Holland teen organizes care packages for MSU students with help from Boys and Girls Club, peers

Dulce Salazar loves Michigan State University. It is where she hopes to attend college next year. 

When a mass shooting killed three students and injured five others Feb. 13, Salazar couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“That this is a memory that will be forever part of their life experience made me so sad,” Salazar says. “We can’t feel safe anywhere.”

Salazar is a firm believer that small acts can change lives. The 16-year-old recently organized a group of peers from the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holland’s EPIC program to make care packages to deliver to students on the MSU campus.
EPIC students take time to pose for this photo while touring the Michigan State University campus. They handed out care pacakges to students there as well.
Care packages

The care packages included a drink, snack, fidget toy, and a personal letter. Most of the items came from community donations. She created an appeal video for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holland to share to its Instagram page.

In some of her letters, Salazar included a Bible verse. She always tried to write something inspirational, something from the heart, she says.

A West Ottawa junior, Salazar is part of the school’s International Baccalaureate program, an intensive curriculum that includes classes such as theory of knowledge, which asks students to reflect on the very nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know. The class includes discussion of current events.

Salazar is also a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holland (a 2022 Youth of the Year nominee) and involved in the Club’s EPIC program.
Students from the Boys and Girls Club or Greater Holland's EPIC program toured the Michigan State University campus while handing out care pacakages to students there.

The Club’s EPIC program helps young people starting in eighth grade to define and achieve their goals for after high school graduation.

Her school life and her club life came together when her theory of knowledge class happened to discuss mass shootings a few days before the MSU shooting, and her Club experience gave her the tools and the support to do something to help.

“I'm so thankful for the Boys and Girls Club; I really encourage others to join their local Boys and Girls Clubs. I had an Idea, and with hard work and lots of help we made it a reality, and I couldn't be more thankful for everyone who helped,” she says.

When the group delivered their care packages on a recent weekend, seeing shop windows around campus filled with hand-written messages of support made her feel happy and safe.
The Holland Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holland's EPIC program helps young people starting in eighth grade to define and achieve their goals for after high school graduation. It includes scholorship opportunities for post-secondary education.
Small things

“Seeing all the smiles on all the students’ faces made me really realize what people say is true — the small things are what have the most impact sometimes,” she says. 

Several students emailed their thanks to Salazar.

"I just wanted to say it was very touching to receive a care package from your EPIC group during my studies,” one student wrote. “After seeing all their sweatshirts, I looked up your program and it looked amazing. It was so fun meeting the girl from Fennville. I used to live in Saugatuck for a few years.”

"I had a really hard week studying for exams and it’s been very difficult for lots of us since the shooting,” another one wrote. “The gift bags tour members in the EPIC sweatshirts were handing out in the business hall absolutely made my week. What an amazing act of love and kindness to think of us. You should all be very proud of your amazing kids. Thank you again."

For Salazar, the notes only further reinforce her belief. 

“There’s nothing we can do to bring these people back,” she says, “but there is always something we can do to make it better.”
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Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.