Pioneer Youth Day at Pioneer Middle School

City firefighters speak to students Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 at Pioneer Youth Day at Pioneer Middle School in Porterville. Nearly 30 local professionals made presentations to students during the all-day event.

Pioneer students get inspired at Youth Day

It was an occasion for students to contemplate the future and seek out their passion as Pioneer Middle School hosted a full day of presentations Wednesday for Youth Day.

With presenters from local organizations, companies and individuals from all over the Central Valley, the purpose of the event was to get students to participate in a variety of activities to inspire them to “step up to the plate,” whether that means finding their true passion, empowering themselves to protect the environment, to help others, or to go to college.

There were presentations from Hoops Pre-school, the Porterville Police Department, Porterville Public Library and other valley and business services, as well as individuals like Olympic swimmer David Gong, and Keith Kizzar, who spoke about having a lifelong career in aviation as an air traffic controller. 

The whole idea of the presentations was to encourage students and tell them that dedication and an education can help them achieve what they want in life.

Xavier Xico Garva, who is from Springville, and Jael Mino Rivera from Bakersfield both danced and played music using Central and South American and ancient Mexican (Aztec) style flutes, wooden drums, wind whistles and reed flutes, as well as showing students Northern tribes style reed flutes as well. Jael played an Aztec wooden drum called a TezcatliPoca. There was also a turtle shell used as a drum that Xico found in North Carolina.

Both men explained they had challenges when they attended junior and high school, and Garva — who uses the name Xico — says it’s important to keep your cultural identity. 

He said when you grow up to be an artist, it’s important to think outside the box and follow your passion. He has always been proud of his parents; his mother wrote Mexican novelas and is a famous writer, and his father is an artist. 

Mino has been dedicated from an early age to promote his father’s culture of the cloud tribe in Mexico, and has learned to play the ancient Aztec instruments and other instruments from an award winning teacher.

When they dance the ancient Aztec dances like the Rain Dance, they give praise and thanks to mother earth. Xico said to students that their parents — many of whom are campesinos, or farm workers — do the most important job on earth by nurturing the earth, growing crops, and taking care of the trees that are vital to everyone.

Finally, he told the class whatever they did in life, they should think big and have determination to follow their hearts, and when they returned to Central California they should serve the community.

Augie Gonzalez of the Porterville Police Department’s Animal Control Unit, told students the City is building a new animal shelter across the street from the Post Office. 

Along with volunteer Kaiao Fox, Gonzalez told all of the children — who were gathered around Beethoven, a beautiful Great Pyrenees and Saint Bernard mix — they could help Animal Control by volunteering to walk dogs and spend time with them. 

Fox said, “We have all kinds of dogs that need to be adopted at the shelter.” 

Melissa Abarca, 14, enjoyed the presentation, and loved the dog Beethoven. She has a Pomeranian dog of her own at home.

Zekiel Garcia, 12, said he learned a lot listening to Augie Gonzalez and Kaiao, from Porterville Animal Control and Shelter, and said it was a great experience. He learned that dogs at the shelter need help and people can help walking them and setting up their kennels. 

“I also learned that in the City you need a dog license application completed to have a dog fully registered as yours,” he said. “And any dog you get from the  shelter is fully vaccinated and spayed or neutered. I really want to convince my parents to let me have a dog from the shelter.”

David Gong is a disabled Olympic swimmer, and said he has had cancer 11 times, and is having further problems now. He was three time national champion for the disabled, and says he was once the fastest disabled swimmer on the planet. 

“I’ve had a lot of challenges. I was addicted to drugs, homeless and living in my car when I was going to college in San Diego, but I held a 4.0 GPA while living in my car,” he said. “So I ended up swimming in college in San Diego, and a prosthetic company approached me and built me a prosthetic leg. So I swam in one meet and was ranked number one in the world,” he says.

Gong, who is also a motivational speaker, coaches a swimming team year round, and has quite a few junior Olympic champions. 

“Stay determined, and you can turn your life around,” he said in his message to students. “Keep life in perspective; keep track of the important things. Also, make the world a better place and give yourself to others.”

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