Two days before Christmas, San Marcos High School looks like most high schools do mid-winter break. Save for the errant maintenance man, gardener, or administrator, the hallways are vacant and eerily quiet—that is, until you round the corner to room F12. Stepping into Jamie DeVries’s classroom, you’d never know that school wasn’t in session. Kids are mulling about, conferring over paperwork, scribbling notes on chalkboards. Minus the crowd hovering around a stack of recently delivered pizzas, everything seems to be business as usual.
While none of DeVries’s AP economics students are required to come to class during winter break, most show up willingly. That’s because these seniors are in the final stages of production for what will be the organization’s 12th annual Kids Helping Kids concert—and they really, really want to get things right.
The concept behind Kids Helping Kids (KHK) is simple: Alongside the required AP econ curriculum, DeVries’s students spend their year learning the ins and outs of a functioning nonprofit. (KHK officially claimed 501(c)(3) status in 2012.) The students break down into teams, write grant letters, make proposals, balance budgets, and organize fundraising events throughout the year, all culminating in a very big-deal benefit concert at the Granada Theatre in January. And when all is said and done, the KHK students divvy up proceeds to in-need youths (both local and international) of their choosing — and put those handy economics lessons to real-world use.
“It’s not so much a light-switch moment as it is a slow awakening,” said DeVries of his students. “It takes some time to realize that there are two people on either side of the equation. There are the students, whose lives are hopefully being changed by learning how to sacrificially give, but also the kids on the receiving end.”
This Saturday, January 10, KHK brings platinum-selling singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and Jon McLaughlin to the Granada. In addition to presenting the show, the students will take tickets, act as ushers, and host a silent auction for VIP attendees.
“We’ve sold over 1,000 tickets, and we’ve already grossed over $56,000 in ticket revenue,” gushed DeVries over the break. Before New Year’s, the Granada show officially sold out, though parties interested in donating can still do so at kidshelpingkidssb.org.
The money raised at this Saturday’s concert (as well as the rest of this year’s fundraising efforts) will be allocated multiple in-need individuals and causes, to be determined by the students following the show.
“It’s fun to see that you can make a difference,” said KHK CEO Peter Greig. “I would have never imagined that I could raise money to help a kid that’s dying of cancer so that his parents could spend more time with him, or help these kids in Nicaragua,” added Director of Public Relations Tiana Gong, “just doing these things that you would have never imagined doing and then actually doing them.”
Meanwhile, DeVries is helping to grow the Kids Helping Kids model beyond San Marcos. There are now versions of the nonprofit in Agoura Hills, Sacramento, Ojai, and Denver, Colorado. And based on the enthusiasm witnessed locally this Christmas Eve Eve, it’s a model well worth expanding on.
“There’s no one taking roll; I’m not checking off any boxes,” laughed DeVries. “They just show up because they really want to help.”
For more on Kids Helping Kids, visit kidshelpingkidssb.org