Bishop’s students pitched in to help wherever they were needed in 2021-22.

Operation Homeless Veterans

By Olivia D’anjou ‘23

Throughout the past year, BMHS senior Olivia D’anjou ‘23 has been working on her Girl Scout Gold Award, called Operation Homeless Veterans. She has been working in her local community to address the homeless veterans crisis that is plaguing Los Angeles county through advocacy in both the digital and physical world. 

The Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn and it consists of a long process in order to qualify for the award. Girl Scouts must first complete a Journey and earn their Silver Award (2nd highest award, 50 hours), or complete two Journeys. Journeys are often smaller projects aiming to address an issue at the local level, such as bullying or sustainability. Then, Scouts must investigate an issue they see within their local community, present their project to a council for approval, and begin their work. They are responsible for everything from drawing up an outline to forming a budget to carrying out their project. A large component of the award that nurtures leadership skills is developing a team to execute the project, leading to more community involvement. Lastly, Scouts create a final report of their 80-hour project and meet with the council again for a final reflection and approval.

D’anjou knew that she wanted to tackle the homeless crisis because it is such a prevalent problem in Los Angeles county, but she didn’t know how to make it more personal to her. She added in her love for the military, stemming from her father and grandfather both serving in the United States Marine Corps, to solve this problem. Olivia realized that there was a large homeless veterans population in L.A. county—the largest in the nation! “After speaking with a Veterans Affairs Department representative,” says D’anjou, “I discovered that there wasn’t a problem with resources for veterans, but rather a lack of advocacy for homeless veterans.” 

Using her skills in digital media, she researched information and created a website with resources for both veterans and civilians alike. Veterans can use the website to find out what aid is around them and what benefits they qualify for. Civilians can use the site to search for quality places to donate their money and to discover organizations that they can support through community service.

Following this development, she chose to reach out to her local community. D’anjou contacted her peers through Bishop’s Concordia Club and hosted a business-casual clothing drive in which she collected over 500 articles of clothing thanks to our generous Knights’ community. With her small team, D’anjou assembled all the clothing into outfits (one shirt and one pair of pants) and placed them in 110 bags with handmade cards to provide to the local Veterans Affairs Department. “Homeless veterans, or those at risk of homelessness, will be able to use these donations to go into job interviews or other formal settings with confidence,” says D’anjou.

For the final piece of her project, D’anjou hosted a series of workshops to educate teens in the South Bay about her project. Through these seminars, she equipped a younger generation with the knowledge and skills to be able to advocate for homeless veterans, as well as planting a seed within them to help this community. 

D’anjou hopes her project will make a meaningful difference in the veterans community, which plays such an important role in her family’s life. “I want my project to inspire other young teenagers to address problems they see within their communities and use their skills to make an impact,” she says. “No matter your age, you are never too young to make a difference.” 

Shaver Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has always been a special place for recent graduate Natalya Eastepp ’22. In 2020, the day after she and her family left the lake for the summer, a wildfire began ravaging a local town and the forests around the lake. It was devastating for Eastepp as the area holds special memories for her and her family. She decided to make it her Girl Scout Gold Award project to do her part to restore the forests in some way.

As the forests were burning, Eastepp’s concern for the environment led her to research the role that bees play in pollinating these forests. What she discovered in her research is that bee populations, not only in California, but all over the world, were declining at a high rate and something had to be done. “Bees play a large role in pollinating our food plants,” says Eastepp.

“Approximately every three bites of food that humans eat are pollinated by bees. Without them, we [humans] will only have about five years to live before we go extinct.”

Eastepp’s research led her specifically to the Mason Bee, a bee native to North America that pollinates some important species of plants better than the honey bee. “The Mason Bee pollinates about 95% more than the honey bee,” she says, “and because they live well among other bee species, they act as a stress reliever of other bees, causing them to sting less.”

