Operation Safeway

Though this pageant life is a new and an unexpected experience for me, I must say I am quite content with all of the opportunities that have come my way. I have met so many people and have gone to exciting events with my sash but one of the greatest perks of being a titleholder is being able to create and promote causes. As you know from a previous post, Santa Clara County definitely has its fair share of poverty and in a somewhat bittersweet feeling, I’m happy I get to work directly with some of these low income community members every single day. These fun, emotional, “too-cool-to-talk-to-you teenagers” constantly remind me how blessed and fortunate I am, and I’m probably 99.9% sure they don’t even know it. When a student tells me she wakes up at 5am because her mom couldn’t afford their house anymore and now travel from a distant city or how a family of five lives in a motel, I’m reminded but more importantly, motivated, to use the resources I have to help in any way.

Seven years ago, I met my best friend. My family had moved second semester of Senior year of high school to a new city (yes, I know, horrible!) and Felicia was the only person who gave the new kid any type of attention. We immediately clicked, mostly due to our faith, and our friendship blossomed and it wouldn’t be much longer until I’d learn exactly how many great connections pastors make throughout their community. Grocery stores like Safeway for example, would donate TONS of food on a weekly basis to her parent’s church so members including myself always left with some yummy treats. Fast forward until present day, it only made sense that I’d bring the “Safeway leftovers” to my work and have it distributed to the teens listed under the “Emergency Funds for Families”*. With the school’s permission and gratitude, “Operation Safeway” was underway. Unfortunately, the past few weeks didn’t pan out as planned: either a miscommunication amongst the Safeway distributor and our church member food picker-upper occurred or some other mishap took place, causing me to come to work empty handed. Luckily this week was different. Safeway must have known I had a ton of kids to feed because it took me a good 20 minutes to pack and stuff my Honda with over 200 loaves of healthy whole wheat bread, french rolls, and baguettes!

As school officials helped me unload all of the bread onto a golf cart, they couldn’t stop thanking me for sharing all of the food. Though I was happy they were happy, I honestly didn’t feel a sense of pride that this was my doing or my idea…I thought, “Well of course I’d bring this food, how could I not? Is there another choice I could have made?” We started dividing all of the bread into baggies for the teens in need when some of the office ladies decided we should start a weekly pantry system for our kids. I’d be in charge of bringing the majority of donated food and they’d provide pasta and sauce and other non-perishable food items. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to physically pass out the bread to the students since I needed to be elsewhere in the school but I was told the kids had looks on their faces as if they had been awarded 1 million hall passes. I was told the teens were overjoyed and it had been an unexpected surprise for many. According to the school Registrar, one student said, “My mom is going to be so happy…we’re going to eat.”

Love,

Kassie P.

*To read more about Emergency Funds for Families, please scroll down to “The Platform I Need”

Advertisements

Back to the Basics

If you were to ask my family how I studied for exams and presentations during elementary and early middle school years, they’d probably cringe at the very thought of those oh so memorable years, right Mom?! You see, many of those pre-test-nights consisted of me bawling my eyes out laying faced down on the kitchen table literally suffering trying to memorize facts and those horrible irrelevant math word problems! My mom (who I’m pretty sure wanted to strangle me a few times during these melt downs) patiently tried to help me figure out new ways to study and when her patience ran out, in came the switch-a-roo and boom!…my older sister was there for the rescue, that was until she’d toss the papers in the air out of frustration and say, “Mom, it’s your turn.” Eventually, I learned my personal style of studying and once high school and college came around, I hardly ever asked for help and was always above a 3.0 GPA.

When I at last figured out writing in sections, dividing questions and answers in parts and circling and boxing in phrases was my style of remembering, I wasn’t surprised since after all, I’m a writer. I learned when I began writing down notes or key words that needed to be remembered, it was imprinted in my head. Once the test or presentation came, I was then able to visualize my study guide and know exactly there had been three key points about that one subject on the left hand side of my notes and four facts about the other topic underneath of it, circled. I remember multiple professors asking me during tests if I was okay since I’d have a burning look within my eyes staring at the whiteboard or at my classmate’s shirt, when in reality all I was doing was visualizing my notes. 

Over these past few months, I’ve had the great opportunity to discuss my personal beliefs on politics and world and local issues with my family that I feel I may be asked during pageant weekend. In my head, I’ve kept tabs on certain key points I’d like to hit just in case I am asked those questions but since almost anything is game, obviously that’s a whole lot of key points I’d need to store in my memory bank! Then, it dawned on me…why not keep a small journal of all my pageant related thoughts, beliefs and facts?! I knew this was going to be ideal for pageant weekend and I’d “study” and review everything throughout the weekend. Though I will not of course memorize everything word for word, I know having my journal will help reduce the nervousness. My journal will symbolize everything I’ve done thus far to make it to the pageant and it will be the ultimate reminder that I already have all of the answers…for my writing pieces are not ordinary things to simply be memorized;  they are what is written inside of my heart.

 

“MGPTF”

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.

Love,
Kassie P.

The Platform I Need

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”

Love,
Kassie P.