As a senior student, Vice President of Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera’s Leader Club and President of the Associated Student Body, many of you have probably seen Julio Ornelas on El Rancho High School’s campus running from class to class and student body meetings. Most recently, he’s probably asked you to donate a toy as part of ERHS’ annual campaign that donates toys to the Junior Foundation Charities, a nonprofit that empowers kids with cancer.
Since his sophomore year, Julio has helped coordinate collecting toys from fellow students as part of this annual toy drive. This year, his level of activity has increased, and so has the amount of toys donated—nearly two and a half shopping carts filled with toys that will bring holiday joy to kids with cancer.
If you ever wondered what inspired Julio’s passion to help the Junior Foundation it stems back to when his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately his grandmother lost her battle to the disease this past summer, but seeing the devastating effects that cancer had on his family motivated Julio to expand the toy drive from awareness in just three class rooms to a school-wide effort.
“I’ve learned a lot about cancer through my family’s experience with my grandmother,” Julio said. “The experience made me value the little things in life that bring joy. If a toy can give that sense of joy to a child with cancer, then I am more than happy to help make that happen.”
Julio has showed tremendous leadership during this campaign and has leveraged his leadership role on college applications and for scholarships. This past month, Julio was recognized as an ABC7 “Cool Kid”. Watch the video here: http://abc7.com/society/cool-kid-julio-ornelas-collects-toys-for-children-with-cancer/2862002/
“As students look for volunteer opportunities to use in college applications, they should really think about volunteering or helping an organization that means something to them,” said Michelle Sandoval, program manager, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera. “Julio is a great example of a student who has discovered a way to give back to something that he’s passionate about.”
Julio’s advice to students who are looking for volunteer opportunities is to really think about the causes you care about, and then seek out ways to support organizations that are doing work with that cause. He believes it gives volunteer time more meaning instead of just a box to check off for college applications. The meaningful experiences also turn into a wealth of personal and powerful stories to share on college and scholarship essays.
“I’ve volunteered for other organizations in the past, but giving back to Junior Foundation Charities has been much more meaningful because I was really motivated to give back to children with cancer and their families,” said Ornelas. “When you volunteer for a cause that you’re passionate about it not only motivates you to do more, but it makes it enjoyable and fulfilling.”