Published on: Community Newspapers
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld
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Gulliver Prep senior Marietta La Barbera is president of Growing Together, a special youth group for the Chapman Partnership for the Homeless.
“We are responsible in raising money for the kids who live there,” she says. “We go once a month and set up events. We plan play activities for the kids only. We’ll have movie nights and arts and crafts. We decorate an entire Christmas trees with decorations that they made and their pictures on the tree.”
She’s been in the organization for three years.
“One of my really good friends started this,” she says. “I brought in the rest of the club. She was older and she graduated. I came in and took over.”
The students in Growing Together help children from babies to 17.
“A lot of the kids, over five years old, they go to public schools,” La Barbera says. “A lot of people don’t know this side of them. I’ve kind of became obsessed with it.”
She helps the children with tutoring.
“They have teachers on site,” she says. “I’ll go there and help them with their math homework. The room will be half full of babies coloring and then some of us trying to help the older kids do well in school.”
She says the Chapman Partnership helps get people on their feet by providing social workers and other services to help them.
“For the kids that have grown up in situations like that, it’s hard for them to think that they can be better,” she says. “Some kids could be doing better, but they don’t see the point. They see their parents working hard, but this is all that they have seen.”
While running the group is a lot of work, it’s something that she felt compelled to do.
“I’ve always gotten involved with the community,” she says. “My family and I go to church services and feed the homeless.”
La Barbera has tapped some friends to continue the organization after she graduates.
“Our whole goal is to have money at the end of the month to donate to the children,” she says.
While a lot of students engage in community service so they can put it on their college applications, La Barbera says this project is something that is important to her and helping the children consumes her.
Running the organization has taught her responsibility.
“I do have a boss who works at Chapman,” she says. “All the work falls on me. At first it was stressful. Now I feel like I can handle the real world. When I go to college I want to go somewhere I can work like that with the children.”
At Gulliver, La Barbera is involved in the Environmental Club. The group worked on a successful petition to recycle plates.
“Now instead of Styrofoam we have recyclable cup and plates,” she says.
They try to reduce the use of electricity at school.
“This is another thing I’ve become passionate about,” she says. “I have a designated recycle trash can, once I week I go and separate the recyclables from the trash. If not, it would all go to the same place.”
She’s been in Model United Nations for two years and is co-president this year. La Barbera applied to Boston University, Northeastern and Tulane for a major in International Politics and maybe a law degree.
“My goal is to something with United Nations,” she says. “I want to do something with changing the world.”
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld