This month’s National Renaissance Student of the Month is Ashanty Camacho from Los Altos High School in Hacienda Heights, CA. Her nominator Chris Reeder writes (lightly edited):
“Ashanty has a DEEP passion for our special needs population. We have a large special needs group on our campus, who have traditionally been alienated from our student body. They have a classroom that is in a segregated part of the campus, they eat lunch at a different time, they have separate PE, etc. While some of this makes logistical sense, Ashanty was not OK with these Conquerors being isolated. This year she has started a Best Buddies Program and focused her attention on making these special Conquerors feel special. She has organized lunches where our Renaissance students eat with them and make connections. We’ve done a special recognition where each special needs student was given an award for a personal character trait that corresponded to their favorite candy (i.e. “rainbow of smiles award”). Finally, last week was our homecoming and we always have a halftime parade in which each graduating class creates a huge float decorated according to our theme. This year, Ashanty organized a float specifically for our special needs students and they led off our homecoming festivities by being driven in front of 4,000 fans in the stands. The standing ovation was one of the best I’ve heard in 18 years of teaching! Ashanty is a ROCK STAR and gives 100% to her passion for our special needs population.”
What’s a favorite Renaissance moment for you?
My favorite moment was on February 14, 2019. I decided to do a surprise Valentine’s Day party for our special needs students because I noticed that they were never involved on our campus. A few members from Renaissance and my friends help me make that day feel loving and kind. My goal was for them to break down the stigma and break down barriers, and to make them feel wanted and just smile and have fun.
How has Renaissance impacted your school’s culture?
Renaissance impacted my school’s culture in that we recognize all students, staff, and our community. We create a sense of belonging and involvement for everyone, and we gain family everyday to make this campus feel like home.
How has Renaissance affected you personally?
From the beginning of Renaissance my personally was different from what it is now. I was ALWAYS told by my mom do whatever your heart wants – do it on your own. I first started as a shy girl with so many problems and self-conscious about almost everything. But then I made Renaissance and then I slowly discovered new leadership qualities. I learned how to empathize with students – we are all from different homes, we are not the same, we carry our own story. It also helped me reach out to new transfer students or just meet new people to guide them. I am a person who is concerned and cares about my community – that’s how I started with the special needs population and then became organized with my club and started planning events for them. Renaissance has affected me personally because it makes me feel like I have changed for the better and I will change others around me. Just be who you are – it will get you somewhere big!
What advice would you give to someone just starting with Renaissance?
Be the change. Don’t let a title mess you up because you can still make a difference. Go with the flow, and be open with new ideas even though you might not like them. Take constructive criticism – it might hurt but you just got to take it and say thank you! Embrace challenge, be a team player, also find friends you can laugh and cry with, and lastly, be yourself and make the best of every situation.
Ashanty will receive a shirt and a lapel pin, and was entered into a drawing for free registration to this year’s Jostens Renaissance National Conference.
To nominate someone in your school for the National Renaissance Student of the Month honor, click here.