Junior fundraises for clean water, wins award

Aya Kawawa-Beaudan

Rather than simply study the values of her religion, Redwood junior Michaela Katz has spent the last three years of her life applying them on a global scale.

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“I think the coolest thing I’ve had the chance to do is fundraise for clean water in Southeast Asia,” Katz said. “It felt meaningful, and it was such an eye-opener, educationally, because even though I knew that some parts of the world had water problems, I’d never known how devastating they were.”

Katz said she also appreciated the definite impact she knew the money was making.

“When I raised the money I knew I was doing something, because there was a concrete solution: build a well, install a purifier–it could be done,” she said.

Katz, who raises money for a different cause every year through the Marin Jewish Teen Foundation, is one of four Redwood recipients of this year’s Jefferson Awards.

“I didn’t even know there was an award for community service,” Katz said. “What I do takes a lot of time, so it’s not like I did it to win an award or something. I really, truly enjoy my work, and it has really helped me connect with the Jewish community and religion.”

As a member of the Foundation, Katz has raised $51,000 to provide clean water to developing countries in Southeast Asia and $50,000 to promote self-sufficiency for at-risk youth both in the Bay Area and in Israel.

“Each member writes their own mission statement, and then we research organizations that fit what we want to accomplish,” Katz said. “We narrow down the ones we’re going to donate to, and then we fundraise by setting up a website, sending out letters and emails, and talking to friends.”

Katz began her work with the Foundation as a freshman. “I was looking for a community service opportunity in eighth grade, and I found the Foundation’s website totally by chance,” she said. “Since it was only for high school students, I waited a year, applied, and got in.”

This year, Katz will have a chance to see the effects of the money she’s raised.

“My partner and I are going to the places where we donated to see how they’ve used it,” she said. “I’m on the Alumni Council this year, so I get to check in and see that the organizations have done what they said they would.”