I had the the pleasure of interviewing a very positive, giving, diverse, outgoing young lady by the name of Tyra Dennis. She is currently running for Miss California 2013 & founder of Saving Innocent Children. The 24 year old is singer, aspiring songwriter, & musician. I have been following Tyra on Twitter from sometime now & knew that she had a lot going for herself. I wanted to dig deep & get to know what her plans were for the rest of 2012. Check out our interview below.
Ashley: When it comes to your nonprofit Saving Innocent Children Inc. what are somethings that you wish to accomplish this year?
Tyra: With SIC, one of my dreams would be to give scholarships to high school seniors in need who are getting ready for college and who get accepted to college. I also would love to see SIC adopt it’s own location for a headquarters. A place where students can come during the week, after school, receive our services, study, and feel great about themselves. I would love to see this all happen before the end of the school year 2012-2013.
Ashley: What interest you in entering Miss California 2013?
Tyra: Believe it or not, I always had a dream of becoming a Cover Girl. I grew up seeing all of these amazing women as cover girls, such as Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Queen Latifa, and Drew Barrymore (just to name a few). Although they are all absolutely stunning, I thought to myself, all of them are high power celebrities. They are in the top 1% of the world of beauty and with their accomplishments as legendary icons. However, none of those ladies look like me and thats what I longed for as a young girl. I longed for a woman that looked like myself (an average looking, youthful, wide eyed and grinning young girl) to look up to when I opened the teeny bopper magazines and when I saw them in the commercials. As time progressed, I realized that the more celebrity you obtained, the higher your chances were of becoming “that girl”.
Unfortunately, most girls don’t look like the eclectic Rihanna or glamorous Taylor Swift. Most girls look like the girl next door, which is what I absolutely love about the MISS CA USA Pageant! The team over at MISS CA choose average looking, everyday young girls and young women to compete in the pageant. They must be 5 fingered women of course (loving, giving, caring, non-judgemental and beautiful) but they are not your normal beauty queens. It is true that when it is time for the pageant each girl will have made a transformation from the grungy caterpillar into the beautiful butterfly, however, during prep time for the pageant, the girls become true role models for other young women everywhere. They learn to love everything that they don’t like about themselves, turning trials into triumphs while remaining positive and optimistic through it all. These are the types of women that I wanted to see on the cover of a magazine growing up, and since I felt I never saw one, I figured I’d become the change that I wanted to see. Ironically enough, longing to become a cover girl and influential positive role model for young girls everywhere, I applied for MISS CA USA 2013. Thanks to Mr. Gunther Shia, I was accepted! 🙂
Ashley: Have you worked with other organizations who mentor youth? If so doing what?
Tyra: Of course! I have worked with multiple youth organizations. Sometimes I taught them how to sing, act, dance or play an instrument. Other times, I directed them in teaching themselves how to overcome obstacles in fun and charismatic ways. Then there were those times where I would tutor them in an academic subject. No matter what I did, I ensured that everyday with Ms. Dennis was an adventure. I wanted my students to feel comfortable exploring the world around them and knowing the possibilities they had to obtain a better life. A life where they could live their dreams!
Ashley: What’s the latest event Saving Innocent Children, Inc.
Tyra: The latest event for SIC will be in September with our upcoming school tour. We are excited to go to the schools and inspire students to become better individuals, strong leaders, academically successful and advocate for those less fortunate around them. Inspiration makes anything possible, and thats what we aim to do. Inspire the students! Stay tuned for our upcoming school locations!
Ashley: You mentioned being the voice for youth. What are some of the things you’ve noticed our youth are in need of assistance in?
Tyra: There are 2 things that I feel the youth of today need that they may no be getting. The first one is proper Educational Reform. If you look at old pictures of one room school houses, you will notice familiarity in the photo. It comes from students, sitting at a desk, looking at the front of the room where stands a teacher and a blackboard. Although we still have student in a desk looking towards a teacher with a blackboard behind them, 100 years later, the world has completely changed. We can see the world with either an airplane or the click of a button, but those things are not explored in the classroom as much. Education is not only what you learn in books but it is what you also learn at home, from your family and friends, your personal experiences, what you see, what you hear, how you feel, etc… Teachers, having to teach according to certain state standards, often times are not given the option to explore those possibilities.
