* Student of the Month: Savannah Knapp

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Rolling Thunder: Savannah is being honored by a member of the Rolling Thunder in Washington, DC for the work that she has done for her community.

The Conejo Guardian newspaper is proud to recognize Savannah Knapp as our February 2020 “Student of the Month.”  

We thank Savannah for doing her part to honor the military families who serve and protect our great nation.    

When most middle school students go back to campus, their focus is on a few important points: don’t get your class schedule wrong, get good grades, and most importantly, stay out of the way of the older kids on campus.  

For Savannah Knapp of Santa Rosa Valley, her focus was different.  She was used to being strong and self-reliant and had already earned her black belt in karate by the 4th grade; she jokes that “For me, the bigger kids on campus were not a concern.”  As a child, Savannah was a natural leader who always wanted to do her best to help others find their own inner strength. 

In 2015, she was preparing to begin classes at Oaks Christian Middle School as a fifth grade student.  Her summer had been a wonderful experience highlighted by her week long trip to Surf Camp in San Diego.  Back on campus, she kept thinking about those kids who were not as blessed as she was to be able to have life-changing experiences.  “It really made me sad to think that some kids were not able to enjoy summer camps,” says Savannah.  

Her older brother Jake, who at that time was serving in the Navy, was home on leave.  When Savannah had mentioned the good times she had at camp, she also said she noticed that not many kids of service members tended to be there.  Jake explained that not all service members get paid enough to send their kids to camp. 

While standing in the lunch line at school one day, she watched a lot of kids in front of her simply refuse any change from the lunch-line cashier.  “These kids were saying no because they didn’t want the coins.  I thought, if I can collect the unwanted change, I can send at least one kid of a service member to camp.”  

Savannah approached the school’s principal, Mr. Freedman, with her idea.  Oaks Christian got behind her.  Savannah was able to place metal money boxes at the end of the lunch and snack lines for both the middle school and high school.  Oaks Christian also offered to match any funds Savannah was able to raise.  

So with the help of her school, Savannah started Go Change Me, an initiative focused solely on military families and covering all expenses to send their kids to summer camps.     

“I put the boxes at the lunch registers at both the Oaks Middle and High School campuses.  I also spoke to the students at assemblies about donating their spare change, after buying both their snacks and lunches year-round.”   Her goal was simple—gather as much CHANGE to make a CHANGE.  

In the past five years, she has been instrumental in sending over 100 military family kids to camp.  “Providing free summer camp with GO CHANGE ME shows military children, whose parents may be deployed and/or serving locally, that other kids know that their parents are heroes and that we are truly thankful for their service to our country.”

Savannah has taken her message far beyond the Oaks Christian Middle and High School student bodies.  In recent years, she has spoken in front of the Oxnard Police Department and participated in a fundraising partnership with Carden Conejo School in Westlake Village.   

Savannah has also worked with the veterans’ motorcycle group, Rolling Thunder, and traveled to Washington DC with that group to spread awareness of the needs of current military families.  In 2019, she was recognized by Radio KNX1070 AM as their Hero of the Week.   

In total, she has raised over $8,500.00. 

Despite all of the roadblocks of 2020, Savannah is still as determined as ever.  “Going to camp is important.  It teaches you to take care of yourself, to work cooperatively with others, and allows you to make new friendships. Such things are needed now more than ever because so many kids today are stressed, feeling alone and isolated.”

GO CHANGE ME is in its fifth year of serving the families of our country’s service members.    

If you know a local student who should be recognized, please contact The Conejo Guardian at editor@conejoguardian.org.

Serving their country: Savannah’s two brothers, Preston (left) is in the US Army and Jake (right) is in the US Navy. Preston is photographed after graduating at Ft Leonard Wood in 2019 and Jake is pictured on the USS Winston Churchill in 2014.

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