Growing Up PQ

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


Elementary School Winner
Samantha Farrell
Deer Canyon Elementary School

Helping My Community

Where would our community be if we didn’t all help each other and give back? I think if we all help out and pitch in then we could make our community a better place. That is why I joined my school crossing patrol. Every Monday morning, I go in 10 minutes early with two of my friends. We stop traffic so that younger kids can cross the street safely. This volunteer work lets parents know that when their children go to school they are safely crossing the street. It makes me feel good knowing that I can keep kids at my school safe, even if it is just crossing the street.

For two years at school, I have been also doing a volunteer program called DC Kids. In DC Kids, we set up activities to teach kids about the four core values: Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, and Caring. We put on skits, games, and other fun activities at our morning recess. We also raise money by selling concessions like popcorn and hot chocolate at Deer Canyon’s Talent Show and Holiday Bazaar. We vote on a charity to donate the money to, and last year, we donated the money to the Susan G. Komen Foundation in honor of one of the teachers at our school who was fighting breast cancer. The last couple of years, we have also donated to Make-A-Wish. This year, we are thinking about donating to a charity that helps homeless people. We have also helped make our school a “no place for hate school.” DC Kids gives kids the opportunity to help people in need, and to teach kids how to follow the four core values.

Outside of school, I have also enjoyed volunteering with other groups. One of those groups is my Girl Scout troop. We have made boxes of art supplies that we donated to children in foster care. We have also gone to Feeding America, where we sorted food and decorated bags to fill with food for kids to take home after school. With my family and friends, I have volunteered at the Ladle, which serves meals to homeless people. My favorite job when I go to the Ladle is to pass out the bread and the snacks. I also like to talk to the people and hear their stories.

To me, volunteering means helping others out and giving them your time. I think that volunteering is important because you are giving to your community in a big way. My community gives me what I need so I like to give them what they need.


Middle School Winner
Nirja Trivedi
Black Mountain Middle School

Deeds for the Deployed

As I step inside the Peñasquitos Library, I notice all the content high schoolers teaching five-year-olds how to play chess. They are sharing a laugh in the serenity of the library. This is only one example of how volunteering brings a sense of satisfaction to our community. Our neighborhood of kind citizens holds a special space in my heart. As a locality, we have always made sure to place an emphasis on community service. I am fortunate enough to experience such volunteering experiences firsthand as a Girl Scout Cadette, part of Troop 3141.

One specific volunteering experience that changed my perspective was assembling care packages for Operation Courage Is Beautiful. Operation Courage Is Beautiful is a non profit organization that collects donations to create and ship high-quality care packages to women in the military. Many people overlook the fact that women make up a significant part of our military. Most morale-building programs that involve care packages are actually geared toward men in the military. Operation Courage Is Beautiful recognizes that we can do more to boost the spirits of women in our military, and wants to bring more femininity and joy to their lives. The care packages they ship consist of makeup, hygiene products, books, magazines, notes of encouragement, and much more.

Pulling up at a house on Stargaze Avenue, I had no idea about what we were going to do. Our troop leader had signed us up for this activity, and all I remembered was that it involved assembling packages. However, the activity’s leader soon explained that this was more than just dumping miniature shampoos into USPS boxes. This was an initiative to bring delight into the lives of those who sacrificed their lives for us. I quickly got into the rhythm of placing lip balms into packages as they passed by on the assembly line. My focus was interrupted when an elderly woman started talking about her experience in the military. She talked about going on for days without simple necessities like soap. I took a step back and thought about how we take such simple pleasures for granted, while people toiling in dangerous regions don’t even see them for months.

After this experience, my perspective about veterans changed. Now when we have to write cards for them in school, I don’t think of the assignment as a burden, but as a pleasure. I feel proud to be protected by lionhearted men and women who lay their lives on the line. I am grateful for those who are behind Operation Courage Is Beautiful, and commend the people of Peñasquitos for gracing our community with such volunteering encounters.


High School Winner
Victor Ku
Westview High School

When I was growing up, I’ve always had the notion to remember the happy details in life. This was important to me because I believed some of these precious moments may never happen again. I constantly searched for a way to have a memory pull me out of reality and relive that moment of happiness. The camera is the only device I found. It got the job done, but the memory card felt disorganized. I wanted to archive all my favorite photos into sections on a personal website. That’s where I turned to the Rancho Peñasquitos Library. They were offering classes on web design. I immediately noticed that the leader of the group acted differently from the rest. I asked him a couple of questions and before I knew it, I’ve spent two hours talking about my personal life with a random person after the event was over. This person was so interesting to talk to, I just lost track of time. To this day, I still remember this person. I realized that developing a personal relationship is the best way to capture a memory of a friend forever.

That experience altered my mindset with anyone from that point onwards. I greet and thank my teachers every time I enter and leave their classroom. I found the courage to step out of my personal bubble and talk with strangers. I learned to cherish every moment with friends by spending as much time as possible with them. Now that I’m the founder and President of the 3D Printing Club at Westview, I believe it’s critical to develop these personal relationships with my students so that they too can have a positive memorable experience.

So far, my club only teaches at two public libraries every month, one of which is our very own Rancho Peñasquitos Library. But it amazes me to see how just a three-hour session can spark a hidden interest in someone. The joy and excitement I feel from volunteering as a STEAM coach is a transaction that is far off from being replicated from anything else.

I’ve made countless memories living in the Rancho Peñasquitos community for my entire life. They have all shaped me to be the way I am today and I am extremely grateful for that. This is my way of passing off what I learned from my role model in the library five years ago. As our society continues to adopt newer technology, my hope in teaching 3D printing with my mindset is to inspire a new wave of engineers so that when they are successful in the future, they can recall their very first experience with 3D printing as coherent as possible.