The second thing is emotional support. I am learning that students feel that they have no one to listen to them, to hear them out. Youth, well people in general, need to feel safe, provided for, taken care of. Call it what you may but many students that I have come across have felt the complete opposite. For some reason or another, they are hurting. If we as mentors, parents, educators, etc… can come up with a successful way to be the academic instructor as well as becoming a true support system for the overall wellness of the student, then we will have succeeded. This is what SIC was created to do. Ultimately, my goal is to elevate them in a way that will prompt them to use their own voices and start to heal themselves. Until then, I will always provide a listening ear and a voice for them when they feel that they can not speak for themselves. 🙂
Ashley: What would you say is rewarding about working with youth?
Tyra: There is a certain type of joy that comes with working with youth that you can;t get anywhere else. Small children tend to be fearless. They are ready to explore the world around them. If they fall, they get back up and try again. As the child gets older, they are exposed to certain life experiences that teach them about ideals such as pain, anger, love, kindness, mean spiritedness, etc…and become less likely to take risk to achieve greatness. But then something magical happens. The child is then introduced to the idea of only achieving greatness. Failure is no longer an option and that’s what is most rewarding about working with youth. Knowing that you were there to introduce them to the idea of ONLY ACHIEVING GREATNESS! As they accomplish their goals and perform the impossible right before your eyes, you realize that it is possible for everyones dreams to comes true. That is a very magical and inspirational process.
Ashley: I think it’s great you’re being an example for young girls in different aspects of your life. Such as the Miss CA. What would you like for them to get from your experience from this pageant?
Tyra: “Every child has a dream. Let us help them make their dreams come true.” (This is what I live by).
Most people don’t know this about me but I was always considered the most unattractive of all of my friends growing up. I had really thick eyebrows, long side burns, funny looking teeth, no butt or boobs in high school, and I was sort of a tomboy at one point. I got along with the boys a lot easier because I knew that the girls were always talking about me behind my back. Saying how ugly I was, or how they didn’t like the way I dressed or something to a similar degree of causing hurt and pain. My hair was not the straightest or the healthiest and I was really skinny. In most cases, I looked like a stick figure. Though I knew other girls teased me, most of them would never do it directly because they liked the way I performed musically and/or academically. “Mean” By Taylor Swift pretty much describes my school days. Needless to say, I did not grow up with many close female friends. However, I do have them now.
During the MISS CA USA 2013 Pageant preparation, my excitement for it almost went out of the window in the blink of an eye. I woke up and to my dismay, found my hair all over my bed. The hair in the back of my head had completely fallen out and all I could do was cry and think to myself, I can’t compete in a beauty pageant without any hair. At the time I was mentoring a few young ladies that I knew looked up to me and I could not let them see me break down. I wanted them to know that I could get through anything. However, these four phenomenal young ladies came to me, told me that they knew I was worried about my hair and have been emotionally supporting me every step of the way. I was forced, yet again, to love everything that I did not like about myself. I have met so many other competitors for MISS CA USA 2013 that have been extremely supportive, reminding me of the very thing I teach my students. If you have a dream, make it a reality, no matter how hard it may seem, impossible things happen everyday by those we least expect! As I’m making a difference in their lives through my participation in the MISS CA USA 2013 pageant, they are certainly making a difference in mine.
Ashley: What are some ways you try to grasp the attention of the youth in your community when it comes to events that you’ve been apart of or SIC has held?
Tyra: There is an age old saying that children can see things that adults can not. In most cases, I believe this saying. Children can tell if people, places and things are going contribute to their lives in a positive or negative manner based on how their first impression of that person, place or things is. I have found much success in simply being myself. Loud, witty, outgoing, courageous, loving, kind, caring, giving, silly, clumsy, everything that I am, I use it at every second of the day. So speaking to youth about my events or my non-profit or about anything for that matter, I’m just myself. No pressure. No judgement. I leave the decision 100% up to the student. If they decide not to participate, they know that they will still have my support. I’d rather grab their attention by being myself than to disillusion them with a lie. That is detrimental to the development of a child, which is the complete opposite of what I am trying to accomplish!
Head on over to her website & support her on her journey of MISS CA USA 2013 as well as SIC. As mentors & youth advocates we must stick together by uplifting one another with support & encouragement. We at MYGirls support Tyra Dennis.
SIC website: http://savinginnocentchildren.blogspot.com
Tyra’s website: http://tyradennis.com
Tyra’s Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/Tyralucia
Tyra’s Miss CA Facebook page