Hailey Contreras: Paying it forward day after day

After word got out that Hailey Contreras decided to use the funds she would’ve used for her quinceañera to help those less fortunate, four different local party organizations approached her and offered to host her 15th birthday at no cost.

While the Southwest High School student was flattered by the offers, she kindly turned them down — citing that she made the decision to instead purchase more than 700 pairs of socks to donate toward her school’s charity drive for a reason.

“It’s that feeling of knowing that you’re doing something right that really makes you happy,” she said.

Having a quinceañera was something Contreras had been expecting the entire year prior to turning 15 in 2017.

However, she had a sudden change of heart after hearing about her school’s annual Socktober drive, in which socks are collected and donated to local charity organizations.

Sacrificing a quinceañera to help the school surpass its original goal of collecting 800 pairs (a total of 1,547 pairs were collected after the drive’s three-week collection period) was well worth it, Contreras reflected.

“Honestly, I tell myself, ‘Why didn’t you give more? Why couldn’t you do 2,500?’” she said.

Currently 16 years old, the SHS junior has never let her youth hinder her efforts to volunteer and better her community.

Contreras has beaten brain cancer, won student of the year eight times, set a school district Accelerated Reader record with 1,680 points as a McKinley Elementary School sixth-grader (the average was about 100 points per student) and won the Imperial Valley Girls Rock! Social Humanitarian award back-to-back years — all before the age of 14.

At the age of 13, she began her humanitarian efforts by playing a “buddy” role to people who have anxiety.

“I realized that I also had it, and I loved helping people who had it,” Contreras said. “Somehow it calmed me down.”

She branched out her efforts by helping to feed the homeless whenever she could.

Currently, she volunteers by spending quality time with depressed patients at local behavior centers.

Also, at least twice a month, she goes to Mexicali and donates clothes or water bottles to different homeless shelters.

“Socks is still a big thing for me,” she said. “You can get those anywhere for a dollar. It just feels nice being able to give back to a world that’s given so much to you.”

Additionally, the SHS junior freelance tutors her fellow peers in every subject except science, which she considers not to be her strong suit.

Contreras continues to keep an ear open to wherever her efforts may be needed — whether it’s something announced over her school’s intercom, like the Socktober drive, or something she comes across during her day-to-day life.

“I keep challenging myself, and I keep waiting for the opportunity,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll see someone do something very simple: They’ll grab a can and they’ll keep it with them to recycle, or I’ll watch a friend pull another friend aside because they’re not feeling well that day. As much as I’m out here volunteering and all this, just knowing that you’re making a difference is really what’s volunteering. And I don’t really see it as a volunteering, it’s just a service that I think most of us should do.”

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