Texas high schooler Valerie Xu is showing us all how to stand up and help, even in the face of racism and stereotype. 

Many high school students are finding themselves with a lot of free time since schools have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Valerie Xu is one of them. However, unlike many of her peers, she is not spending her time on video games and Snapchat; instead, she is working hard to help others on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight. 

A ninth-grader from Addison, Texas, Xu had been inspired after talking to a family friend, who happened to be a doctor working in Florida. Hearing how this friend had to reuse a protective mask for several days, Xu realized there was a way she could help. She started a GoFundMe “Masks Matter” to raise funds and began working to help her local community, hoping to raise enough to purchase 5,000 masks. Xu raised $7,500 in a short time, partnering with an Asian-American-owned and -run business in Dallas that matched GoFundMe donations. Xu also gave $1,240 of her own savings to reach the $7,500 goal. 

Xu was able to purchase 10,000 surgical masks and 1,200 FFP2 masks, the European version of N95 masks from China, using connections with her family there. The 12,000 masks were donated to the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and she is now continuing her efforts to get more. 

“This is something that’s happening nationwide,” the 15-year-old student told People in a feature. “Especially in a first world country like the U.S., these things should not be happening and I think as people in this country, we have a civic duty to try and help these [first responders] any way possible. “

Xu has faced challenges in her life, one of them dealing firsthand with racism and stigmas associated with being an Asian-American. Those stereotypes and stigmas have been amped up during the coronavirus pandemic, and she said she experienced them up close and personal when a teenage neighbor covered her mouth and pinched her nose when she walked by. 

“It was a shocker to me, especially since I’ve grown up in the U.S.,” Xu told People. “It just made me realize that no matter how much I try to prove myself as an American, my skin color will always define me… [this] motivated me to speak out for my race and my community...I’m just really happy that I’m able to make a difference and want to show that Asian Americans are with health workers and we want to unite.”

Xu is working hard every day to raise awareness for her local health care community in Dallas and to share the message that all Americans are in this together, no matter their racial background. She is a wonderful example of someone who saw a need and took action to fill that need. Rather than respond to the hate and fear she has felt with more of the same, she chose to rise above, a real-life example of good people doing good work. People like Xu are the changemakers and the community heroes our world needs these days. 

Share your thoughts and words of support for Xu and her "Masks Matter" campaign in the comments!