It was not a childhood to remember. Instead of laughing, playing and dreaming Petrina Amsden spent most of her time worrying, trying to elude the bullying she knew would come her way. If only she had someone to talk to, to encourage her and let her know she mattered. It is a feeling that has never left her, only now she’s fighting back; not with fists but with funds. She started a scholarship called iSparkle. The acronym stands for inclusion, support, protect, action, respect, kindness, lift and encourage.
She knows the toll bullying can take on a child, and she knows she’s far from the only one who’s experienced it.
“So many people have come up to tell me stories of how they were bullied,” she said. “So sad and unnecessary. And it made me realize that the way to defeat it is by standing together to give each other strength.”
Petrina is an entertainer who has been hired to perform at many fundraisers, and that gave her all the motivation she needed.
“I got to the point where I realized I was doing all this work for other charities,” she said. “What if I focused on this cause so very important to me? And that’s how it started.”
Normally an entertainer is used to having the spotlight on them, but she uses iSparkle to turn the spotlight on all the kids out there who are standing up for others and trying to be the best they can. She offers financial support, recognition, and empowerment.
“You don’t know what your future’s going to be like when you’re a child, do you? You don’t know,” said Petrina. “You know things are not right, but you just keep going. You have fear, you have sadness but you also have hope and iSparkle wants to provide more of that.”
The support she’s received from her community of The Villages, Florida has provided hope for her, too.
“I’m so lucky to live here,” she says. “In a place surrounded by people who all want the same thing out of life, which is to live in a young-at-heart manner and to make a positive difference in the lives of others. They are such good people, and the friendships that have come from this blows my mind every time.”
Petrina credits support from the community for making iSparkle a success and it touches her heart to realize that an area comprised mostly of retirees care enough to make such a difference for people so young.
“I don’t even think about it until people ask me about age, but I will turn 55 next year and I’ve realized I’ve worked most of my life in retirement communities,” she said. “It’s funny, but I just don’t see it. I honestly don’t notice age at all. I just see caring, energetic people wanting to do whatever it takes to make a difference.”
Most of all, what Petrina wants us to know is that no matter who we are or what we’ve been through, there is something we can do that makes everything that much more worthwhile.
“Make a difference,” she said. “Be memorable. Do something good. Don’t hold back. You can live a better life, and you can make life better for someone else, too.”
For more on iSparkle, visit: Facebook.com/ iSparkleScholarship.
This article is featured in the December 2022 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.