Active students give a voice to the voiceless

Club of the Month: Autism Speaks

Co-presidents Gia Velasquez and Erika Sanchez run a meeting about an upcoming fundraising campaign.

Dylan Martinez, The Freelancer

Co-presidents Gia Velasquez and Erika Sanchez run a meeting about an upcoming fundraising campaign.

Dylan Martinez, News Editor

In a school bustling with about 3,000 people it’s easy to get overlooked, and even easier for students with special needs.

Autism Speaks, founded in August 2015 by Erika Sanchez and Gia Velasquez, has sought to raise awareness and funds for autistic students around the world. Part of the larger autism advocacy group “Autism Speaks” from which the club derives its name, the group of roughly 20 Lancers meet every Monday in English teacher Ken LaVigne’s room P 23.

Alongside the fundraising element, members also mentor autistic students. Many of the Autism Speaks members are also a part of The Lunch Club, where students and special needs kids hang out together at lunch.

“Over the summer, Gia and I wanted to start a club and we looked up a bunch of organizations, and the one that spoke to us the most was Autism Speaks and what it does for students,” said Sanchez.

Nearly $500 has been raised across two fundraisers, and meetings usually center around how to continue engagement. In April, club members will be sponsored in the Los Angeles Autism Speaks Walk alongside 55,000 other autism activists.

“I think my favorite part is just feeling like I’m doing something good that benefits other people,” said junior Emily Brock. “My two brothers have autism that’s why I wanted to be a part of the club.”

The club aims to raise $1,000 for the April 2nd Walk, which club leadership believes is attainable.

“I think the most gratifying part is knowing we’re giving back,” said Velasquez. “And we hope to continue that.”