Naomi Smitthipong, James Madison Prep Sixth Grader

Naomi is an honor roll student at JMPS. She is a positive sixth grader, who works hard on all of her assignments. This year, she joined our junior high track team. Outside of athletics, she is involved in our local community. In her free time, Naomi takes coding lessons through the city library, she participates in horseback riding lessons, and she plays the piano. This month, Naomi won the Escalante Community Center’s Tempe Spelling Bee. Being involved in spelling bees and drama, Naomi has been able to overcome shyness and have given her confidence when center of attention in large crowds. Since she was 7 years old, she has been a volunteer at the Lost Our Home Pet Rescue in the Tempe PetSmart cat adoption room. Two summers ago, Naomi raised over $650 for medical expenses to help sick pets. She is a great addition to the JMPS community.

Q. Can you tell us about your volunteer work?

A. When I was 7 years old, I wandered into PetSmart with my family to look at the animals up for adoption. I met a lovely woman who was the adoption coordinator. She was not a kid person, however, when I came in, she might have known my heart. She thought my heart was kind, compassionate, and nice and she invited me to come in and play with the cats. So, ever since, I have been working with the adoption coordinator, my family, and other adult friends I have met over the years. I have cleaned cages, washed windows, given cats and kitties water & food, and given them love and affection. I talked to people to get to know them, and to find out what cat would fit their family best. I also socialized with the cats a lot, which makes them better companions. I have really enjoyed my time working there.

Q. Where do you get your love for animals?

A. I get my love for animals from being allowed to work with animals from a young age. When I was little, I had bad allergies to lots of things, including cats, so I couldn’t have animals in my house. It was lonely growing up without pets so once I was invited to work with animals in the cat room every weekend, it opened up the world of animals to me. I have bottle-fed newborn kittens. I have held kitties and heard them purr when I held them. I’ve also been taught what to do when animals get sick or injured. Since I now have a little experience with animals, I got to keep a dog we rescued in 2014 named Dolly. She ran out in front of my mom’s car covered in ticks and was in bad condition. I feel so happy now that I can work with cats and have a dog in my own home. It’s like a miracle to me.

Q. What advice would you have for the many others who struggle with being in the spotlight in front of large crowds?

A. My advice or tips to those of you who are scared or struggle in the spotlight is to:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Don’t think of everyone like critics. (They are just here for a good performance, and to enjoy what you are presenting to them.)
  3. Think about positive things to help you get through your performance. (dogs, cats, rainbows, unicorns… etc.)
  4. Smile.
  5. Remember, if you are performing, whatever you are doing won’t take long at ALL.
  6. If you happen to make a mistake, keep on going. DO NOT STOP!
  7. Have stage presence. (smile, laugh, dance, and enjoy the spotlight!)
  8. Finally, HAVE FUN!!!!

These tips help me A LOT. I hope these tips help you, and you will hopefully be a fan of the spotlight!

Q. Who is your role model?

A. My role model is my mom. My mom is my role model because she teaches good life lessons and keeps me safe at all costs. She helps me learn what’s right and what’s wrong. She’s like me because she is positive and has a great laugh. She’s honest, loyal, kind and compassionate. She does things that she does not want to do, but she does them… for me. My mom also takes care of me when I am sick. As you can see, I look up to my mom for these reasons.

Q. What are your plans for the future?

A. My plans for the future are to go to college and get a good education. I might want to go to Harvard. I hear it is a good school. Education is important to me because I want to get a good job and be successful in my life. I want to be passionate about going to work every day so I want to love what I do. I might want to be a librarian (I am a quiet person), a physical or occupational therapist, a teacher, a school nurse, or a marine biologist. I also want to be a mom someday because I can teach my children life goals, how to behave in a restaurant and read them stories when they go to bed.

Q. Can you tell us about your fundraiser?

A. When I was 10 years old, my neighbor taught me how to crochet. While I was thinking and crocheting, I had the most brilliant idea. I thought I could help the cats by making crochet bookmarks and selling them. I talked to the adoption coordinator, and she said that I could do it. Then, my parents & I started making bookmarks of all kinds. We spent days and months on this project. It was tiring work for all of us, so we got help from family and friends who wanted to pitch in supplies or crochet skills. I sold these awesome bookmarks at the cat adoption center and in front of my school. My parents and I sold roughly about 300 bookmarks. People loved them! This was such a successful fundraiser that people kept coming back for more bookmarks and gave donations for my cause. I raised $665.00, can you believe that!? I asked that the money to go to the sick animals at the shelter.

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