Students give back during Spring Break

March 11, 2019

Public Relations

Palo Alto College student Lois Paredes is a full-time student and employee, all while raising her younger siblings. Despite the challenges she faces, Parades is determined to make it through school, so she can positively impact the lives of others by becoming a teacher.

Whether helping family or the community, giving back is a part of Paredes' identity. She is taking part in Palo Alto College's third annual Alternative Spring Break. During this trip, one group of students will travel to New Orleans to help with ongoing recovery efforts from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, Parades and a second group of students will head to central Los Angeles to support the city's homeless and limited-income population by working alongside partners like Midnight Mission and AIDS Project LA to serve meals, stock food pantries, and restore habitats for healthier living.

Paredes doesn't usually have time to volunteer, so she is excited for the opportunity to travel to a new city and make a difference in the lives of others. She applied for the LA trip because the service opportunity hits close to home.

"I used to be homeless, and I used to have to worry about whether or not I was going to eat dinner most of the time," said Paredes. "That's really why I like to give back."

Paredes is happy to volunteer her time to better the lives of others because she knows how far a little bit of help can go.

"I understand how they feel, and it takes a lot for some people to ask for help," said Parades.

Although she will be busy volunteering, the Alternative Spring Break trip gives her the chance to take a step back and get a break from her day-to-day. Normally, Parades juggles working an early morning shift; going to class all afternoon; and cooking, cleaning, and caring for her siblings in the evening. Then, she spends some time doing homework and gets a few hours of sleep before waking up at 1:30 a.m. to start a new day.

"It [volunteering] is something I've always wanted to do," said Paredes. "I used to volunteer with family services in my free time. I still do sometimes, but it's hard to volunteer, go to school, and work full time."

Despite the adversity she faces in her own life, Parades perseveres. With the support of her loved ones, she remains confident that she will achieve her goals. She hopes to encourage the people around her in the same way.

"You don't get to choose what happens to you, you get to choose how you handle it," said Paredes.

Parades "handles it" by taking life one day at a time and going above and beyond to care for those around her – something that is sure to inspire the other students who have chosen community service during this year's Spring Break.