At Bishop O’Dowd High School, every student is challenged to ask themself: “What kind of person do I want to be? What am I created to do?” The Anawim Project, a 60-plus-hour service commitment, helps them answer these questions.

Completed alongside O’Dowd’s required Peace and Justice course, the Anawim Project challenges 11th- and 12th-grade students to work with local communities for justice, including environmental, economic, housing, racial justice, and more.

“The Anawim Project is a chance for students to continue diving deep into Catholic social teaching, and to apply what they’ve learned to real life work,” says Molleen Dupree-Dominguez, chair of the Religious Studies Department. She smiles.

Social justice is central to O’Dowd’s mission, and every student graduates having completed at least 100 hours of service learning.

“We want our students to see the interconnectedness of all beings,” Molleen says. “We want them to understand how issues are linked together, and how we can impact systems in positive ways. We put a high priority on partnering with service agencies, reaching out beyond the borders of our campus, and having profound social justice learning experiences for students.”

Ariana, Class of 2024
Anawim Project: Teaching science at Harbor House Justice Issue: Intergenerational Poverty

When Ariana saw the opportunity to teach science to grade-school kids at Harbor House in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood, she was stoked.

“I have epilepsy, which originally got me interested in neuroscience,” Ariana says. “And I wanted to take my passion for science to the young kids at Harbor House, many of whom don’t get a lot of enrichment activities.”

Ariana led a science project for grade-schoolers at Oakland’s Harbor House. Courtesy of Harbor House
Ariana dug in, developing fun and artistic lesson plans that got her students learning about chemistry, biology and ecology. “Seeing how enthusiastic the kids were, it made me really excited to keep teaching,” Ariana says.

But it was upsetting, too. She learned from her Harbor House supervisor that many of the students came from families locked in intergenerational cycles of poverty. “It made me really aware of my privilege,” Ariana says. “It also showed me how important education is. How important it is to see a different path for yourself, even if your parents didn’t get to go to college.”

Now Ariana is moving forward with new dedication to her life path. “I saw at Harbor House how important mental health is. It made me realize that giving young people support during this key developmental time in their lives is a total game changer,” she says. “Now I want to become a psychiatrist and serve young people in under-resourced communities….”

From Oaklandside