21 Oct 2013
Tags: Blog, Blogger, Blogs by Latinas, california, Chuck Reed, Council Members, Districts, East, Education, Gang, Gang Prevention, Graffiti, High School, Involvement, latina, Latinos, lifestyle, Mayor, Mayor Chuck Reed, Miss San Jose Latina, Parenting, Parents, Politicians, Politics, Presentations, San Jose, San Jose California, San Jose Police Department, School, Town hall meeting, Violence
Today I had the most amazing opportunity to be part of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s “Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force” (MGPTF) Community Town Hall meeting. As mentioned in a previous post, San Jose is plagued with youth violence and though city statistics show gang related crime is down 18 percent from last year, it still remains an issue for the nation’s fourth largest city. The meeting was held at a high school in the East Side of San Jose, where one can usually find some type of gang related graffiti or tagging on almost every street corner. Dozens of San Jose residents, young and old, poured into the gymnasium where the facilitators introduced themselves and stated what department they were associated with (SJPD, SJFD, Parks & Rec. etc). We later broke into groups where we could voice our opinions and desires of what needs to change to keep our communities safe. At the end of our team discussions, we were then to present to the entire body our top concerns.
I’ve always heard when groups of passionate advocators come together for a good cause, positive changes are made. So it wasn’t surprising to see out of seven large groups, six groups felt the number one factor the city of San Jose needs to focus on is educating parents on the overall notion of gangs. Presenters stated parents need to be more involved and more aware of what’s happening within our communities and more importantly, to their children. Many felt San Jose should hold parent programs paralleled with schools that focus on gang prevention and include other avenues of awareness like alcohol abuse and mental health issues. Today was the first of four MGPTF meetings that will be held in various districts of San Jose and once all Town Hall gatherings are completed, Mayor Chuck Reed and Council Members will compile all of the notes and ideas and will create a strategic plan that will be implemented by 2016.
At the end of the gathering, I also had the opportunity to be interviewed by Peninsula Press on why I showed up and what I hope for the future of San Jose. I talked about my Miss San Jose Latina title and platform and though the interview was short, I felt it prepared me for when it’s really my time to shine during pageant weekend.
03 Oct 2013
Tags: Blog, california, Children, Culture, Donate, GoFundMe, Help, Humanity, Latino, Love, Middle School, Miss California Latina, Miss San Jose Latina, Money, Northern California, pageant, Platform, Poverty, San Jose, Santa Clara County, School, Secret, Teenagers, Teens, Volunteer
I have one of the greatest jobs (aside from writing) which is working with middle school aged youth. Everyday is such a different experience and though times can become absolutely chaotic I have an amazing time with all of my students. Our teens come from various backgrounds and all walks of life but one thing that remains constant is their need for stability. Our program is designed to allow all families to feel welcomed regardless of their income, so it isn’t very surprising to know that over half of our students are being sponsored or are receiving financial assistance to be in a safe, well structured environment. Thankfully, many outside programs like free after school bus drop offs are available for the teens but unfortunately they interfere with our program times not allowing those students to participate in our program. Students who would perhaps be interested in joining our activities and know they will be provided with a California State Board Standard nutritious snack are unable to attend and are often forced to find other means of keeping busy without trouble finding them first.
There are moments in life when you get hit with a big reality check and every worry, complaint and any other negative mindset quickly dissolves in an instant…and today was one of them. School officials at work were exposed to what a young boy had been hiding: no soles on the bottoms of his shoes along with dirty ripped white socks. School officials only took notice because he had asked for duct tape so he could piece what was left of his shoes just in time for P.E class. Immediately, the Principal and other officials were notified and money from the school’s “Families in Need Fund*” were taken out and brand new shoes and socks were provided for the innocent child who had had a complete emotional breakdown the class period prior. To make matters more heartbreaking, the new pair of shoes he received were a size 6, when his worn down shoes were a size 4-and-a-half. Though this child falls under the category of not being able to participate in our program due to free transportation, he is just one of the many other children at our school who live with devastating secrets of poverty.
Though there are various fun and exciting reasons why I’d like to be crowned Miss California Latina, I feel this opportunity would give me the perfect platform I need in order to reach out to those in need. I believe having a title, anywhere you go, has so much power and if you properly use that power for the goodness of others, so much success and positive change can occur. As mentioned in previous posts, I was raised to always give to others, especially if you have the capacity and means to do so. Though I haven’t yet experienced the big pageant weekend, I feel I’ve already been able to reach out to many through this very blog. Whether it be inspiring another to enter a pageant or help raise $100 for a San Jose gang related funeral, I feel this pageant experience has already given me the type of platform I’m looking for.
