Modesto high schoolers give up break time for a good cause

About 15 Enochs and Downey high school students gave up a day of sleeping in, updating Facebook, finishing homework, shopping for Christmas gifts and spending time with family to help finish Habitat for Humanity houses this week in west Modesto.

On winter break, the teenagers volunteered their time planting flowers and landscaping front yards, cleaning bathrooms, carrying doors and washing windows, all in the name of giving back, they said.

"I just wanted to do something nice for someone else. I thought it would be fun and it really was," said Celine Quadra, 16, an Enochs junior.

Though the sun peeked out Tuesday, temperatures were still in the high 40s with lots of wind bursts.

Hundreds of young people in Stanislaus County donate their time and sweat to projects over winter break. They volunteer at places such as animal shelters, churches, food banks, hospitals and assisted-living homes. But not all are overachievers, students and organizers said. Many just want to help out.

"We couldn't be where we are without those students," said Ramona Ruskamp, volunteer coordinator at Habitat, which builds homes for low-income families. "They're excited, they work hard and they have fun together."

A sampling of why students said they volunteered Tuesday and what they gave up:

"I'm used to being busy. I do activities to help other people. It's the person I like to be. ... I get my fair share of time (off) over break. Sunday night, I talked on the phone all night and I hated it (because I was bored)."

— Joseph Andrade, 16, Enochs junior

"I haven't really done anything yet. I want to help people out who are less fortunate. (Without volunteering), I'd probably be sitting around at home resting."

— Hilary Nimmo, 16, Enochs junior

"I wanted to help out my community. ... I'd probably be sleeping in or doing homework (for Advanced Placement history)."

— Azin Mobin, 16, Enochs junior

"I'd be relaxing, doing my book report and Christmas shopping. I'm about halfway done with shopping."

— Lacy DeWilms, 16,

Enochs junior

"It's one of my last years here in Modesto (before going to college) and I wanted to give back to the place where I was raised. ... I'd probably be on Facebook or online (if I didn't volunteer Tuesday)."

— Irving Cerda, 17,

Enochs senior

"I did this last year and I thought it was a lot of fun. ... I'd be baby-sitting my little brothers or online (if I wasn't at Habitat)."

— Jillian Ramos, 17,

Enochs senior

"I wanted to put something back into the community and this looks good to Annapolis (Naval Academy). ... If I wasn't here today, I'd be packing for a trip to San Luis Obispo."

— Mickenzie Walbridge, 15, Enochs freshman

"If I wasn't here, I'd be with my family. My dad has this week off and he hardly ever gets vacation, so I want to spend it with him."

— Jissel Poblete, 17,

Enochs senior

"My church does a lot of volunteering, but I've never had the opportunity. I like getting to help people that don't have the same opportunities. ... If I wasn't here, I'd still be in bed, and I'd be watching Christmas movies. My mom and two younger sisters, we like watching the Hallmark Channel, we do it every Christmas season."

— McKenna Hooker, 15, Enochs freshman

"A lot of my friends have done this, and they talk about it and it sounded fun. ... If I wasn't here today, I'd be packing for a trip to Chicago, a youth group convention."

— Rebekah Goldman, 14, Enochs freshman

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at or 578-2339. Read Hatfield's education blog at thehive.