By Pablo J. Sáinz
Norma Varela is not like most 16-year-olds.
When she learned she was going to receive a $2,000 sponsorship through A Bridge for Kids, a San Diego non-profit that connects needy teenagers and people who can help them achieve their goals, she didn’t think to buy new clothes for school or spend it all on herself.
“I want to benefit all of my school,” said an emotional Norma, who is a junior at Castle Park High School in Chula Vista.
“I want to use part of the money to start clubs, to help my classmates get involved, and to start an activism campaign where students can help themselves.”
Norma was one of four Castle Park High School students who were surprised on April 29th with a sponsorship through A Bridge for Kids, which is working with social services agency South Bay Community Services to identify, mentor, and help achieve academic success among teenagers in the Castle Park neighborhood of Chula Vista. The four students selected thought that they were in the library for a second round of interviews for the sponsorships. Instead, they got the surprise of their lives.
“Norma a family decided to sponsor you,” said Michael Nance, founder of A Bridge for Kids.
With the sponsorship, students can use the funds to receive resources from basic necessities like school supplies and clothing to athletic equipment. Students have a year to spend the funds, and expenses need to be documented and fall under a list of categories relevant to their education.
“Our goal is to take dreams and make them a reality,” reads the A Bridge for Kids mission statement. “We strive to make lasting improvements in the lives of young people and the society in which they live.”
In addition to the Castle Park High School students, three more students from Sweetwater High School, in National City, also received sponsorships that day. In total, A Bridge for Kids raised $13,000 distributed among seven students in the Sweetwater Union High School District.
One of those students was Sabine Quezada, a junior at Castle Park. She also received a $2,000 sponsorship, which she plans to use to buy cheer-leading equipment and uniforms.
Her mother, Rosa Quezada, said she is very proud of her daughter.
“These are the roots of all the fruits she will be able to harvest in her life,” Rosa Quezada said.
For Castle Park High School Principal Tom Glover, the A Bridge for Kids sponsorships are a statement that there are people in the community who care about youth.
“These students are really grateful,” he said. “This will help them achieve their dreams. This is wonderful.”
Erica Johnson, community relations coordinator for South Bay Community Services, the social service agency that connected A Bridge for Kids with Castle Park High School, said that the whole Castle Park community would benefit from the sponsorships.
“At South Bay Community Services we work with some incredible youth, so it’s been a tremendous pleasure to connect these high achieving teens with A Bridge for Kids,” Johnson said. “Because of their generosity, some of these young people will have doors opened up for them that have the potential to truly change their lives.”
To learn more about A Bridge for Kids, please visit www.abridgeforkids.org. To find out more about the programs at South Bay Community Services, please visit www.southbaycommunityservices.org.