Pleasanton Weekly

News - December 10, 2010

Foothill Cares: changing the world one student at a time

Weeklong effort promotes compassion at the school

by Glenn Wohltmann

You can change the world.

That was the message from Spencer West, a man with a history of overcoming obstacles, a message some Foothill High School students took to eagerly.

West, who lost his legs when he was 5 and was told he'd never be a functioning member of society, went on to do just that, with all the trappings. He told the 2,200 students at Foothill that it took a trip to Kenya to help build a school for him to realize his calling -- to help motivate others to be a power for good in the world.

He's now a speaker for the Me to We organization, a group that promotes social change and donates half its profits to "Free the Children."

In a speech that was by turns moving and funny, West gave simple advice to the students.

"Just be happy every day. We need to be thankful for the things we have," he said. "Just do one thing. What's important is that you decide what's important and do something about it."

That's in keeping with the school's mission for the week, Foothill Cares, in which students will decide on a charity for the school to adopt.

Some of the students took part in a day of silence, which is part of Free the Children's campaign to support youths who are silenced by the denial of their basic rights.

While many of the students participated, some took it more seriously than others, wearing black tape across their mouths, and not only remaining silent but not using text messages or social media like Facebook either.

Tenth-grader Alexis Bagon, 15, was one of those who spent the day with her mouth taped shut, communicating by gestures and notes.

"It would be easier to talk like I normally do -- like we all do -- but the people we are representing don't even have that choice," Bagon explained in writing. "I can now identify how hard it is for them and I am not even experiencing it to the degree they do."

Julia Feng, a 14-year-old ninth-grader agreed, though not in spoken words.

"Throughout this day I learned that without a voice I had no say in anything and couldn't speak up and say my opinion in class or share what I thought and for other people who have their rights taken away from them, that impacts their life even more," Feng wrote.

Foothill Cares week is part of Pleasanton's commitment to building a community of character, and West's closing, a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., seemed to sum up the school's mission for the week:

"If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant."

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