No matter the year, the Stevenson community is one that is generous of spirit and resources, and Pirates are always quick to step in to give to those in need—whether that be for a fellow student, a local community member, or even a stranger across the globe. However, despite the School’s longstanding commitment to making the world kinder and more equitable, 2020 has called on all of us in an even more pressing way to consider how we can help make the world a place that is safer and gentler for all—and, unsurprisingly, the Stevenson community has stepped up to heed this call in a profound way.
Pirate generosity has been exemplified over the last year by two particular projects aimed at helping local community members who are struggling during this abnormally trying pandemic season: a book drive spearheaded by Kathryn DiPietro, middle division Spanish teacher, and a food drive organized by Amy Spencer, middle division history teacher, and helmed by Nathan Carlyle ’25, who took on the cause last spring as his Bar Mitzvah Service Project.
Sra. DiPietro launched a book drive this year for the Migrant Education Programs (MEP), after realizing the disproportionate toll COVID was taking on migrant communities—where children can work in the fields as young as age 12, and families face unique challenges as they consistently uproot their place of residence while trying to maintain educational continuity for their kids. With the closure of schools during COVID, migrant students have lost access to the extra resources they need to continue their education from home, including quiet, safe, places to study, as well as the tech devices to attend school virtually.
To help combat these seemingly insurmountable challenges, the MEP has focused on getting books to migrant children, which helps them continue to develop their literacy skills even while they’re unable to attend school. Sra. DiPietro has called upon the Stevenson community to donate books for the MEP to distribute. So far, the students at Stevenson have collected nearly 600 books for the MEP region XVI in Salinas—which serves more than 30 schools in every district in Monterey County and beyond.
Sra. DiPietro explains that the drive has undoubtedly helped the migrant community, but it has also had a profound impact on participating Stevenson students. She writes, “I believe that by spreading awareness of the book drive and the migrant population (which so often in the literature has been labeled as ‘invisible’), the students at Stevenson will have benefitted from an increased understanding of the disparities that exist around them, and a deeper appreciation of the fresh food and vegetables that are on their tables thanks to this population in their very own neighborhood.”
Similarly, Mrs. Spencer launched a food drive to benefit neighbors in need. Once she learned that her grade 7 students’ pen pals—in Mrs. Martha Henry’s Class at Seaside Middle School—were skipping meals to conserve food during the pandemic, she decided she could call on the Pirate community to collect food donations to help feed Seaside families who were struggling. With the help of project manager Nathan C. ’25, the grade 7 students opened up the drive to the entire school and collected donations of non-perishable food items, which were amassed and delivered to a food pantry set up by Mrs. Henry on the sidewalk in front of her house in Seaside. The grade 7 food drive ended up feeding not only the students’ pen pals and their families, but also the entire Seaside community.
The first round of the food drive wrapped up in May when the 2019-20 school year ended, but it was reinstated when school reopened in September, as the food pantry had become an invaluable resource to those struggling during the ongoing pandemic. Mrs. Spencer explains, “This food pantry is incredibly helpful to local families. Families and individuals that struggle to find transportation or money to go to the grocery store now have some essentials within walking distance…The pantry is frequented by individuals on their way to work in the morning, by homeless youth that stop by on foot or on bicycle, by families that walk by each day, and even by families that visit once it is dark for anonymity. For this reason, Mrs. Henry restocks the pantry a few times a day, including every evening at dusk. The beauty of the placement of the food pantry right along a busy street in Seaside is that families do not have to wait in long lines at distribution centers, and they can help care for their families without having to ask for help and maintain their dignity.”
Despite Stevenson’s switch to remote learning, the food drive continues at the School to help keep the Seaside food pantry stocked during the autumn and winter. Families can deliver non-perishable food items to bins in front of the school once a week (usually on Wednesday), and deliveries are made to the pantry by Stevenson students weekly (usually on Thursdays). Several students also (safely) take the time to help Mrs. Henry sort, restock, and organize the goods to make sure they are accessible to anyone in need.
Mrs. Henry, Mrs. Spencer’s partner teacher from Seaside Middle explains the beauty of the food drive—how it represents not only an attempt to help those in need, but also an incredible collaboration between two communities that are similar in geographic location but disparate in resources and background. She writes, “Seaside Middle School and Stevenson are as opposite as one can get economically. Our school-to-school friendship and pen pal relationship developed from a novel we read/wrote about Seedfolks together. The novel is about diverse people coming together to create a community garden. Our students have brought the lessons learned from Seedfolks to life during Covid-19.”