buildOn Oakland student Jonathan

Students on Trek: Meet Jonathan from Oakland

This summer, we’re fundraising to send six buildOn U.S. students on a life-changing Trek to build a school in one of our partner countries. Keep reading to learn more about Jonathan’s story and how Trek would impact his life.

Jonathan is a rising sophomore from Madison Park Academy in Oakland, California and he’s headed to Guatemala this summer to construct a school with buildOn!

“When I first heard about Trek, I was a bit reluctant,” Jonathan recalls. “But the main thing that pulled me in was thinking I’m never going to get this opportunity this young to do this. I don’t have many opportunities in Oakland to begin with. I also heard that not many freshmen go on Trek. I think it’s good to go out of the country and see things early!”

Jonathan says he’s excited to experience the mountains and beautiful scenery of Guatemala and be in a peaceful environment. At the same time, he can’t wait to get on the construction site and help build a school. “I’m excited about that!” Jonathan says. “I like doing hard work. I feel like it was perfect for me. It’s nothing too complex hopefully… and it’s something I can put on my resume for the future.”

Jonathan (third from left) at service mentoring younger kids in Oakland.

While Jonathan is ready to make a global impact, he knows that making a difference starts in your own backyard. Having grown up in the Bay Area, he has seen the unhoused crisis evolve in his community. 

“I feel like our government doesn’t really care about our homeless or help us enough,” he says. That’s why he loves having the opportunity to step up and do his part through service with buildOn. In fact, one of his most memorable moments was preparing and handing out food to his hungry and unhoused neighbors and cleaning their beds. “That’s when I really knew I made a difference,” he says.

Another one of his favorite ongoing service projects has been mentoring elementary school students. “It’s just nice being around kids. We’ve taught them how to make friendship bracelets and we did face painting where it was an event for the entire school,” Jonathan says. “It’s nice to give them fun activities to do.”

“I feel like education is a right for everyone. With this school, people will continue to learn and the place will continue to thrive. I can always look back on that and be proud that I helped them.” 


Jonathan says he wishes he had someone like him when he was growing up. “I never did after school programs. My mom would pick me up and the only people I talked to at school were my friends in my same grade,” he shares. “If I had a mentor, I would have definitely been prepared to learn more and have been more active in school.”

This Trek opportunity has also helped him realize the value of education even more. “I feel like education is a right for everyone,” Jonathan says. “With this school, people will continue to learn and the place will continue to thrive. I can always look back on that and be proud that I helped them.”

Jonathan at the 2024 Better Together benefit concert in San Francisco.

Help Jonathan build a school in Guatemala this summer by making a gift today.