By Jenelyn Russo     5/14/2020

While Orange County Catholic schools remain in a distance-learning format for the remainder of this school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, students, families and staff at various school sites have continued to put serving their communities at the forefront. 

At St. Justin Martyr School students stepped up to make thank you cards for essential workers in the community. Inspired by TK teacher Elva Pelayo, whose husband is a doctor, and Kindergarten teacher Kelsey Aguilera, whose husband is a police officer, TK through eighth graders got to work on their handmade expressions of thanks for those who continue to put their lives on the frontlines. 

Once completed, the cards were delivered to a number of grateful recipients at LAPD Central Division and Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center. The project was so well received by the students and families that Aguilera believes there will be a second round of card making in the school’s near future for grocery clerks and other essential workers. 

“I think it’s really important for [the students] to know all the people that are sacrificing their time and their lives for us,” says Aguilera. “This was our way of donating.” 

Each year, third graders at St. Cecilia School learn about Catholic service and stewardship through a fundraising project and field trip to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC). But with the Laguna Beach facility currently closed to the public, Angela Goodwin and her third-grade class needed to switch gears. 

In lieu of garage sales and lemonade stands that would otherwise be used to raise funds for the center, Goodwin’s class is coordinating alternate fundraising efforts, including online donations, to maintain their commitment to the rescue and rehabilitation services that PMMC provides for local marine mammals. 

And instead of seeing the center’s seals and sea lions in person this year, PMMC is offering a virtual “Stewards of the Sea” field trip for the school’s third graders. Goodwin knows that even in the disappointment of not being able to visit PMMC, finding ways to continue to serve in the midst of crisis is a life lesson well learned for her students. 

“I think it’s important to show that while things might be different right now, and they aren’t going the way we were expecting, we can still do things to really help out our environment and the world around us,” says Goodwin, “even though it might look different than we originally planned.” 

Christ Cathedral Academy Interim Principal, Ashley-Rose Cameron did not need to put out a call-to-action in order to see service come to life in the school’s community. 

Mr. Kwang, the school’s Director of Marketing and Enrollment, served at the Catholic Charities Food Bank in Santa Ana distributing groceries to local families in need. Additionally, CCA families joined school secretary Julia Nguyen in sewing more than 1,000 masks for essential workers in support of Sister Thu Hong’s cause. The school also donated wipes to local homeless shelters, and students created videos and cards of thanks for essential workers. 

Having only served in the interim principal role for a few months, Cameron was touched by the selfless acts of the school community that came without prompting. 

“To see everyone come together on their own during a time that has been difficult for our school, but also globally, has been a beacon of hope and inspiration for all of us,” says Cameron. “Knowing people stepped up on their own for the greater good is just another testament to our family community.”