Sandra Joyce has been teaching for more than 10 years at various schools, including Crestview Elementary, Flintridge Montessori School and La Crescenta Montessori. She has now taken her desire to inspire the youth of Los Angeles to another level by entering the Pepsi Refresh Challenge and, after numerous attempts, she is now one of the final top two contestants in the running to begin an after-school enrichment program in Los Angeles.
"I've basically dedicated the last 10 years of my life to being a teacher. I put on programs every year and teach acting in the summer," Joyce said. "I want to do things after school for children in low income places where you see them getting into drinking or drugs or worse. I've noticed just from teaching that kids get into a lot of different things."
Joyce said she feels strongly that children who do not have an outlet for their creativity or energy often end up occupying their minds with destructive and life-altering activities.
"I worked in Woodland Hills and there was a little boy who died from sniffing paint. I think that's what set it off for me; just seeing a lot of children getting involved in different things."
If awarded the Pepsi Refresh grant, Joyce has a very specific plan as to how the funds will be used towards achieving her goals.
"I always wanted to have a big organization like D.A.R.E.," she said. "When I found out about [the contest] I began working on my profile. I want to hire college students to work in the summer and do summer camps. I want to try to get celebrities involved as well because the kids look up to them. If you can get them to come on board and play basketball or sing a song, all those things inspire kids to do better."
Joyce plans to use her talents and experience as a dancer to aid in helping the program grow. "I want to incorporate performing arts programs. If I were doing an after school program in Downtown [Los Angeles], for example, I could say that I'm giving free piano lessons or ballet lessons," Joyce says. "I want to have programs where students don't have to pay."
Joyce knows what it's like to come from a low income area where most children are deprived of creative outlets. "My parents couldn't afford classes for me but I was lucky. I'd audition for different dance theatrical companies and I would get in. I was able to practice. I know there's a big need for [the enrichment program].
The next step in Joyce's plan is to get as many votes as possible in order to be awarded the grant. She is doing her best to promote her efforts via the Internet and Facebook. Those who would like to support Sandra Joyce may go to http://www.refresheverything.com/4ouryouth and cast their votes. Polls close at the end of the month.