High schoolers share interests with younger set

For an hour every Thursday afternoon, friends Erin MacLean, Dani Morales, Maddi Bukaty and Lauren Anderson go from being students at Sage Hill School in Newport Coast to teachers at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach.

The four friends pass on their specific "passions" — cooking, writing, theater or singing — during an after-school class for girls in grades five to eight dubbed "Power of Passion."

They're doing it as part of Sage's service learning program, a form of community service integrated into the private school's curriculum. Another group of students, for example, collects used computers and parts and then refurbishes and donates them to Orange County elementary schools that have out-of-date technology.

"We all wanted to create something that was our own, that we would enjoy," said Maddi, 17, of Irvine, who also works for the school newspaper.

The number of girls who attend the free classes each week varies. Each group spends 30 minutes on an activity related to each passion and then switches to another.

Eight students arrived for class on Nov. 21. Corona del Mar resident Erin, 17, taught the girls how to prepare apple parfait — half an apple spread with peanut butter and topped with either granola or chocolate chips.

Students sat around a circular table and delicately spread peanut butter on their apple halves. Erin fostered conversation, asking how they were doing while working in nutrition tips.

"You could use sunflower seed butter if you're allergic to nuts," Erin said. "Peanut butter gives you protein."

For the writing portion, Dani, 17, of Coto de Caza, guided the girls in character development when writing stories and plays.

"What is your character's name?" Dani asked the girls, who wrote their responses.

"How old is he or she? What is their family like? What does your character want?"

Savannah Johnson, an eighth-grader, named her character Bella.

"Bella's wish is to become a professional dancer," Savannah said.

Lauren, 18, of Newport Beach, urged the students, who attend the class for free with a club membership, to use descriptive words when writing about their characters, including features such as hair.

The Sage students considered several locations for their classes before deciding on the Boys & Girls Club.

The club welcomed the idea, according to Emily Murray, the art director there.

"We have the space and time in the art room [where classes are held]," Murray said. "They give girls the tools and power to express themselves."

A new discipline, or passion, is on the horizon. Dance will be part of the program next year; the group will invite an instructor to get acquainted with the program later this year.

"[The teacher] will get to know the girls and see how we run things, and if that goes well then possibly start doing some practice lessons," Maddi said.

Classes started Nov. 14 and will continue until May. Sage students are training candidates to take their places following graduation.

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