Looking Back at AVID 2023 and Serve Santa Maria


Mayor, Alice Patino, AVID 23 students, and teachers, Shelly Springer and Karen Draper, take a group picture at Miller Elementary School on August 20, 2022 for Serve Santa Maria.

Alexa Hernandez-Bazan, Contributor

On August 20th, the AVID class of 2023 set out to attend the project at Miller Elementary School sponsored by Serve Santa Maria. The project involved painting the U.S. map, 4-Square, and Kindergarten playground area. Approximately 25-35 people attended overall from around the community. Shirts were provided. Apparently, more people turned out to help than was expected.

Shelly Springer, one of the teachers for the AVID class of 2023, is always on the lookout for volunteer opportunities for her students. Santina Olney, a history teacher at SMHS, was also at the scene and she brought more paint brushes/rollers as there were more volunteers than expected. She truly saved the day.

“This event was fun, being able to paint. I might do it again,” mentioned Aleida Santos, an AVID 23 student.

“I liked the painting one [project] because that felt like we were doing something for the little kids,” replied Kimberly Guerrero.

Before the project, the students and volunteers were able to meet local political leaders like Councilman Carlos Escobeda and Mayor, Alice Patino. The volunteers were able to fill up on donuts and juice before heading to the project site.

Reporter, Christina Rodriguez, from KEYT News arrived on site. The released video is on their page, along with their article. Mrs. Springer recalled, “It was exciting because the reporter was a former AVID student from the L.A. area. She[Rodriguez] was nearly in tears talking about how much of an impact AVID made on her life.”

Additionally, AVID 23 has participated in two other big projects over the years.

There was the Buena Vista Park project, where volunteers picked weeds and cleaned up trash. “We thought it was going to be a bigger project, but it wasn’t, so we tried to do more,” said Springer. In fact, they spread mulch around the playground. At the scene was also Alice Patino, the mayor of Santa Maria, which was exciting. Mayor Patino worked alongside the students picking up trash and pulling weeds.

“I enjoyed the park cleaning a lot. There were pieces of glass that I picked up so kids don’t step on them. I liked this project at the park because it’s next to our school and that made it kind of feel special. I would do it again,” said Angel Rivera, an AVID 23 student, when remembering about this project.

There was also the massive backyard cleanup project. They removed 3′-4′ tall weeds before they could get to the yard. Once they gained access to the backyard, they began hauling out sofas beds, tables, chairs, and other furniture that covered the yard. The debris had been there for so long that rats, cats, opossums, and other animals had been living in the trash. The smell was revolting. With the help of the students who went and around six adults, a rented dumpster was filled up to the top.

“We showed up in the morning and waited for everyone to gather around. We wore gloves and we moved the trash, furniture, old debris, and branches. It made me happy to be able to help a family and the community,” said Salvador Monroy, an AVID 23 student.

Serve Santa Maria is working on improving various areas that will benefit the community. Anyone who is interested in getting involved with the projects from their page. A variety of activities are available, including those of school and community projects at the time of the meet-up. Springer mentions, “Serve Santa Maria is a great program. Pastor Carl Nielsen is able to find people, projects, and schools in need where they do not have the ‘person power’ to get their projects done. On a certain day, he is able to match all the people in the community to do these projects. And it’s just a really cool way to give back to the community.”

People are often surprised by Serve Santa Maria’s successful projects and their outcomes. Depending on the project, volunteers can be there for an hour or more. Usually, two or three hours were spent on the projects above.

Anybody can contact Carl Nielson and he will evaluate to see if that will be on the next project list.

Springer hopes that this participation will make the other AVID classes want to get involved. “I think it’s rewarding to the students to see how the students can help their community be a better place to be and live. Additionally, the mayor, Alice Patino, usually texts me and says ‘Where are you guys working’ because she wants to know where our kids from Santa Maria are going to be. Patino is a Santa Maria high school graduate and is a huge proponent to our students.”

Karen Draper, an AVID 23 teacher, comments, “hopefully the students feel the joy of home-giving. When you help somebody out, it comes back to you.” When asked about the impact of Serve Santa Maria, Draper says, “What a nice person is Pastor Carl Nielson. He is a retired Pastor, but what a thankful thing for him to do. I am really impressed with them. Serve Santa Maria is needed in our community because there are people who cannot get out and do the things that are done in the projects.” She adds, “When you work alongside your students, it’s different than being inside a classroom. You get to see their real personalities.”

Expect to see more of the AVID class of 23 and Serve Santa Maria in April 2023!