Ever since I can recall my father Adam Ybarra has helped a numerous amount of people. From youth in Juvenile Hall, middle and high schools students, professional NFL athletes to everyday moms and dads. Just about every day he is helping someone with his message of purpose.
My dad was raised in a single parent home in a neighborhood surrounded around drugs and gangs with his father living on the streets. He told me that there were many times as a child they would have very little to eat and that he would go to a friend’s house hoping that they would offer him something to eat. Needless to say, he has a soft spot for people who are hungry. I can honestly say…I share the same soft spot.
When my mom and dad asked me my theme for my Sweet Sixteen. Several ideas went through my head. I recall reading that a Sweet Sixteen celebration signifies a rite of passage of approaching adulthood.
When I thought about a theme, I began to think about my purpose in life. My dad reminds me to strive after my dreams and goals but always concludes with … “never, never, never forget the greatest thing we can ever do, is to help somebody…even if its just a smile.”
I decided that I wanted my Sweet Sixteen to become a symbolic step of my future, thus I informed my parents of my idea. A celebration with friends but rather gifts for me, gifts to others. In my Sweet Sixteen invitations I requested a donation or a Safeway gift card to help families with a Thanksgiving Dinner.
On my big day, we had great food and a great time. And at the end of the evening there was a total of $430.00. We went to Safeway purchased seven $50.00 Safeway gift cards and purchased $80.00 worth of food to give toward a Thanksgiving Drive that was helping 40 families.
My dad teaches his youth curriculum RESH 180 at Yerba Buena High School in San Jose that is located in a gang and drug infested neighborhood. He asked the Assistant Principal Mr. Jesus Rios if he could identify seven families who are in need of a Thanksgiving dinner. We gave him seven vouchers and within one day Mr. Rios identified families.
When my dad went to drop off the gift cards, Mr. Rios asked him if he would stay in his office to meet the students. My dad was reluctant to stay but Mr. Rios insisted. One by one he called each student to his office to present the gift cards. He was thankful for Mr. Rios insistence to stay because he was able to meet each student and offer encouragement.
When I got home from school my dad shared with me all the stories from each student. He said they were so thankful because they may not have had a family Thanksgiving dinner otherwise. One student comments stood out to me, " I’m grateful for the people that actually care and that are here for me. Some people have no one at all. So I’m glad that there are caring people.”
I'm one young voice but trust me, there are many more just like me. Happy Thanksgiving.
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