Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council and 92129 Magazine Present Winners of 5th Annual Essay Contest

Contestants from local 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!

Middle School Winner:

Emma Narvaez // Grade 7 // Mesa Verde Middle School

Joy of Helping Others

My name is Emma Narvaez and I am a seventh grader at Mesa Verde Middle School. I’ve lived in the Peñasquitos area for almost my whole entire life. I’m a part of Troop 8852 and I’ve been a Girl Scout since kindergarten. As Girl Scouts, we do a lot of volunteer work to make our community a better place. This is one of my volunteer experiences I’ve done as a Girl Scout.

To earn our Bronze Award, we volunteered at The Arbors. The Arbors is a retirement home where seniors are treated with hospitality. As a troop, we visited The Arbors to bond with the residents there and learn about their past. Learning about what it was like without today’s inventions, technology, social media, and other modern ideas taught me to be thankful that I don’t have to go through the challenges these seniors must have witnessed when they were my age. They didn’t have the internet to learn in an efficient way or have social media to interact with friends and family when they were far apart. These struggles they had to face must have been extremely difficult, and I’m very blessed to be growing up in such an advanced society.

Aside from talking to the elders about life in their generation, we hosted special events to make the seniors feel welcomed in their new home. From ice cream socials to Christmas caroling, everyone always had a ball. Each girl in our troop was assigned an elder that we spent quality time with. I enjoyed meeting with them a couple times every few months. Some of the seniors were even Girl Scouts themselves, and they told us their stories.

Volunteering is a priceless cause, done spontaneously without anything in return. Helping others without a reward is far more valuable than money itself. The act of volunteering brings out contentment and joy from me and the people we help in our community. Even the smallest things we can do to help our community will impact our world in millions of ways. My personal experience volunteering in Rancho Peñasquitos made me realize what just ourselves, a few ice breakers, and a couple of snacks can do to make our community filled with joy and glee.

High School Winner:

Maya Whiteside // Grade 10 // Westview High School

Pride: Growing Up PQ

Every year, our community welcomes a celebration of individuality and visibility for an often-oppressed group. The LGBTQ+ Pride Parade that we host brings people together to show them that they are not alone, and that their experiences are as valid as anyone else’s.

Now, as ever, this act brings hope to those among us who are afraid to live as their true selves, and brings comfort to everyone who has gone through these experiences. This is why I love volunteering at Pride every year. I have been playing with the Pride Youth Marching Band ever since I was old enough. We rehearse leading up to the event, we do a televised performance to raise awareness, and we march in the parade. Everyone involved is a volunteer, which creates an amazing community.

All of the music we perform has special meaning to the audience, and it is a beautiful phenomenon in which to participate. Our best tune is the one we perform as the flag is raised during the Stonewall Rally, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, as originally performed by Judy Garland. She is an important icon to the LGBTQ+ community, and the song is emblematic of everything the community desires. It speaks of being led out of the shadows, and Dorothy as a character accepts her friends for being different. This combines into a heartwarming and iconic song. Tears of joy are often seen among those attending. The fact that there exists a day to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community is a magnificent event in itself, so if we can add a little more to make it what it is, then that is an accomplishment.

Personally, I am driven to add to this celebration by my own experiences in the LGBTQ+ community. I have two moms, whom I love very much. They have had such a positive impact in my life, in the best way that a parent can. Furthermore, I identify as bisexual, which means I am attracted to both my gender and others. This has led me to be more invested in LGBTQ+ rights within the current political climate. I work to spread visibility, understanding, and compassion among my community, and I love doing it! I feel so fortunate to be a citizen of PQ, where I feel safe to be myself and know that I will be accepted.