Social networking reaches students where they live

"HEY. YOU. I'm sellin hand-knitted beanies at $5 a pop. All proceeds will go toward saving the elementary schools' band program! We're tryna raise about $800, so if you wanna donate more, be my guest. It's for a good cause. I'm taking requests as far as color/pattern goes. Call or text me!"

The Facebook status of Carina Ibarra, a senior at Ripon High School, sits at the top of your newly refreshed page, blaring out its message: Schools are cutting programs and classes because of the budget. In this particular case, one of many, it's the elementary school band program of the Ripon School District that needs help.

And where is the help coming from? Students. How? In many cases, technology.

The social networking sites used by teens and others these days -- Facebook, MySpace, Twitter -- are not only being employed as a way to talk to friends, but also as a way to support our schools.

Statuses change as students learn more about cuts, many flaring up in support of teachers and programs; invitations pop up daily on Facebook: "You have an event invitation: Save the Band."

So-and-so invites you to join the group: "I'll bet I can find 1,000,000 people who think music education is important;" "Students Against Education Cuts;" "CSU, UC and California Community College students against budget cuts."

"Become a fan of: Group S.O.T.T (Save Our Teachers Today)."

But it's not only the networking sites that students are using to assert their opinion of the budget cuts. Students like Joaquin Lewis III are using their cell phones.

To discourage Ripon High seniors from their tradition of "ditch day," Joaquin sent out a mass text asking students to remain in class in the hopes of saving the school some money.

"I send out mass texts for anything I feel is important -- they're kind of my thing," he says, smiling as he sits in a classroom during lunch. "And with what's going on in the world, what with money being tight and all, we have to make sacrifices.

"For every kid at school, the school gets $25, so when the entire senior class goes missing, the school is losing a lot of money that it could have gotten. And if they're going to be cutting teachers and classes and programs because of the budget, we don't need more reasons to lose money -- we can afford to give up one tradition."

The seniors were, for the most part, open to Joaquin's idea. His text to stop ditch day was successful enough to save the school a lot of the money.

"Technology is really useful for this. It's a way to spread the word," he says.

Rachel Crowley is a senior at Ripon High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.

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