By Lauren Ward, Corps Member, the Warner Bros. Team at Clinton Middle School

Earlier this semester, the Warner Bros. team at Clinton Middle School hosted its second annual Winter Festival and Student Fun Fair. After two months of planning, the team was excited to bring the event to life and celebrate with Clinton’s students and families. We began planning in November with high hopes that the festival would provide students and their families with resources that would allow them to form useful connections within their community. All of our hard work and endless hours spent in-kinding, poster making, and outreaching paid off, as we had over 400 attendees take advantage of the fun activities and resources available to them.

Among the community organizations present were Echo Parenting, the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, Alma Family Services, WINTER, the Brotherhood Crusade, and Clinton’s own Crown Jewel Club and Parent Center. With these organizations, families gained access to helpful resources within their community that they might otherwise not have been exposed to.

For one student in particular, the Winter Festival meant so much more. Maria, a sixth grader at Clinton, has been struggling with social anxiety for over five years. After having great difficulty functioning in a preschool classroom, Maria’s parents and teacher decided home schooling was the best option. Maria rejoined public school this year and has struggled with extreme social anxiety, which has made it difficult for her to make friends, ask questions, and participate in extracurricular activities. Last fall, I was able to put Maria in contact with one of our Diplomas Now partners, Communities in Schools (CIS), a social services support network at Clinton. Maria is now an active participant of CIS’s Crown Jewel Club, an all girls club focused on the power of young women in our society. Maria came to the Winter Festival with her family and spent the afternoon greeting parents and handing out brochures for the Club.

The next week at school, I asked Maria how she felt about interacting with people at the Winter Festival—she gave me a quiet, “It was scary.” Despite her fears, it was a big step for her to take a risk and do something that was absolutely out of her comfort zone. I am so proud of her and of the progress she is making.

Throughout the planning stages, the Warner Bros. team’s objective was to create an event that gave students and families the opportunity to celebrate together in their community. We wanted to provide community resources, games, food, and fun prizes that would allow for a memorable experience, but we couldn’t imagine that this event could encourage such personal growth for our student.

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