Winners of the 3rd Annual Growing Up PQ Essay Contest
PQ Youth Volunteers!
The Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council and 92129 Magazine proudly present the winners of the 3rd Annual Growing Up PQ essay contest. This year’s theme invited partcipants to describe a volunteer experience and reflect upon its personal significance, along with how it makes PQ a better place to call home. The three winning essays – from the elementary school, middle school, and high school categories, respectively – show us the importance of lifting up others and giving back to our community. We were touched and inspired by the words of these PQ citizens, and hope you will be too. Congratulations to our contest winners Grace Sun, Michael Wu, and Liam Fowler.
Elementary School Winner
Deer Canyon Elementary School
You may have seen parents or high school students helping or volunteering in a second grade classroom, filing papers, cutting up flyers, or even just helping the kids on math. But have you ever seen a middle school kid helping in the morning right before school?
There is a middle school student who volunteers in a second grade class at Deer Canyon Elementary. He is Daniel Zhao, a seventh grader at Mesa Verde Middle School. Daniel started volunteering at the end of his sixth grade year. “My mom actually came up with the idea, but I gladly took the chance to help,” said Daniel. Also, he was willing to volunteer because he always yearned to help the amazing teachers of his school. He chose to volunteer at Deer Canyon because that is where he went to school and he wanted to appreciate all the teachers he had. Deer Canyon is an elementary school that is located in Rancho Peñasquitos and in Poway Unified School District.
At Deer Canyon, he helps the second grade teacher cut paper, correct work, and file work so the teacher can focus more on teaching the class. “The challenging thing of being a volunteer is when you first start, you don’t know what to do,” said Daniel. “The fun thing is when you help the teacher and you receive praise. Also, you make friends with the kids.”
Volunteering can be a lot of fun once you get used to it. It isn’t all hard work. Daniel also collects bottles from our community to raise money for charity. He started two months ago and collects them on weekends. He takes all the plastic bottles and sells them in increments. Once he gets around $200, he donates it to charity. “To me, it means that I am helping either the community or the next generations grow up to be even better than us,” said Daniel. “I’ve learned that no help is gone to waste. I hope I can convince my friends to help me in volunteering.”
Middle School Winner
Mesa Verde Middle School
One of my more productive activities that I participate in is volunteering. As a typical middle schooler in this generation, I live for video games and social media, but as a member of the Boy Scouts of America and a FTC Robotics team, I’ve experienced many memorable volunteering events. One that stands out, however, is a memory that was born with my Boy Scouts Troop giving food for our local church. At first, it was a regular routine monthly service project, but the day quickly lightened up when a penurious lady showed up. She, despite the way her life was going on right now, put on a happy face and tried to not let her misfortune cloud her eyes from the sympathy and courtesy of others. As silly as this might sound, her simple actions of smiling and thanking all the volunteers for helping her made all the difference. Just hearing someone verbally show appreciation for the volunteers goes a long way. In my mind, volunteering is a win-win situation, for both the volunteer and recipient. It’s a way to give back to the people that helped you get where you are today, and shouldn’t be viewed as another task to accomplish. People in this world would give almost anything to be in the fortunate position that we are in now that let us help others, instead of focusing on survival. Almost all of society’s small clean-ups and donations are due to volunteers, and it’s what makes life so great. If everything just goes wrong in your life, you know you have a safety net simply from the generosity of others. A major reason why Rancho Peñasquitos is such an attractive place to live is because of the kindness and cooperation of its citizens. As Booker T. Washington once said, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” This truly still applies to today; an act of kindness, no matter how big or how small, can turn a good day to great.
High School Winner
Westview High School
It’s easy to overextend yourself and take a lot for granted being a high schooler in a privileged community like PQ. But a volunteer opportunity, TOPSoccer, that I became involved with last year through my physics teacher, Mr. Whitney, has made being a part of this community so much more meaningful. Its show of pure kindness towards another makes this programone of the main reasons I love to call PQ my home.
TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer), is hosted by San Diego Soccer Club (SDSC), and features many participants from the Poway Unified Schools, especially Westview. It “is a community-based soccer program for young athletes with physical and mental disabilities athlete that provides a safe and fun environment for their child to participate in organized sports.” (From SDSC website)
I go to every TOPSoccer event I can. Each session brings its distinct challenges and experiences, and with each one you learn not only to help someone less fortunate than you, but just how to be a better friend to everyone, including the numerous friends you make with both the athletes and the buddies at TOPSoccer.
TopSoccer has changed the way I view my life: how it could be better, how I am not that different from the kids I am trying my best to help, and how the decision I made to start attending has likely been the best decision of my life as a high schooler so far. When I tell people about that they’re surprised; but they don’t understand that without TOPSoccer to teach me and let me practice how to be the best person I can be, I wouldn’t be the person they know today.
The kids we help are mostly local PQ residents, and sadly they sometimes are looked down upon or are left out of everyday activities for many such as sports. Once you get to know them, know their struggles, and see how happy their families get when they see their kid have the time of their life, you start to really see how much this program benefits our community. In our own way, we help some of PQ’s most vulnerable find their voice, and be a person who society not only accepts but celebrates. To me, that’s what being a good community is about, helping those who can’t always help themselves, so that everyone feels at home.
A friend of mine told me recently after her first TOPSoccer session, “Just seeing all those kids smile, it just makes you so happy, you know? You feel so good inside.” Many of us feel the same way. It keeps us coming back. Because at the end of those special Sunday mornings, when I see the kids we just helped play and enjoy soccer, smiling and ready to take on the world, nothing could make me happier (not even the free donuts).