Ereni Delis did not expect that doing good work would be so hard.

The Hillsdale High School junior set out to grant fellow and future school students a chance to enjoy the same sort of programs and opportunities she appreciated by launching a club dedicated to fundraising.

Her intent was to work with fellow club members on writing grants that could generate revenue to help preserve a unique programming model at Hillsdale High School that allows students and teachers to remain grouped for two years.

The Service Foundation Impact Club was designed to collaborate with the Hillsdale High School Foundation to bridge a $400,000 budget shortfall the school faced due to operating its small learning communities program.

A vision of allowing students to build employable skills such grant writing while also serving the school community made perfect sense to Delis — who did not expect the administrative hurdles she would encounter.

“In founding the club, we did face road block after road block,” Delis said.

The biggest challenge to overcome in the process was a regulation prohibiting clubs from fundraising for the district. Clubs could raise money for specific items like sweatshirts, but not for the school system.

With an abundance of persistence and assurance that the club would be working alongside the foundation to fundraise through grant writing targeting philanthropic organizations, district officials relented and the club was formed.

“There were a lot of hoops to jump through and time it took to get to this point,” Delis said.

After clearing the red tape, Delis and her club members turned their focus to three strategic initiatives — raising money for lab materials to be used in the science program, generating money to provide support for those on the school’s free or reduced lunch program and starting a school community garden.

Since identifying their goals, Delis and her roughly 15 club members, as well as foundation members, teachers and administrators have focused on writing grants to corporate and philanthropic partners.

To hone their skills, Delis said professional grant writers have helped club members refine their approach in a fashion more likely to resonate with their targeted audience.

For Delis, advancing her abilities as a student while also serving her school community are what she appreciates most about the club.

“Part of the reason why I think the club is so great is not only are we serving our community, but we are building these skills,” she said.

Looking ahead, Delis said she may pursue a career in grant writing. But she also loves science, technology, engineering and math work along with having a passion for public speaking.

“I’m still soul searching this summer. But whatever career I end up wanting to pursue, this set of skills will be valuable to me,” she said.

In the immediate term, she is interning at the office of U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and appreciates the opportunity to serve her community through that role. A primary focus during the internship is trying to drive women’s interest in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

“I do find a lot of value in hard work and I enjoy everything that I do. I see a lot of value in persistence,” she said.

Her values are reflected in her work to found the Service Foundation Impact Club, which she hopes will continue to serve Hillsdale High School students over the coming years.

“We are doing our best to serve our community and we are trying to do it in a variety of ways,” she said. “And not just serve our present Hillsdale community, but our future community as well.”

austin@smdailyjournal.com

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