Community members and treasure hunters alike filtered through the large gates of the John O’Connell parking lot on Harrison and 19th streets on Saturday morning, making their way to the school’s October Fest and Flea Market.
“It’s a family event,” said Elsa Gamino, 57, the attendance clerk at the school who has been helping the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) organize and host the event since it began three years ago.
The flea market proceeds will go to help the graduating classes of 2012 and 2013. The students at John O’Connell High do not have sponsors to help pay for their senior events, according to Gamino.
“We’re taking on this responsibility to help the seniors to have their graduation events, their prom, their breakfast and everything a senior is entitled to have,” Gamino said as she neatly folded rows of used jeans and other clothes that were for sale.
The flea market featured student, parent and community vendors selling used shoes and clothes, friendship bracelets and food.
“As any senior out there, we want to leave with a bang and leave a footprint of who we were,” said Larissa Martinez as her small hands quickly weaved in and out of the green, orange and blue embroidery floss she was using to make bracelets.
“We don’t want to be the only class not having fun,” added Martinez’s friend Veronica Cruz, who was helping her make the bracelets and sell them for anywhere between one and three dollars.
Raising money for an entire graduating class is not a simple feat, especially when events such as this one have to obtain costly permits.
“We’re mostly working to pay the expenses of the district and health permits to use the parking lot and sell food, but anything they can make will help the students,” said Gamino.
The permit to use the school’s parking lot cost $200, Gamino said, while the health inspection permit was $130.
The permit costs were offset by renting out 12-by-12-foot spaces to vendors for $20 and $25.
Fortunately for the students, the parents are on board and ready to help them get through to their graduation ceremony.
“I did the math and I figure $113 total profit,” said Ray Mendoza, the parent of a senior and secretary for the PTSA, as he grilled some sausages.
“It’s important to help out and be supportive of your kids and show that you’re interested.”
Simon Yim, the parent of a junior, agreed.
“We can raise some money and have some fun with the kids,” he said.
Community members are also on board to help the students achieve their goals.
“I think it’s a really great way to use the space here that John O’Connell has and do this,” said Mission resident and first-time vendor Reyna Maldonado, 18, who found out about the event through her younger siblings.
“I think it’s a great way to interact with the kids.”
The flea market is just one of a few events planned to raise funds for senior activities. A classic car show and a wrestling event are currently in the works for February and April of next year. The money that is not used to fund the events is used to create scholarships for students who cannot afford to pay for their caps and gowns or senior portraits.
As for the students, they were just out to have a good time and interact with their community. They hoped that the pumpkin patch and face painting, along with the smell of good food, would attract enough interested passersby to raise the money they will need to make their senior year memorable.
“I just want everyone that comes to have fun,” said Aron Yim, a junior student, as he walked away to help put the finishing touches on the haunted house.