Jun-Nicole Matsushita '98, Theresa Zotolla Drift '92, Scott Kelly '91: Three alumni working for children
It’s been four years since a tsunami devastated parts of Southeast Asia, but relief efforts are still underway. One of them is the work of Jun-Nicole Matsushita ‘98 and her sister, Yuki-Michelle Matsushita-Peete. “I wanted to help, but I didn’t want to send money,” says Jun-Nicole, who is married to Huy Tong ’99 and the mother of two young sons. She especially wanted to help victims who had families to care for. “I thought of the many tsunami survivors with babies and how a simple piece of cloth could make both a beautiful and useful gift.” With the assistance of family and friends, Jun-Nicole created HUGS—Help Us Give Slings.
The baby slings, or selendangs, are cotton batik prints about the size of a tablecloth. They are sold online, and the proceeds go toward sending more selendangs to those in need. To date, more than 1,500 slings have been donated to mothers in Indonesia and East Timor, and outreach efforts have grown to include victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 Iowa floods.
More about HUGS at www.yuki-michelle.com/hugs.
Theresa Zottola Drift ’92 is the nutrition educator for the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Minnesota. She specializes in teaching nutrition techniques to children at the Nett Lake School, hoping to instill good eating habits for the future. (Sixty percent of the school’s children are considered obese or at risk for obesity.)
In May 2007 Theresa helped Bois Forte obtain one of 50 grants from the General Mills Champions for Healthy Kids program. With the $10,000 award, Theresa created a school garden at Nett Lake to grow fresh produce, which is then used in the school’s meals.
“Children who work in a garden planning, planting, weeding, and harvesting produce are more likely to eat that produce,” she says. “Eating fresh carrots or beans right from the garden is an eye-opening experience for them.”
Currently Theresa is enrolled in the master’s program in holistic health at St. Catharine University in Minneapolis. She hopes to further her work with the Bois Forte Band upon completing her degree.
Throughout the country, fathers are getting more and more involved in their children’s lives during the school day through a program called Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students). The program was founded in Arkansas in 1998. Watch DOGS encourages dads and other father figures to volunteer at their child’s school at least one day out of the school year. Locally, Puget Sound grad Scott Kelly ’91 is top DOG coordinator at Little Cedars Elementary in Snohomish, Wash., where his two children attend. “I wanted to help out. I wanted to be involved, to make a difference,” says Scott. The Watch DOGS program at Little Cedars was the first in Snohomish County and has caught on throughout the area.
Since the start of the 2008–09 school year, every elementary school and most middle schools and high schools in the Snohomish School District have established a Watch DOGS program. At least one father is on duty every day at each school helping out. They read stories, play with the children at recess, or even throw pizza parties with other fathers and their children.
Scott hopes to get more dads involved and would be happy to answer any questions about the program. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Lestraundra Alfred ’11