Candy inside Federal Way's pinata | Tito Hinojos

It was Monday morning, and the teacher was very much concerned as she watched her third-grade students form a line to enter the classroom. Her usual greetings of “buenos dias" had converted to “que paso?”

While the kids were smiling and happy, the teacher was frantically searching for answers as to why the students had scratches and minimal bruises on their bodies. After settling the class, she learned that these boys and girls from the barrio had been to a birthday party that weekend; and as is customary in a Latino home, a piñata was to be the perpetrator of the body markings, scratches and bruises on the students. If you have been to a Latino fiesta, it is without doubt an experience of a lifetime, especially when the piñata is broken and the sight of the kids scratching and biting for the candy.

Although people think of piñatas as a fun activity for parties, it was believed that the pinata breaking reflected three theological virtues. These virtues are similar to some of the characteristics of our community after 20 years.

The first virtue is symbolized in the blindfolded participant representing the leading force in defying evil, faith, which must be blind. As voices of people gathered near the blindfolded player and who would be spun around to confuse his sense of space, they would cry out guidance: "¡Más arriba! (More upwards!)," "¡Abajo! (Lower!)" or "¡Enfrente! (In front!)" were considered call outs of deceits and false direction to disorient the hitter.

Secondly, the piñata served as a symbol of hope. This virtue was believed when the piñata would be hanging above their heads, people watched toward the sky or heaven, yearning and waiting for the prize (the contents inside the pinata).

The third virtue the piñata symbolized was charity. With its eventual breaking, everyone shared in the divine blessings and gifts.

The success of our pre-adult age city is due in part to the wonderful contributions by four women which have exemplified great leadership through their faith, hope and charity. They hardly or never get mentioned. These individuals are the ones that have been scratching and biting just to get a candy from the pinata.

Carmen Kaler, a busy mother of three boys and one girl, started as a volunteer 14 years ago as a mentor for immigrant families. She also volunteers in the schools and her local church. Four years ago, Carmen started volunteering for the Family Partnership Program and is presently part-time family liaison representative assisting in providing resources to families that have students needing special education or help with families whose child is a recipient of a free or reduced priced meal — which is 47 percent of the students. And to put the cherry on the cake, you will find Carmen at the senior community Center where she also volunteers, working with the seniors and teaching a class on Zumba dancing.

Trise Moore directs the Family Partnership Office, a program of the Federal Way School District. The program facilitates communication, workshops and activities that provide capacity training for staff who work with a population that's 56 percent ethnic, led by the Hispanic population of 19 percent. She also developed the Heritage Leadership Camp program and the Leading Ladies International mentoring programs. Family Partnership Office provides bilingual services to 12 percent of the district’s students.

Family Partnership has received recognition from the Washington State's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and has been recognized by Harvard's Graduate School of Education as one of only six programs in the nation. To learn more, e-mail tmoore@fwps.org.

Teri Hickel, executive director for the Advancing Leadership programs for 12 years. She has helped produce more than 300 adult graduates, and in six years of the high school program, has produced another 180 graduates. The AL’s training includes topics such as poverty, working poor, middle class, upper middle and wealth. Another wonderful experience is Diversity and Culture Day.

Notable adult grads include City Manager Brian Wilson, interim Police Chief Andy Hwang, Fire Chief Al Church, and four of the five school board members. To learn more, visit www.advancingleadership.org

Rose Ehl has been assisting in the popular fast growing Federal Way Farmer’s Market. If you enjoy festive outdoor shopping, then join me in honoring Rose. Her dedicated and persistent labor transforms a parking lot into an environment of excitement, shopping, relaxing and live music where annually approximately 3,000 visitors will stop by and enjoy the spirit of Federal Way. At the Farmer’s Market, you will find just about anything under the sun, even ideas from master gardeners, and tips on how to live a green life. This is indeed a family fun place, and even your pet is welcome — well almost any pet. Visit www.federalwayfarmersmarket.com.

Metaphorically, I see some similarities of the growth of Federal Way as a pinata full of potentials, treasures and sweet stuff. Thank you ladies for your commitment of excellence and propserity in our city. May we all exemplify faith, hope and charity. We might get some scratches and minor ouchies, but at the end, it’s all worth it.

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