Students Educate Community About Social Activism at Clutch Panel

With her hair tied up in a messy bun and an apron tied around her waist, Victoria Skrivanos ’15 looks out the window of her church on the last Saturday of every month to see a line of hungry, homeless and haggard community members. Just as she’s been doing for the past five years, she rises at 6 a.m. once a month to lead a team of about 20 volunteers in cooking meals, washing dishes and greeting the dozens of people who are waiting outside for a hot meal provided by her non-profit organization, Food for Friends. As part of the Clutch Collaborative’s student panel on Wednesday in the Mural Room, Skrivanos, Drake Danner ’14, Gregory Hosono ’14, Tyler Tsay ’15 and Justine Wang ’15, recounted the struggles, rewards and lessons that came from starting social ventures and continuing them at Andover. The Clutch Collaborative strives to promote social entrepreneurship on campus. Throughout the panel students noted that time constraints and the rigorous workload that Andover imposes upon its students impact their abilities to actually operate their organizations. “Before I came to Andover, [working on this organization] was a really big part of my life.. There’s a lot of planning during school breaks and because we work on a more global scale, I communicate with people via email in different countries,” said Wang, Co-Founder of We are the World Kids, an organization aiming to provide rural areas with educational resources and relief to disaster struck regions around the globe. Danner is a Co-Founder of Shoes 4 Change, an organization that purchases and resells high-demand Nike sneakers. All profits are donated to Miraclefeet, a non-profit organization focused on treating children with clubfoot in developing nations. He said that the use of social media contributes to the efficiency of the organization and allows him to connect with the larger sneaker-collecting population. “[Shoes 4 Change] doesn’t really have any student team, so day-to-day stuff like checking email takes away from my time when I’d like to be working on larger goals. The other thing is acquiring shoes. The way these shoes sell online is at 8 in the morning, so I have to wake up and try to buy them, but usually I fail because there are so many people that want to buy the same shoes,” said Danner. Tsay is the Program Manager of College Companion, a program that collects college test prep books and redistributes them to schools and programs in need. Despite the obstacles they face every day, panelists find satisfaction and meaning in the experiences they have. “At the very end of the year I actually went to deliver the books at the organization Let’s Get Ready in Boston. I dropped off all the books at the front door. A group of kids were there, and I had no idea that they were going to be there, and they all came up to me and shook my hand and hugged me individually. That was when I actually learned that it matters. What you do is not arbitrary,” said Tsay. Skrivanos added, “At the feedings, I love sitting down with the people and hearing their stories. There’s a girl who has been coming ever since the first session… I’ve known her for a couple years now and I’ve seen her grow, which is really special. Seeing other people and hearing their stories… is rewarding to hear them, knowing that they have something to look forward to.” Wang has also grasped lessons from participating in, running and founding her program. “[In schools stricken by disaster], classes have almost 60 students and are still so motivated to learn, to try to overcome what they’re facing. It is something that has been truly inspiring and something that I still carry with myself today. It inspires me to keep going on when I’m facing something hard because there are people in the world facing something so much harder.” Tsay said, “The biggest thing I have learnt is how to deal with people, because there’s so many different people involved, both students and adults who I contact. For instance, there is this one community service director who I emailed for about six months, like eight times, and he never replied until he emailed saying one word: ‘no.’ It was the only word in the email. I’ll be emailing one hundred people in a city, and I’m trying to juggle who’s responding, who hates me now and who doesn’t.” An up-and-coming concept, social entrepreneurship is the combination of business principles with a desire to create social change, according to Janine Ko ’14, Co-Chair of Clutch Collaborative. Skrivanos and Wang are Associate Editors for The Phillipian. Ko is the Executive Editor.