Sandra Villarreal, Maddie Garcia, and Shasha Granado grew up attending Project Transformation in their youth and are now serving with us as PTNT Corps Members this summer, distributing food and supplies at Casa Linda UMC and creating videos online as part of our virtual camp experience. They talk about what led them to service and what this summer has been like so far.
Maddie, Sandra, and Shasha serving at Casa Linda UMC’s food/supply distribution.
When and where did you attend PT growing up?
Sandra: I attended PT ever since I was in elementary school. I’ve been coming here to Casa Linda UMC ever since.
Maddie: I used to come here ever since the beginning of middle school. I was at Casa Linda UMC.
Shasha: I attended PT entering 3rd grade all the way through high school at Pleasant Mound Urban-Park UMC.
What was that experience like? Did you ever think one day you’d become a PTNT Corps Member?
Sandra: I really liked growing up in PT and seeing all the young adults helping kids out and seeing how involved they were with the kids, so I thought it would be really interesting to become a “Member” and change lives for the kids as the Members did with mine.
Maddie: I always loved PT and I don’t think it was up until maybe my last year as a LITE (our high school program) where I realized: “This is what I love to do!” A lot of teenagers expect to do something else during the summer, but this is what I enjoyed doing every summer, and so I thought maybe I should be a Member and change the lives of kids the way my Members changed mine.
Shasha: I remember the first time going to PT I did not want to go. I thought: “Why is my mom bringing me here?” But, I quickly realized that it was very fun and welcoming. Growing up, I realized how much of an impact the Members had on me. It’s a really transformative experience. I thought about becoming a Member when I was maybe in middle school. Being on the flipside, I now see all the work that goes into the program beforehand. I would just show up [as a kid] and have fun and now I see all the hard work people do to make it all possible.
Shasha with former PTNT Corps Member, Theresa.
Why did you decide to become a Member? Why did you feel like it was important to be serving with PT this summer?
Sandra: I decided to become a Member to impact the kids’ lives as [Members] did with mine. This summer, I just decided to sign up and do my first year.
Maddie: I really wanted to do it right when I graduated high school. I completed my first year of college and I immediately applied. When I found out that it was going to be a virtual program and not in-person programming, I was a little upset. I was really looking forward to coming back to Casa Linda UMC. I’ve just always wanted to become a Member and this experience (though different than expected) still aligns with what I want to do because I want to become an elementary teacher. It was actually PT that made me realize that I wanted to become a teacher!
One day during distribution, there was a kid that was getting bored while his mom was filling out a registration form and I thought, “let me pull out the Toy Maven bags and get him distracted.” He pulled out a checkers set and he ended up making up his own rules to the game! This is what I love to do! I love making a kid smile and this is why I applied to serve with PT in the first place.
Shasha: I think I decided to become a Member because one of my last years as a child in PT I had a Member named Jaime and she is the definition of joy! The way she impacted my life is so crazy. The way that she believed in her faith and her future career was so inspiring. Seeing her work so hard makes me want to work so hard and it’s why I went to college. So after I completed my first year of college, I immediately applied to PT. It’s been rewarding and a good learning experience for me.
Sandra and Maddie at the 2019 LITE Graduation Party. The Leaders In Training Experience is the college and career readiness program designed for our high school students.
What do you think our families need this summer?
Sandra: I think we’re helping families a lot just by distributing food because some families don’t have as much food now and it helps with their kids. Though we’re not able to do [in-person] summer camp, we’re still doing it virtually so we’re still allowing the kids to have some time with the camp and not just stay at home doing whatever.
Shasha: I think the families during this time need hope and a lot of them need help with food. I know it’s been a hard couple of months since the kids have been home all day.
Madeline: Just like Shasha said, I think everyone needs a little hope right now especially with everything going on. I’m so happy to be doing something for the community and doing what I love at the same time. One woman who comes every day has told me: “I’m so happy you guys are here because I get to feed my kids.” I know if we had in-person camp we would be with the kids right now having so much fun. We’re making these videos, putting all of our effort and all of our joy into them because we love these kids. Even though we don’t get to see them in person, I still have a special place in my heart for them.