Faces of Christmas: Coyotes That Care

December 24, 2013 

The basics: Coyotes That Care is a student service club at Madera High School that began at the start of this school year. The adviser is Matt Markarian, 41, who teaches chemistry and advanced placement chemistry. He also is chairman of the science department.

What the club does: Students gather for meetings twice a month and perform service projects throughout the community and on campus.

They joined in with the citywide Love Madera project, cleaning up graffiti and helping the elderly by doing yard work.

They helped the janitorial crew clean up after three home football games.

They set tables and decorations for the school's Prom Night, a benefit event for Children's Hospital Central California.

They put together fliers and brochures for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California.

The club averages about 40 regular members.

Why the club does it: Many students want to get involved in the community by lending a helping hand, Markarian said.

The club also helps students earn community service hours. Madera High School requires seven hours per semester per student. Applications for the California Scholarship Federation and college entrance also require community service involvement.

Turning point: A student, McKenzie Casey, is an example of how Coyotes That Care can inspire students in special ways.

McKenzie, one of the students who helped Coyotes That Care get started, was a good listener when she helped at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California. She learned the organization needed a Big Sister to a child who needed a positive role model in their life -- and signed up.

"The best benefit is it takes them beyond themselves," Markarian said. "They are not just focused on themselves. Some have problems of their own. It helps them get a bigger perspective on what's going on in the community."

Details, details: Students Autumn Gallegos, Noor Gil and McKenzie Casey were the driving forces behind Coyotes That Care.

At the end of their junior years, they went before the school activities director to explore the possibility. Papers were filed in the spring. The principal approved the club. Then, they let other students know the club was coming.

Now in their senior years, Autumn is the current president, and McKenzie is vice president.

What others say: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California spotlighted McKenzie and 7-year-old Neveah in its November Match Spotlight.

High school Bigs program coordinator Zenia Brizendine writes in the spotlight: "This has been an amazing match to watch!"

How to help: Markarian says the best way to help is for other high schools and students to "follow the lead" by becoming involved in their communities.

Details: call Markarian at (559) 675-4444, ext. 2038, or email, mattmarkarian@maderausd.org.

-- Ron Orozco

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