*To help other families in need, please visit http://www.gofundme.com/4n3nn0 and donate! All proceeds will go directly to the “Families in Need Fund”
27 Sep 2013
Tags: Babble, Beauty, Blog, Blogger, california, crown, Diary, Document, Facebook, Interview, Journal, latina, lifestyle, Miss San Jose Latina, pageant, Queen, San Jose, Santana Row, Stiletto Girls, USA
My good friend, Claudia Candelas, and I met up earlier this week to discuss our future blogging venture collaboration: Stiletto Girls. Claudia and I met through mutual friends at San Jose State University and we instantly hit it off because of our passion for media and all things related. Working while surfing the web for content ideas at Santana Row, I happen to come across a link to Babble.com*. The site was calling all bloggers to enter a chance to be named one of “Babble’s Best 100 Bloggers 2013.” I immediately signed this very blog to the list under the categories: Latina and Humor & Entertainment…and within hours, my stats blew out of the water. Though Babble editors and staff will end up selecting the final 100, just having my profile on another platform gives me that much more exposure to my pageant experience.
As you know from previous posts, I’ve been getting myself mentally prepared and doing everything else in between that will make the “Big Day” a success but to be honest, it hasn’t really hit me that it’s just around the corner! To think that exactly one year ago in September I had my initial pre-selection phone interview amazes me. Even though I didn’t create my blog until long after claiming the title of Miss San Jose Latina, I’ve had an amazing time documenting this experience because it’s something I’ll always be able to look back and reminisce on, with or without that Miss California Latina crown.
*To visit my Babble page and leave a comment, please visit: http://www.babble.com/babble-100/babble-100-readers-choice/kassandra-pena/
28 Jul 2013
Tags: Blog, Blogger, california, City, Culture, Email, Empowerment, Female, Girl Power, Inspire, latina, Life, lifestyle, Miss San Jose Latina, pageant, San Jose, Spanish, Women
I discovered my passion for creative writing when I wrote in my first journal at eight years old. Of course most entries at that time were messy scribbles and often referred to the anxiety and uproar over my older sister for hiding my precious Beanie Baby’s but writing had and will always be part of my life. Up until high school, all of my writings had been stashed away in personal journals, that is, until I discovered the internet. Eventually, I was introduced to the world of blogging and it was not long until I soon began sharing some of my life’s experiences online from semester-long multimedia projects to my study abroad adventure and my most recent blog, this pageant journey.
As you can imagine, sharing your views publicly can be a bit scary but luckily and thankfully I’ve always received positive feedback from past readers which has given me the confidence to continue to do what I love- write. Earlier this week, I received a touching email from a Latina reader in the Los Angeles area stating she had actually come across this blog a few months ago and had been keeping up with my posts. She let me know that it was not until she read my experiences that she could relate to that gave her that extra boost of confidence to go through with signing up for a local Miss Guatemalan pageant in her area. I was so honored to have received her email because I believe moments like these are exactly what women, especially women of color need, motivation. Blogging in general makes me happy but what makes me want to have writing become a larger part of my life is when my passion inspires and encourages others around me to do something out of the ordinary.
Though of course the title for Miss California Latina is ultimately a competition, I believe it is going to be very important for me to keep in mind throughout the pageant weekend that I channel my energy in what I can learn from the dozens of other women around me. I will be surrounded by some of the state’s best and classiest women and I too, would like to be inspired to try something new that perhaps I will be introduced to from a fellow pageant mate because after all, if women don’t stand up for one another, who will?
16 Jul 2013
Tags: Accomplished, Blog, Blogger, BlogsByLatinas.com, california, Culture, Goals, Happiness, latina, Latina Blogger, Life, Miss San Jose Latina, Published, Reality TV, Spanish, Thankful, The Bachelorette, Writing
After watching Zak carelessly tossing a beautiful ring out of the limo’s window on last night’s “Bachelorette” episode, my phone binged notifying me I had just received an email. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it simply because I was comfortably snuggled in my cranberry colored fuzzy blanket being a couch potato. Eventually, I gained enough strength to reach a long stretch of a foot and grab my phone off of the coffee table. Suddenly, as if a firecracker were lit underneath of me, I jumped off of the couch within a nano second excitedly began screaming, “Omg, Omg!…*pause*….Omg, Omg!” My older sister who had been immersed in her books studying for a law exam quickly looked up and kept asking what was happening. After saying “Omg!” and pacing up and down the hallway like a mad woman for about 100 times, I finally let out the great news. BlogsByLatinas.com had chosen this very blog to be showcased on its homepage! The email was the notification that my blog was officially added to the worldwide directory featuring Latina bloggers. All that kept running through my head was how thankful I was knowing this opportunity was going to take my blog to the next level.
Since the creation of this blog, I had already been promoting it on the regular basis but now that I was inducted to be featured on the homepage of an international website, I knew traffic would rise…and that’s exactly what has already happened. Not even 24 hours have passed since the email of my accomplishment and my stats have already broken personal records! Though this blog is dedicated solely for my pageant experience, I do truly enjoy writing (and hope to make part of my future career) so I am thrilled my writings will now be accessible to thousands of other women worldwide.
I’d like to thank the founder of BlogsByLatinas.com, Monique Frausto, who created such a website dedicated to and for Latinas who have a voice and are committed to making the world a better place, one blog post at a time.