal, they are also relying on other fundraisers.

On Dec. 11, CLSU worked together with third graders and third grade teacher Kristi Mathisen to sell more Mexican hot chocolate to the lower school.

According to Ledesma, the money made from the fundraisers will be donated to a local church that has direct connections to people affected by the fires.

CLSU is partnering with the Chinese Club for a dumpling sale to raise more money during the week after winter break.

CLSU also might sell Mexican candy, Alvarado said.

Portillo added that she was willing to help with any fundraiser that supports a good cause.

“Our students need a sense of community where they can build a community for support,” Portillo said.

“Anytime a student or a student group asks for help in something that I see is beneficial to the school community, I’m willing to go out of my way and do extra work because I feel that it’s important for everybody.”

—By Sanjana Anand

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