By JAMIE HANSEN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Ella Fainaru-Wada of Petaluma might not be the loudest student in her ninth-grade class, but she’s not afraid to speak up when it’s for a good cause.

Recently, the Casa Grande High School freshman found herself talking before her fellow students and proposing an idea to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Ella Fainaru-Wada, 14, holds a collection jar for her ’Petaluma for the Philippines’ fundraiser for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. She started the spare-change collection program at Casa Grande High School, and it has since spread to six other schools. (CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)

The typhoon swept over the Philippines in early November, leaving many injured and homeless.

Fainaru-Wada, whose aunt is from the Philippines and still has family there, remembers first being struck by a picture she saw on Instagram that included a message asking people to pray for the typhoon’s victims.

Her aunt’s family was OK, but Fainaru-Wada and her family still wanted to help out. So when her mother started talking about holding a fundraiser, Fainaru-Wada thought of her Human Interaction class.

The Human Interaction class at Casa Grande in Petaluma teaches students about community service and social responsibility.

“It’s a fun class; you get to do things that help other people out,” Fainaru-Wada said.

So she ran the idea of a project by her teacher, Lisa Cain, who was supportive.

Fainaru-Wada and her mother, Nicole, decided the best way to help would be to collect money because it would be easier than goods to get to the devastated country. With Cain and Fainaru-Wada’s classmates, they settled on a plan to set out coin jars in each classroom at Casa Grande where students could donate any change they felt they could spare.

Fainaru-Wada proposed the idea to her class.

“My class thought it would be cool,” she said.

After that, Fainaru-Wada’s mom and aunt came in to talk more about the need for help in the Philippines. Then, Fainaru-Wada and her classmates went class-to-class to talk about the fundraiser and set out donation jars.

“Everyone was really enthusiastic; it was working really well,” she said.

Now, six other Petaluma schools have joined the effort.

The plan is to gather as much money as possible, then have a coinrolling party after school ends for Christmas break.

Fainaru-Wada’s mom described her daughter as “a doer.”

In her down time, Fainaru-Wada likes to read, listen to music, and draw.

She also volunteers at a school for children with learning disabilities through her Human Interaction class. “It’s fun; the kids are really cool,” she said.

Name: Ella Fainaru-Wada

Age: 14

Birthplace: Petaluma

Lives with: Mother Nicole, father Mark, brother Max, dogs Wolfie and Rusty

What’s in her iPhone: A lot — Coldplay, Snow Patrol, OneRepublic, Death Cab for Cutie

Favorite hobby: Drawing

Favorite food: “I like food too much to have a favorite.”

Quote: A friend found this quote and drew a picture to go with: “Sunsets are created by light hitting broken bits and pieces in the atmosphere. So don’t tell me you can’t be beautiful just because you’re broken.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Jamie Hansen at 521-5205 or jamie.hansen@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter at @JamieHansen.)