Berkeley High School students organize fundraiser for Black Student Union, African American studies department

Photo of Shaun O'Neale
Youtube/Courtesy
Students at Berkeley High School are planning a virtual cooking class that will feature the seventh season winner of MasterChef, Shaun O’Neale. Profits from the event will be allocated to the school’s Black Student Union and African American studies department.

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Berkeley High School, or BHS, students are planning a virtual cooking class to raise funds for the school’s Black Student Union, or BSU, and African American studies department.

The cooking class event will feature MasterChef’s seventh season winner Shaun O’Neale and will take place September 7 via Zoom. All profits from the event will be made in ticket sales.

“It blends unique solutions to obstacles created by the pandemic, helps economically combat underfunded organizations within our school/community, and features a celebrity chef, one of only 10 ever, that won Gordon Ramsay’s infamous cooking competition,” said Zephyr Zoidis, associated student body, or ASB, treasurer at BHS, in an email.

Zoidis has been planning for the fundraiser throughout the summer with the school’s ASB leadership team and administration.

According to Zoidis, since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced activities online, there has been a need for creative virtual events.

“A virtual cooking class seemed like a way to directly benefit the community while also yielding a profit to fund our organizations,” Zoidis said in the email. “I’ve watched the show MasterChef for years, and when developing this event, I knew Shaun O’Neale, winner of Season 7, was a perfect choice.”

Zoidis said O’Neale responded to the fundraiser with enthusiasm and was very willing to take part in the event.

The event will be held in an interactive manner, in which attendees can follow along with O’Neale as he cooks. A Q&A with O’Neale will likely be included in the event, in addition to pop-ins from representatives for the school’s BSU and African American studies department.

Tickets are $15 for the hourlong lesson and are available on Eventbrite. Zoidis said the “entire Berkeley community and beyond” are welcome to come to the event and support BHS.

John Villavicencio, BHS director of student activities, said in an email that students in the ASB leadership team have been seeking ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

“This event is about supporting Black friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and beyond to end systemic racism and oppression,” Villavicencio said in the email. “Given that this struggle can feel daunting, student leaders at Berkeley High took initiative to identify ways in which they could spark change in their community.”

BHS’s African American studies department is the first of its kind in the United States, according to Villavicencio, who hopes to keep the “rich” tradition of the program going for a “very long time.”

The department and the BSU will use funds from the event for club outings and trips, community meals, performances and supplies to help students navigate distance learning, according to Zoidis.

“We hope people come out to cook with the community, learn some new skills, and also connect with the legacy of the African American Studies Department at BHS,” Villavicencio said in the email.

Aryia Dattamajumdar is a student life reporter . Contact her at[email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AryiaDm.