For some high school students, extracurricular activities include basketball or debate club. For Leila and Noa Kashfian, two cousins at Brentwood School, extracurriculars are a way to give back. The seniors started a club dedicated to supporting foster youth in Los Angeles in 2020, when they were sophomores. The club holds fundraisers for foster care groups and works to educate others about the foster care system.
“We both wanted to bring awareness to a cause that we felt is not spoken about enough,” Leila said. “Our club at school serves as a way to give back to the Los Angeles community and help children and young adults in need.”
Growing up in Beverly Hills, Leila and Noa saw their parents helping foster care groups. The cousins wanted to help, too.
“Since we were in elementary and middle school, each of our families had connections to organizations supporting foster care,” Leila said. “In 10th grade, we were offered the opportunity to create a club and immediately thought of foster care.”
The teens run donation drives using Amazon’s registry system. Anyone can donate anything on the registry they create, such as blankets, shoes, or clothing. Everything purchased is sent to Beverly Hills-based foster youth organizations Hope in a Suitcase and Make Good, Inc. which promote literacy in underserved neighborhoods and place educational materials in transitional housing. One of the hallmark services offered is the TAY shop, a retail-like space where kids who are about to age out of foster care can purchase supplies for themselves in a way that feels independent and dignified.
“Everything we do has an immediate, tangible impact,” Ruth Stalford, the founder and executive director of Make Good, told the Courier. “At a certain age, all of the services you qualify for fall off a cliff.”
The involvement of the Kashfians’ club has been an enormous help to Hope in a Suitcase and Make Good, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.
“During COVID, everything shut down,” Stalford said. “Leila and Noa managed to engage all of their friends and all of their resources. They got us the things that we needed to provide to these families who were struggling during that period.”
Over two years, the donation drives run by the Kashfians have purchased thousands of dollars worth of supplies, often lovingly adorned with drawings and bracelets made by the students. The club has also raised over $1,000 for foster care organizations through bake sales at Brentwood School.
Leila and Noa encourage the Beverly Hills community to get involved and help make a difference.
“Any donation no matter how large or small will have a significant impact on the foster youth and make them feel more supported and loved in their varying communities,” Leila said. “As a whole, our club at school serves as a way to give back to Los Angeles and help children and young adults in need.”
To support the Kashfians’ club, visit @LA.fostersupport on Instagram. Readers can sign up to volunteer with Hope in a Suitcase or Make Good at www.hopeinasuitcase.org and www.makegoodinc.org.