Founder and Chairwoman: Phoenix
I’m different. I noticed a long time ago.
I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism when I was five. In order to find the best school for me, my mom moved me around from school to school. By fifth grade, I had gone to seven different schools. This meant I could never stay with any group of friends for more than a year. Even with the distant friends I did have, I always felt left out.
I didn’t have any close friends until fifth grade. You can’t imagine how happy I was when I finally found another close friend. Recently, YX became my only close friend. Before that my only friend was my sister. Sunshine was born with gifted people skills. She always one of the most popular students at school. Sometimes I am jealous to see her gang up with her friends that she’d just made thirty seconds ago. Feeling left out, I had a tough time for many years. My parents spent a lot of time with me. I was sent to many private therapists and psychologists. I learned a lot.
There’s a specialty camp I go to, for kids with social and communication difficulties, called Camp Meadowood Springs. I love it there, but each session is only one week. Even so, it’s my favorite summer activity. I’ve been doing everything I can to promote it. I wrote a Wikipedia page for Camp Meadowood; I wrote emails to the student-service directors of multiple school districts, trying to help the camp promote their program to special classroom students; I delivered speeches in front of the local Elks board of directors and at the Oregon Elks annual fundraising for Camp Meadowood Springs.
Eventually I realized there was too much that had to be done, and I had only done a small fraction of it all. I couldn’t do it alone. Starting a non-profit organization seemed like a good idea. It would also extend my “one-week happy time” to year round. I talked to some kids I knew and got good impressions. I partnered up with Big Chungus and Little Bean, who seemed to have the same passion as me.
I know there are so many people out there who are eager to have friends, but just don’t have any due to many reasons. They are so lonely. I can feel their pain. I also know there are so many warm-hearted people out there who are willing to reach out their hands, just like kindness experienced over the years. I hope this NPO can act as bridges to connect people from both sides of the river, and brighten others’ days with a small act of kindness!
Director of Fundraising: Sunshine
As a younger sister, I’ve always enjoyed hanging out with my older sister Phoenix, ever since I was little. I have had many happy times, but, at the same time, she often makes me angry and frustrated. Yes, I hated Phoenix sometimes, because she made me cry a lot. I try to get support from Mom and Dad. They always try to tell me that everybody is different; everyone has their strengths and weaknesses; everyone needs to learn different skills throughout their life; Phoenix is trying to learn her people skills and I should help her. With the passage of time, I know a lot more. I’ve seen there are many people not like me, so I always try to understand them and make friends with them. It seems I can make friends everywhere easily. Many people have complimented my people skills. Actually, it is simple, just try to be a good listener, and have a warm heart, of course!
Director of Technology: V
It may not seem like it, but I wasn’t always so outgoing. Growing up I always had so much to say, yet… I would never express it. Throughout my school experience all the way to sixth grade. I had little to no friends even still always being only a backup friend or a wallflower in a conversation . I was the shy girl that was in the corner reading, even sacrificing my lunch and recesses. Surprising as it might seem I didn’t care much, who needs friends when you could be in your own world. There’s a saying that goes “ some people live one life, others live a thousand lives”. It wasn’t until seventh grade until I had a true group of friends which I'm still friends with to this day. Making friends wasn’t easy though, my encounter with it in fact was purely by chance. You see, when the seventh grade school year started I got put in a lunch where none of my friends were.I felt a bit daring and sat down at the table where the popular kids were. At first, I rarely spoke I mostly just nodded my head to conversations and listened.Little by little ,week by week I slowly started associating myself with them eventually even calling many people friends. I understand many people in this world struggle with this this is why I wanted to do let’s peer up. Because not everyone has that one chance by luck to make friends, that’s why I want to give them that opportunity.
I’ll freely admit that I’m afraid of a lot of things. But the one thing I probably fear most is being left out. And whatever momentary bad experiences I’ve had with cliques and in-groups, it pales in comparison to what my neurodiverse classmates and friends experience.
I love each opportunity I get to speak about my thoughts, and share them with others. In fact, I probably do it a bit too much. Recently I’ve been trying to take a less active speaking role in projects, and instead help others build the confidence to speak up for themselves. I think this program is an excellent way to achieve that. At Let’s Peer Up, I want to help create a place to help everyone learn to confidently engage in social circles, so that no one feels left out for reasons beyond their control.