2017 IJM California Pre Teen
Why did you start volunteering?
I had a local scholarship competition that required me to pick a community advocacy project to work on during my year as a titleholder should I win. During my competition, we had to do a speech on this. I then sat down with my mom and decided I would talk about foster care and what is going on when children are placed in a home. That is when I decided I would take it one step further and I told my mom I wanted to start a nonprofit for this and provide luggage and/or duffle bags for foster care agencies and/or children being placed in home. It wasn't long after my first bag donation, the next morning, my mom got a text from the agency saying that they had already used three bags for some kids that came in!! Knowing that they had them made me so grateful for those who donated and helped me. I know I may be a small person but I am a mighty force when I set my mind to something. I have the love and support of those around me who continue to encourage me to follow my heart and dream. My dream is that one day, no child should have to enter foster care with a garbage bag or be placed in a home that they feel they have no support or comfort in before they get there.
When did you decide to start your own nonprofit?
I started my very own nonprofit about a year ago when my mom was talking to a friend about her upcoming adoption. She was saying that when she went to see her daughter for a visit at a foster care agency there were two children coming in with garbage bags full of clothes and belongings. When we got home I asked my mom, “What did she mean mom when she said that the kids clothes and belongings were in a bag?” I did not understand how someone could place a child's things in a garbage bag. I said “Mom, there has to be something we can do, something I can do." A few months later It was the end of my dance year and I was having my dance recital at a nice park in Modesto, right across the street was a Sierra Vista Child and Family Service office. After my recital I said to my mom “Maybe we can find out how we can help them, I really want to do something and even if it is small, I want to help out those kids.”
How did you come up with your logo?
When I was creating my nonprofit I told my mom, " for my logo, since we are donating bags to children and foster care agencies, I want to do something with a heart, house and a zipper. The heart to show love, zipper to to show the bag and house to show a new home! I want it to be colorful and fun." My mom took my idea and did exactly what I wanted! I couldn't be happier with how it turned out! It is exactly what I had dreamed it to be!
What has been the most rewarding experience with your nonprofit?
I felt that something as simple as a bag would give them the feeling of being loved and successful in their new home. That is when I thought of my name for my nonprofit, Zip Up Success. Most people do not realize but when a child is placed in a home, most carry only the clothes they are wearing and are given a trash bag for any other belonging they may have. What kind of message does that send to a child of any age? They are not trash or something that can be thrown out. I feel that something as simple as a bag will give them the security and sense of belonging even if it’s not their forever home. No child should ever be made to feel like they are unwanted. This past August was my 10th birthday and for my party I asked my friends and family to bring me a bag for my non profit instead of buying me a gift. I collected almost 100 bags. I also reached out to my dentist Dr. Rick Van Tran of Manteca Dental Care to donate some toothbrushes to my bags. He donated over 35 toothbrush kits, filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss. To me, it’s the little things that make a big difference and to these kids who do not really have a lot, it means the world! I have donated my first round of bags and items to Sierra Vista Child and Family Service. My goal is to collect and donate 250 bags by the end of the year. My plan is to hold bag drives and donation events in my community to help bring awareness to this problem facing our foster care system and the children it serves. I started volunteering because I wanted to give back to my community and those around me who need it. I am fortunate to have a loving family and not everyone my age is as lucky. That is another reason I try to give back. I love to see people happy and smiling and when I'm out doing whatever it is I am doing be it working a festival, street fair or donating my bags, people are happy and have smiles on their faces. Which makes me feel like what I do is not for only me!!
I encourage those who would like more information to follow me on Instagram and Facebook at Zip Up Success or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org