MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN KALISPELL


I was visiting classes for National School Breakfast Week to promote breakfast to students with a couple of volunteers. I show up to the last class on Friday and as I am waiting for students to settle into their seats from recess, I was being interrogated by these 3rd graders! "Who are you? Why are you here? What is in the bucket? How long are you going to be here?" One hour earlier I had a student in kindergarten who held my pinky finger with both of her hands saying, “Mister, what is your name? Please tell me that you are Maui from Moana!” Man, those kids made me laugh. Then the teacher in the 3rd grade class looks at me with apprehension in her eyes and I hear the regret in her tone as she says "Johnny, go ahead and take the class away.” I introduce myself to the class saying, "Hi, my name is Johnny. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Prevention Resource Center, serving Montana No Kid Hungry here in KAAAAALIIIISPELLLL! NOW, BY RAISING YOUR HAND WHO CAN REPEAT WHAT I JUST SAID?" The students were trying so hard to find the words and the only response I got were nodding heads.  As I am talking I have the students engaged… students who were strongly questioning me now sitting in a posture as if I were their Sargent. During my presentation a girl slaps her forehead with embarrassment… and a couple of students were looking at me like when I saw Mickey Mouse for the first time in Disneyland. In the middle of the comical part of my presentation I almost broke out crying! I felt so much love and passion for these students… I was speaking to these students with the same passion as when I was a keynote speaker in D.C. or at the Montana Association of School Superintendents meeting. These students are important. These 20 students revealed to me how much I love what I do and I am so grateful. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so excited to come into the office and see the food service staff, and that this week I will be engaging the schools and preparing for future projects​.

I won’t take for granted the opportunity to be a part of something that is bigger than me. Thank you, Kalispell, for letting me be a part of this work.

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