As I was flying to DC and sitting next to a 6’4’’ man in the small plane, I was overwhelmed with joy because not only was I going to attend the No Kid Hungry Partners Retreat but be the keynote speaker! I couldn’t believe it! 

In the morning of my speech I was looking out of the window from my hotel room with great excitement and overwhelmed with nerves because I was about to speak to No Kid Hungry campaigns and nonprofit organizations from 27 states in this retreat. Somehow Little ole me, who grew up with nothing and from nothing was supposed to inspire, and remind them that their work is making an impact and making this world a better place. How? Why me? So, I began to dance, that’s right! Right there in front of the window! Through all the noise and distractions, I was able to hear my heart and soul speak to my mind. Reminding myself the reason why I do this. This is for the kids, the families who no one is fighting for. Who are being overlooked or looked down on. I have an opportunity to encourage leaders who are fighting for these families and kids! I Gathered my courage and headed to the conference room. With such warm welcoming from everyone, I felt at home. 

Having Chuck Scofield the Executive Vice President of Share Our Strength welcome me to the stage, I couldn’t believe it. I felt so humbled. With all the love, passion and strength in my heart I couldn’t help but to fully express it all in my speech. IT WAS OUT OF THIS WORLD!!

The next day I sat with Senator Tester and Daines staff. Not sure why they would be willing to listen to me. The thing that really struck me was how much our leaders care! How willing they are to come out and visit schools and school boards. How they see the value in the smallest of communities, how they see the value of the lives of students in the smallest of schools was so beautiful to hear. I am so proud to say these are our leaders. That together we will end this injustice.

I am so honored and humbled to serve such an incredible organization who has the same passion as I do. TO END CHILDHOOD HUNGER. BECAUSE EVERY CHILD DESERVES A GREAT QUALITY OF LIFE. ​

Johnny Pena
Montana No Kid Hungry-PRC AmeriCorps VISTA
Kalispell, MT