Student brownie sale raises funds and awareness

Sloka Suresh

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LHS students Sanjana Narayanan, Hali Wu, Abdullah Ashiq, Nancy Qi, Zahra Aziz and Audrey Ding launched a fundraiser on Sept. 15 to provide financial support for Rose Morales*, a Guatemalan refugee. Morales is the daughter of Japanese teacher Jeremy Kitchen’s neighbor. Held at Lynbrook, the fundraiser raised both awareness and funds to aid her and her family as they seek political asylum.

Through the asylum system, the U.S. grants refuge to foreign nationals in need of protection. In order to be considered for asylum, individuals must first prove their eligibility through proof of persecution or fear of persecution within their home country. If their applications are accepted, individuals will have an opportunity to appeal for asylum before an immigration judge.  If applicants fail to meet any of the criteria, they may be sent back to their country of origin.

For many asylum seekers, the financial burden of hiring an attorney proves to be the biggest obstacle. While there are organizations that provide reduced-cost legal aid to refugees, they often lack the resources to accommodate the number of individuals seeking protection within American borders. To expedite the process, Morales’s family has sought legal aid from a private attorney who charges $6,000 to even begin the proceedings.

After hearing of Morales’s circumstances through former Paper Airplanes officer and Lynbrook class of 2019 alumna Patricia Wei, Narayanan, Wu and Ding knew they had to take action. They decided to hold a brownie fundraiser to raise money quickly and promoted the event  through direct messaging on Facebook. Homemade brownies, sold at $1 apiece, attracted students to donate to the cause.

“We had a chance to make a difference in someone’s life that related to the issues that we’ve been working on,” Narayanan said. “We weren’t really sure how much money we could raise, but then we made $150, which is truly amazing.”

The fundraiser went beyond the money it raised; it also helped create awareness about immigration issues and motivated the organizers to further their impact through similar initiatives. 

“I think [the fundraiser] did two things,’’ Kitchen said. “One, it got us closer to covering the $6,000. I think the second thing [was] being able to communicate to them that there’s this group of students who felt strongly enough that they were willing to donate their own money.”

The success of the first fundraiser has sparked plans for a second. Although the date is not finalized, the organizers hope to hold a larger brownie fundraiser and raise more money by marketing to more students. Additionally, they hope to expand their efforts to involve the Paper Airplanes club. 

“Our fundraiser is just our way of having a real world experience in contributing rather than just learning about things[refugee related issues] through presentations,” Wu said. “It’s more a way to learn about the issues from someone who’s in our community and going through those struggles.”

The fundraiser is a testament to the power of student voice. Every member of the Lynbrook community has the opportunity to make a difference, and it is through initiatives like these that students are able to create awareness and spark change. 

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.