November 9, 2021

Student 2 Student

A year ago, Oakwood senior Owen ’22 founded Student 2 Student (S2S), an organization that connects students at Oakwood and other schools with community engagement projects, allowing them to participate to whatever extent they’re able. “If you want to be all in, you totally can,” Owen says. “Or you can show up at a drive and help out one time.”

Owen was motivated to start the program after participating in LA’s Department of Public Social Services’ Adopt-A-Family program, which matches families in need with sponsors, who provide groceries, clothing, or toys during the holiday season. 

The Adopt-A-Family program became one of the three main projects that S2S features. The other two are a “Backpack Drive” that collects backpacks and school supplies to be distributed to LA-area students in need, and “Spring Clean”, during which students can contribute gently used clothing and other items. Their first backpack drive resulted in 600 donated backpacks filled with supplies.

After coming up with the initial idea, Owen was joined by fellow Oakwood classmates Asher ’22 and Zander ’22 in fleshing out the concept. “It started in Owen’s backyard, going through his power point,” says Asher. “It became clear for Zander and I that it was an opportunity that was hard to turn down.”


Phu Tranchi, Director of Community Engagement and Experiential Learning at Oakwood, also helped Owen shape the project. “I try to frame all of our community engagement around the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint to rescue people and the planet,” says Phu. He was also able to connect Owen to colleagues at other LA high schools.

Phu added that Oakwood’s philosophy stresses engagement, as opposed to disconnected philanthropy. “It’s about understanding needs,” he explained. “Not just about donating what we think folks need, but creating a relationship.”

Asher '22 and Oakwood students of S2S speak at a LA County Department of Public Social Services Toy Loan backpack drive.

The project has since spread out from Oakwood into an endeavor that includes 130 volunteers from eight LA high schools, including Notre Dame and Palisades Charter High School. They’ve founded a 501(c)3 nonprofit and have plans to branch out to other projects such as a peer tutoring network or a sock drive for homeless individuals. A high school in Vermont has expressed interest in opening an East Coast chapter.

Although it’s quickly extended beyond the borders of Oakwood, it’s origins are firmly established in its pedagogy. “Down to every class, there’s always a connection to what it means in the real world,” says Asher.

It makes sense for Oakwood kids to start something like this and for Oakwood kids to be passionate about helping others.

Asher '22