The unique aura of Hawaii typically spawns creative undertakings of an entirely different nature, but one San Marino High School senior discovered her penchant for helping others amidst the tropical paradise.
It all started two years ago, when Colette Chen traveled to the islands not to surf and sun, but rather, to serve.
“I volunteered for a teen mentoring program called Project Hawaii, Inc.,” said Colette. “I spent three weeks in Hilo helping children from destitute backgrounds in hopes it would distract them from their lives of hardship.”
Motivated by the experience, Colette returned home and decided to “start something in my own community.”
The result is Project Lighthouse, one of the 37 recognized club at SMHS, with 85 like-minded members who hope to brighten the lives of children who live in poverty.
“Every month, we visit a non-profit day care center, where we distribute supplies to tge children, help them with reading skills and other projects. We are trying to to create a solid foundation for homeless youth so that they can have a concrete chance for success. I have a strong passion for working with kids.”
Project Lighthouse has recently been partnering with 9 Dots, an all-volunteer learning center near Hollywood that works with underserved children.
“It’s a really great organization,” said Colette. “They provide a lot of resources for the children and we are really happy to help out.”
And others are happy to help Colette. Recently, Project Lighthouse was the recipient of a $500 California Youth Rising program grant from The California Endowment, an advisory council that provides startup funding for what they deem to be “inspiring projects.”
Having been raised in an environment of relative abundance, Colette says the experience has changed her outlook on life.
“I have been humbled by this, definitely,” she said. “It has given me a totally different perspective and made me realize that I can focus on bigger issues. I am really happy where this has gone and I hope I can pass it on to other students when I graduate.”
Colette is the daughter of Rosangela and Raymond Chen. Her younger brother Ethan, is a freshman at San Marino High School and Cadence, her younger sister, is a 4th grader at Valentine. Colette is also dancers (she was recently in the cast of The Land of Oz), is a cabinet member of the Random Acts of Kindness Club, helps out with Titan Musings and belongs to the National Arts Honor Society. In her “free time,” Colette takes classes in painting and drawing at Art Center College of Design and hopes to stay in California for college.
Good thing. It’s difficult to imagine her venturing too far from the Lighthouse.