East Bay News

Community members grant Richmond High wish list requests

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Richmond High School is still struggling with the vicious gang rape on its campus last month. Now, Richmond's faith-based community is offering to help. Churches are working to fulfill school wish lists and provide some much needed mentors.

While others watched the gang rape of a 16-year-old at Richmond High and did nothing, Margarita Vargas was the only person to call police.

Tuesday night, the Richmond City Council issued a proclamation in her honor.

"If you're ever in my situation where they discover something tragic happening in Richmond, I would like them to step forward and do the right thing," said Vargas.

Meanwhile, volunteers were answering the call at the school district's safety committee meeting. About 20 people underwent fingerprinting and background checks to become school volunteers.

"How can we as clergy, how can we as people of faith, step up to the place and actually make a difference?" asked Pastor Jim Wheeler from the First Presbyterian Church in Richmond.

Wheeler is the pastor at the church where the rape survivor is a member. He organized about 20 local churches that are offering to grant a wish list. Schools in West Contra Costa County asked for printers, lights, leaky windows to be fixed, rats exterminated, and funding for extra-curricular and summer programs.

"I have people from all over the world sending me emails saying 'What can we do to help?'" said Wheeler.

"We just need a force of people that can energize, empower, and build up our youth," said Roxann Brown-Garcia, the Kennedy High School principal.

The wish list goes on, but the overwhelming need is for adult volunteers and mentors. School board member Charles Ramsey says it looks like a sincere effort is taking off.

"I'm already seeing it; they're showing up again and again. This isn't the first meeting. We've been doing this for a month and they still here," said Ramsey.

The churches plan to use Sunday to usher in more school volunteers on Monday.

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