• Castlemont's Captain has Appetite for More

    Castlemont Football Captain Jaden Starks with Coach At Castlemont High School, 16-year-old senior Jaden Starks is a natural born leader.  

    As captain of the varsity football team, Jaden leads his teammates onto the field each game. He calls the plays, makes the hits and leads by example.

    Off the field, things are no different for Jaden. As a student leader at school, Jaden has been finding ways with classmates to become leaders in their community by highlighting the issues they face each day.

    Recently, Jaden and friends are focusing on a serious problem that keeps them up at night - hunger.

    “It’s a food desert. All you get is junk food,” said Jaden, talking about his neighborhood.

    The problems that plague many across the city, also find ways into the daily routines of students at school. Hunger is something that Jaden and his teammates know all too well.

    “It’s not a good feeling,” Jaden said. “You can’t sleep, it’s hard to pay attention in class and it feels like there’s a dark cloud over you, that no one cares.”

    Jaden continued to speak-out and recently his words were heard by students from the San Leandro High School Jefferson Awards Club to raise money in support of making sure students are fed. Along with the cross country team, the Jefferson Awards Club ran ten miles on Monday, Oct. 9 - handing an envelope containing $4,000 to Castlemont Football Coach Ed Washington at the finish line. 

    “Because we don’t always get enough to eat, what they did means the world to me,” Jaden said. “We’re getting a whole lot more love and support from our community.”

    Coach Washington has also been gathering donations along the way, and OUSD is making sure the students are eating at least two meals, if not three, per day at school.

    The extra energy give Jaden dreams of life beyond football. He’s working on his grades and focusing on the next step: College Admissions. His plan is to major in mass communications and social work because, “I want to speak broadly and help people.”

    Jaden wants to attend U.C. Berkeley or Louisiana State University, where Coach Washington says he’s good enough to play.

    “It’s a more settled environment,” Jaden says. “There’s no excuse. Now it’s time to handle business.”

    Along with the financial and nutritional support, it’s clear that Jaden and his classmates, appreciate just being heard. They want the community to understand their struggles.

    “It was a show of heart and love and I appreciate it very much,” he said.