Wildcats Find Ways to Help During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Listen to how Woodside students are helping their communities.

Taila Lee, Coeditor in Chief

COVID-19 has affected everyone’s lives, and though times are tough, students at Woodside High School are finding ways to support their communities.

Wildcat Masks

“I have a bunch of friends and family that are kind of on the frontlines,” Elise Hadidi said. “At the beginning of quarantine, I was feeling pretty helpless. I didn’t really know what I could do to help.”

Elise Hadidi, a Woodside sophomore, sews a N95 mask cover at home. (Courtesy of Elise Hadidi)

Elise is a sophomore at Woodside.

“What we’re doing is we’re making these mask covers that can make the N95 masks last longer,” Elise said. “At first, when I started making masks, I made them for friends and family. Then I realized I would probably have a bigger impact if I were to make them on a larger scale and get the community involved.”

Elise currently has a team of 5 mask makers in addition to 1 person who will be donating the materials to the Barton Foundation and the My New Red Shoes Foundation. Elise’s team has made about 120 masks so far, and their team is registered on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

“Right now, the goal is 300 masks total so we can donate 150 masks to each foundation,” Elise said. “We’re still kind of getting started, and hopefully after school ends, we can kind of pick it up.”

Visit Elise’s website here. Want to join her team? You can contact her at [email protected]

Hablame

Using his knowledge of computer science and data sequencing, junior Daniel Longo is another Woodside student making a difference. This year, the College Board moved all Advanced Placement exams online due to restrictions against large gatherings.

“To have the test change so dramatically really threw all that preparation and made it a lot less useful,” Daniel said.

To help his class study for their Spanish language exam, Daniel created a website that allows students to practice their speaking and listening skills.

Longo’s website has three main features to help students practice their Spanish speaking and listening skills. (Courtesy of Daniel Longo)

“So there’s 3 activities on the site, and 2 of these 3 are modeled directly after the AP exam,” Daniel said. “The website would play the recording, you’d speak, and then after it records your recording, you can download it so you can share it with your teacher.”

Daniel’s site includes practice for interpersonal speaking, presentational speaking, and accent development. He worked with his AP Spanish teacher, Amy Hanson, to improve the site.

“I just emailed her, ‘hey, would this be helpful?’ and she said, ‘how about you build it, and I’ll give you feedback,’” Daniel explained. “So I coded it up over the weekend, and she gave me some feedback, I fixed that… And then once we actually used the site in our class for a week to make sure everything worked… Ms. Hanson actually shared it with other Spanish teachers on Facebook groups, and that’s really how the site got its traction.”

Used over 51,000 times by more than 23,000 people, the site has helped students and teachers across the world.

“It’s been really great to see how people have reacted to it,” Daniel said.

Visit Daniel’s website here.

¡Arriba!

Keya Gupta, a junior at Woodside, is also involved in language education. Passionate about helping students learn conversational English, she founded the program ¡Arriba! this year.

“In weightlifting, I realized that there were a lot of kids who only spoke Spanish and didn’t speak any English,” Keya said, “and when the teacher would say, ‘okay, don’t lift it like this, because if you lift the weight wrong, you could seriously injure yourself,’ they wouldn’t understand those directions… it impacted me so much because someone could seriously get hurt.”

Keya also related her past experience in boarding school to what she was witnessing in her weightlifting class.

“When I moved to India in second grade, I didn’t know a word of Hindi,” Keya said, “and I was placed in a boarding school where everyone spoke Hindi, and I felt really isolated… Now that I’m on the other side of it, where I’m the person who speaks English… I can be helpful, I can do something.”

1% or 2% of the students who go to a public school in the Bay Area only speak Spanish. But in Woodside, it’s 14%.

It was just so heartwarming to be able to connect with him on that level.”

— Colby Peck

With the help of Woodside staff and students, Keya founded ¡Arriba!, a tutoring program aiming to bridge the English-Spanish language barrier.

“I tutored this kid named Arman, and he moved here from Iran 6 months ago,” Keya shared. “He’s been learning English so far on YouTube. He’s been doing it alone, he’s a senior. And he really wanted to make friends and learn a bit about American culture. And then we transitioned online, so he’s even more cut off… When we were talking, I was realizing how scary it must be for him… Distance learning is already tough… To do distance learning, all of your classes in a language you don’t understand… I just realized it was so much harder for these students.”

“With distance learning, we’ve transitioned to FaceTime, Skype,” said Colby Peck, a tutor for ¡Arriba! and the program’s Vice President of Outreach. “I have a tutee, and we’re focusing on conversational English right now.

“When I first met Keith, we were talking through text because we were going to FaceTime, and he just thanked me for helping him,” Colby shared. And he’s like, ‘I want to make friends in English and be able to talk to them.’ And I was just like, wow. And it was just so heartwarming to be able to connect with him on that level.”

Even during a pandemic, these Woodside students have shown how we can still find hope and gratitude through difficult times.

Visit Keya’s website and join ¡Arriba! here.

This audio package was also featured in the COVID-19 series for the World Teenage Reporting Project.