Elijah Dubon and Anthony Zavala are seniors at Venice High School who started the first Native Heritage Club to bring awareness about their ancestral communities. (Submitted)

Thanks to forward-thinking seniors Elijah Dubon and Anthony Zavala, there is a new club at Venice High School. Dubon and Zavala started the first Native Heritage Club in Venice and it is quickly gaining a lot of momentum.

“Helping others is always a good thing,” said Dubon, who is the current club president.

“My culture inspires me.”

Dubon is of Xinca heritage. His father’s side of the family is from Guatemala and his mother’s side is from Honduras. Although Dubon is American-born and has lived in west Los Angeles his entire life, he is inspired to give back to people from his heritage who need it the most. 

“We chose the Official Rural Mixta Aldea Oliveros school, in the village of El Jobito, Guatemala to raise funds for because it is where my grandparents went to school,” Dubon said.

While Dubon runs the day-to-day responsibilities of the club, Zavala is in charge of the digital design and social media aspects of the club. He runs the Instagram account (@vhs_native_heritage_club) and makes all of the flyers. Zavala, who was born and raised in Venice, is of 100% Salvadorian heritage.  

The club got approved with the help and guidance of Spanish teacher, Dr. Angela Fajardo, who is also the club sponsor for the Native Heritage Club, and Magnet coordinator Cristobal Vicente-Aguilar. During the summer, they helped Dubon and Zavala organize the GoFundMe campaign and the club. 

The GoFundMe page will close by the end of November. Currently they have raised over $3,700, but they hope to raise $17,000 to help the poverty-stricken school. They want to use the funds to acquire new computers (they are also trying to get donations from large companies like Best Buy, Walmart and Staples). They will also use the funds to help fix the school’s toilet system and purchase a refrigerator and cook-top for the school lunches.

Dubon, along with his sister and mother, will arrive in Guatemala during Thanksgiving Break. Luckily, their air travel will be at reduced costs, courtesy of Fors Humanitas, a nonprofit. Dubon is bringing needed supplies with him including donated clothing and school-related items like pencils, notebooks and art supplies. 

The other items that are too big to travel with he plans to purchase on-site. This includes the refrigerator, cook-top and the school’s first computers. His family that lives there will help arrange transportation for those larger items.

 “I plan to order items in Guatemala so they will be ready when I arrive in November,” Dubon said. 

Besides raising funds, the other goal of the club is to celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion. They want to create an environment where all students from any background can feel comfortable. The club is open to all grades and cultures from around the world.

“Everyone is welcome,” Zavala said. ”Diversity is wonderful. We learn and appreciate different cultures and build a sense of community.”

During their Tuesday meetings, members get to know each other and learn about their respective heritages. They also decide what their next project will be. Dubon and Zavala already have other ideas after they complete the current fundraising project. They are thinking of helping other schools, but it is not just about education.

“This is just a starting point,” Zavala said. “We hope to also help refugees.”

Besides the Native Heritage Club, both Dubon and Zavala are involved in other clubs on campus. Other activities they participate in include chess, tennis and Model United Nations. Zavala is president of the Chess Club and Dubon is the vice president. Dubon is also vice president of the Tennis Club. 

After graduation, Dubon and Zavala plan to further their studies by attending college. Dubon wants to go out of state and study BioScience and film. Zavala plans to stay in California and wants to major in business with a minor in nonprofit management. His future career goal is to either start or work for a nonprofit organization. 

Patrick McGuire, who has been an educator for decades, is helping oversee the fundraising project. McGuire is on the Board of Fors Humanitas, a 501 C-3 that mentors kids. 

“I am proud that Elijah wants to help other kids less fortunate than himself, and that he and Anthony are interested in their heritage,” McGuire said. 

Native Heritage Club

Instagram: @vhs_native_heritage_club

GoFundMe Page