For her Gold Award project, titled “Community Mason Bee Awareness and Population,” Eastepp set out to raise awareness of the importance these bees play in restoring our environment, and teach people that saving these bees is not difficult with a little effort. Eastepp reached out to a Home Depot in Torrance and got the Mason Bee nests donated. She then went out and purchased 680 bee larvae from a Mason Bee farmer and began looking for homes for the nests, which serve to protect the bees from predators. Today, there are 13 nests throughout Los Angeles county and other areas of southern California, including Madrona Marsh, California State University, Dominguez Hills, the Los Angeles Arboretum and South Coast Botanical Gardens (BMHS alumna Adrienne Lao-Nakashima ’93 is the CEO at South Coach Botanical Gardens).

Even with all the hours she has put in toward her Gold Award, Eastepp took on another project to help raise awareness about the importance of preserving the bee population. In September, she wrote and published a children’s book titled “Poppy and Me,” which tells the story of Tali and her friend, Poppy, a California Mason bee, as they go on an adventure teaching children the importance of bees, pollination and native gardens. “I wrote it as a children’s book, but the information is really meant for people of all ages,” says Eastepp. “I just want to raise awareness about bees and their role in rebuilding nature and our environment.”

Eastepp will attend the University of Kansas in the fall.

Denim Day Collections Help BMHS Family

Bishop’s Denim Day collections are a staple of each school year. On these days, students who donate $2 to a cause chosen by the seniors in Campus Ministry can wear jeans to school. In February, a Denim Day was dedicated to alumna Heidi Ilustre-Boatright ’96. In December, wildfires in Colorado forced Heidi and her husband to evacuate their home with only time to gather their three kids, pets, and the clothes on their backs. Heidi’s sister, Hedder Lea Ilustre-Pascua ’99, organized a GoFundMe campaign, and soon after, BMHS dedicated a Denim Day to help the family re-start their lives. Upon receiving the funds from BMHS, Heidi wrote:

Hey there Bishop family,

My family and I wanted to thank you all for donating your denim day funds to us. First, I’m very humbled that you folks thought about us and even considered having a denim day for us, and second, the funds have helped us tremendously. It’s been a long 3- month journey, but we have finally found a house back in California. The kids are very happy to be back with their friends and to have comfort and familiarity (especially what they’ve been through). My husband and I are happy to be back as well, and ready to start a new chapter of our lives. Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers, love and support. Sending OUR love, big hugs to all of you, and a huge “GO KNIGHTS!”

Aloha…..Heidi Ilustre-Boatright

In March, the BMHS Key Club “took over” the Kiwanis meeting at the Torrance Doubletree Hotel. At the meeting, students outline the club’s 2021-22 volunteer efforts and then led an auction, which was led by Saraphina Perry ’23, who had the entire room rolling with laughter. “Every member of Kiwanis that attended came up to me afterwards and said what an amazing job the students did,” says BMHS teacher and Key Club Moderator Bev Hazell. In addition to the BMHS Key Club students, there was also an additional BMHS presence there, Kiwanis members Tony Goorchenko ’63, Gayle Martin-CdeBaca ’91 and Don Hammond ‘97. Added Hazell: “The Key Club board members have been working so hard over the last few years because of the pandemic. This is just a great example of how great our students are.”

In the fall, Gabrielle Daniels ’22 and the Campus Ministry team organized a Denim Day to benefit Mychal’s Place, which “provides support, training and opportunities to youth and young adults with developmental disabilities.” Daniels, whose brother is a student at Mychal’s Place, is a frequent volunteer at the facility. Through the Denim Day, the Bishop community raised $1,100 for Mychal’s Place. Gabrielle presented the check to the founder, Ed Lynch, which will help the organization with their after-school programs and adult day care.

In March, seniors Julia Quast ’22 and Ryan Checchi ’22 received the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Christian Service Award. Quast has served as a Teen Disciple at St. James Church where she helps with confirmation classes. She also volunteers at Little Company of Mary and has been in the Girl Scouts most of her life. Checchi, who serves with Quast as a Teen Disciple, was Bishop’s Commissioner of Religious Affairs this year and was responsible for leading the entire school each Thursday in the Examen.