FAIRFIELD — Sem Yeto High School senior Regina Ferrer had a rough time when she first came to the school.
She started classes at the Sem Yeto Satellite School at Armijo High School last year, a school of less than 200 students. Despite a small size, Ferrer felt alone in a new school and new atmosphere.
“It was tough,” she said.
The satellite campus sits adjacent to the halls of Armijo High’s campus. One long hallway and a few trailers make up the site.
For a small school and small population, however, there is a lot of school spirit. And for Ferrer, that school spirit is what turned things around.
Ferrer decided to join the school’s leadership program, a group composed of fewer than 30 students who organize events and fundraisers. While many high school leadership programs help organize dances, rallies and the like, teacher and adviser Brandon Weyandt said his students are also passionate about giving back to the community.
“Our kids are surprisingly generous,” said Weyandt. “They’re always offering to do things.”
The students organize both in-school events like spirit days to community-wide fundraisers and drives. The school recently collected more than 1,200 cans for its canned food drive, beating the original goal of 1,000 cans.
Student leaders visited classrooms to urge their peers to donate and went door-to-door on Halloween to distribute flyers to neighborhood residents.
“We explained how we wanted to raise cans instead of candy,” Ferrer said.
Last school year, the leadership students had similar success with their Teens for Jeans fundraiser for homeless youth.
As it turns out, the satellite school’s small classes and campus has motivated students who were once reluctant.
Senior class president Jordan Demings was – like Ferrer – hesitant about coming to Sem Yeto.
“I didn’t say anything, I didn’t talk. I didn’t like it at first,” he said.
But when Demings decided to join leadership, he found open arms and something like a family at the school.
Demings found personal inspiration acting as a leader both in the program and as class president.
“It definitely influenced me to help people a lot more,” he said.”I’m going to do more charity.”
Weyandt sees a lot of students like Demings and Ferrer who first come to Sem Yeto ashamed and end up loving the small enviornment and academic attention.
The students sometimes face adversity from the outside community or their peers who view the school negatively.
“They say ‘You go to Sem Yeto? What’s the point of leadership?’ ” he said.
For these students, leadership means a lot. For the students who come to the school feeling down and defeated, Sem Yeto has turned them around, Weyandt said.
Last year, 100 students graduated, 100 percent of which were “bound to be dropouts,” Weyandt said.
Demings, who is on track to graduate next semester, said students who come after him should take note.
“Don’t be afraid. You came here because your grades were low, but this school really helps,” he said.
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.