Celebrating Birthdays and Building Community at Helix Charter School

This blog post was written by Veronica Berg, a junior at Helix Charter High School in La Mesa, California. She has been part of ASB at her school for two years and is now the captain of Helix’s Sound and Spirit committee. ASB has been an amazing experience for her, and she feels lucky to be able to help our school grow.

At Helix Charter High School, the associated student body (ASB) desires to create a campus environment where each and every student feels special. Years ago, Helix’s ASB began creating birthday cards.

It’s a simple task to take a few minutes every day during our ASB class to change someone’s day. Not everyone is brought balloons or gifts on their birthday: this way everyone on Helix’s campus is recognized. ASB handwrites each individual birthday card, with a ticket for a free slushie inside. Then, we write down their room number and each student’s birthday and deliver it to their class. Every Helix student receives a birthday card, even if their birthday falls on a weekend or during a break. Sophia, an eleventh grader at Helix, is appreciative of the cards. According to her, “It’s a nice touch that the school was able to remember my birthday, knowing that we have over 2,500 students.”

Making and delivering birthday cards has come with obstacles: from putting our time into a big upcoming event and falling behind on creating cards to delivering cards to wrong classrooms. At Helix Charter, ASB strives to create many events that make positive memories for our students. Some of our bigger events require a lot of planning and time, and it’s easy to put our focus into the event rather than birthday cards. We make sure to get ahead with cards when we are not in the midst of planning an event such as homecoming. After delivering the same card to the same wrong class multiple times, we created a system where if a student is absent or in a different class, the card is set aside so we can fix the error.

Every student at Helix should feel recognized by someone, no matter what else is going on in their life. Our students may not always feel loved and supported, whether that be from their family or friends, but our goal is to remind each and every student that they matter and they are loved. Although some of our birthday cards end up in the trash within the period they are sent out, it is worth it to know that it has made someone’s day to be recognized and appreciated. When we deliver birthday cards, teachers and classmates see that it is a student’s birthday and often give them birthday wishes as well. Helix ASB is able to change someone’s day by taking a few minutes and writing “Happy Birthday”. Jericho, a twelfth grader at Helix, agrees: “I feel that birthday cards promote togetherness among the Helix community.” And to all the other schools reading this, the astonishing fact is, there is a huge positive impact on your students behind reaching out and recognizing each and every one of them.

Although Helix’s ASB had already begun to make and deliver birthday cards, after attending the inspirED Youth Engagement and Leadership Lab event there was a greater purpose behind what we do. The cards had always been something that we did because we always did them, but we were able to learn and fully understand what our purpose was. We hope to take this and use it with every event or activity we do, to make sure we understand our why and how it can benefit Helix students. Since the inspirED conference, we have not only begun to understand the positive emotional effect of our actions, but we have also started activities near our quad every Friday. This will hopefully allow kids to have something to do during lunch, if they don’t have other commitments, and create friendships among people participating in the same activity.

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