The Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council and 92129 Magazine proudly present

Growing Up PQ

Contestants from local elementary and middle schools submitted a short essay on the topic “PQ Youth Volunteers,” in which they described one specific volunteer experience in PQ, what it meant to them, and how it made PQ a better place to call home. The two essays below represent the best of their grade-level categories, and each winner has received a cash prize. Please join us in congratulating these two young writers!


Jojo Xu
Elementary School Winner
4th Grade, Deer Canyon Elementary School

My PQ Community

This is a part of my life through which I learned how volunteers work together in our community.

Sarah Loza and I are in the same grade. We started Girl Scouts together when we were in kindergarten. We also have been in Jr. FLL and soccer together.

The volunteer that started our Girl Scouts troop and Jr. FLL is Mrs. Valerie Azcona. We had so much fun together: encampment, Christmas caroling, and Lego building. The most important thing that Ms. Val taught us was to work together as a team. Sarah and I also played soccer against each other in our PQ soccer league. Our coaches are volunteers who help us learn about soccer and teamwork.
One day, our school counselor came in to talk with us. The news she told us was shocking. Sarah Loza got sarcoma cancer! For the rest of the day, we made encouraging get-well cards for her. We were all hoping for her to get well.

I started praying for her, very hard, every night. I want her to get better and go back to school. One of my best friends from Jr. FLL, Karis Chen, had really long hair. One school day she came to school with her hair cut. When she told me she donated her hair to make a wig for Sarah, I was very touched. Our PQ soccer league also did a fundraiser to support Sarah and her family with their medical bills.

Those are the volunteers in my PQ community. This shows in our community, many volunteers not only lead and help with our school and community activities, but also help and support each other during hard times.

Jake Farrell
Middle School Winner
7th Grade, Mesa Verde Middle School

Food, Friends, and FASD

Hi, my name is Jake Farrell, and I’ve lived in Rancho Peñasquitos for three years. Let me tell you about the time that I volunteered at Feeding America San Diego (FASD) to try and make a difference in our community.

Last year, in the sixth grade, my literature class did something called the 10% Project. The point of the project was to come up with and execute a plan that would serve to make San Diego a better place. For my project, I decided to do a food drive and volunteer session at a local non-profit organization dedicated to ending hunger in San Diego, FASD. As I was researching organizations, I learned that 14.7% of San Diegans struggle with hunger, and 135,000 children are food insecure.

The first thing I did for my project was to organize a canned food drive. Not only did I set up a collection bin at my local elementary school’s ESS, I also put together paper bags with flyers that I dropped off at houses throughout the neighborhood and asked neighbors to fill with food. The second part of my project was to organize a group volunteer session at FASD. I recruited 15 people to come with me, and we did a three hour session at the FASD warehouse in Mira Mesa. Together we gleaned and packaged over 3,000 pounds of food to be distributed to programs around the county that send the food to people who are in need. Even though it wasn’t specifically in Rancho Peñasquitos, I’m sure some of the food made its way to families in our communities. My canned food drive raised 150 pounds of food, which is enough to provide the hungry of San Diego with 125 meals.

Something very important that I learned from this project is that you don’t have to wait until you’re older or more grown up to make a difference. There are so many ways you can help, you just have to be willing to look for them. I also learned that even though people might want to help, it is not always easy for them to find the time or commitment to do it. I had several people say they would come with me to the warehouse, but who then had to back out at the last minute. The charities in San Diego must struggle with this every day when they try to find volunteers.

I have now been Feeding America San Diego five times with my family and other groups. It’s nice that they give kids my age the opportunity to start helping out in our local community. I plan to keep doing what I can to make a difference; in fact, tomorrow I am going with my family and some friends to volunteer at a soup kitchen in Downtown San Diego. We all need to pitch in a little more because no one should be hungry, especially at this time of year.