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LACOE's Road to Success Academy, which serves young women detained at Camps Scott-Scudder in Saugus, held its first walkathon on June 29, raising $300 to benefit refugee women and girls in Darfur, Sudan.

"Our students can really identify with the plight of these refugees," said Academy Principal Diana Velasquez. "Most of our girls have suffered life traumas that we are working to address."

The Academy focuses on engaging young women in learning through interdisciplinary projects focused on relevant themes. "Everything we teach is designed to connect to our students' own lives and to the real world," said Liza Bearman, the Academy's project-based learning coach.

The walkathon was the culminating activity for an empowerment-themed unit covering the Great Depression, World War II and the Holocaust.

"As an extension, we are also teaching about modern-day genocide and specifically the plight of women in Darfur and Uganda," Velasquez said. "We strive to empower our girls and build their self-esteem. This happens as they learn to help others who are suffering."

Funds raised will be donated through the L.A. County Education Foundation to the Solar Cooker Project of Jewish World Watch. According to the organization's website, the sun-powered ovens allow refugee women and girls to prepare meals without leaving the safety of the camp to find firewood, a venture that puts them at high risk of falling victim to rape and other forms of violence.

As part of their school projects, students built their own solar cookers and in the process learned the scientific and mathematic concepts involved in developing them.

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