Francisco Paredes is no stranger to community service. Though a junior at Belen Jesuit, Paredes can boast a long history of philanthropic deeds thanks to his family. “My family has always been involved in community service activities since my early years; either within our church, school or organizations in the community,” he says. “It’s always been part of our lives, especially during the holidays, to help those who need it most.” Paredes has worked with Camillus House and Centro Mater and collected toys for the Christmas toy drive at Gesu Catholic Church, but it was the need of his own peers that spurred him to take action of his own and create Operation Day to Day. “After learning of the large number of homeless students in Miami Dade County, I decided to help those who needed assistance in order to make it ‘day to day’ and stay in school,” he says.
Honoring a Friend
Paredes was also influenced by the sudden passing of Belen director of basketball operations, Coach Vince Fernandez. “[Fernandez] always took care of all of us like a dad, and even helped the players on the opposing team,” says Paredes. “He made sure we all had uniforms, sneakers and meals after the games.” It was in this spirit that Paredes reached out to Humberto Miret, principal of Southridge High School. “We met and learned of the needs of the students and their families through Darlene Plummer,” he says. “Operation Day to Day was begun and now continues to grow at Southridge and hopefully at other schools soon.”
One of the main projects for Paredes was setting up a “store” inside Southridge, where students in need can come to pick up essentials such as personal hygiene products, food and clothing. Paredes and Plummer make sure that the store is stocked especially full during holidays and breaks, ensuring that homeless or low-income students will have enough supplies to make it through breaks in school without going hungry. “We also collect gift cards to food establishments so they can have a hot meal, since they won’t have access to the school breakfasts and lunches,” says Paredes. “During the holidays, we also had a toy and gift card collection in order to make gift bags for all the homeless families. There were gifts for all members of the family.”
One of the main things Paredes is now looking for are community partners to help with food and gift card drives. He has also begun the work to make Operation Day to Day a formal club within his school, allowing his classmates to help with the project. Once armed with the team he needs, Paredes sees no ceiling to the number of students in Miami-Dade that he can help. “Once we have established our presence at Southridge High School, I hope to expand Operation Day to Day to other schools in Dade County and the U.S. No student should have to struggle or not be able to attend school because of their situation.”