Lady Gaga is making headlines this week, but not for one of her lavish costumes. It's for the launch of her Born This Way Foundation. She's flying 18 young people from California to Massachusetts to take part in a conference about acceptance and empowerment.
One local youth leader from Kern County is thrilled she was selected to go.
"I think it's great, I’m glad that she's putting her money back into the communities," said Berenice Sanchez, who lives in Lamont.
Sanchez is a freshman at Bakersfield college and just recently turned 19. She did various community service projects as a student at Arvin High School. Since she started college, she has been active with the California Endowment’s “Building Healthy Communities” organization. The group has 14 in the state, which target underserved neighborhoods, and is partnering with Lady Gaga’s Foundation. Out of the some 20 members in the South Kern group, Sanchez says she doesn’t know how she was picked.
“It was a huge shock,” she said. “I just got a call last month and am so excited.”
She says she loves Lady Gaga's stance against bullying because she used to get picked on in high school.
“Thank God that I wasn’t picked on that much,” she said. “But there have been cases because I’m a feminist, I’m Hispanic and a part of the LGBT community.”
Playing her guitar and painting pictures serve as an outlet for Sanchez on days she feels down. She says she looks to Lady Gaga for inspiration.
“Because she’s so out there, she wears meat as a dress, she does her hair big and bold, and she’s saying I’m weird, but I’m here and I’m a person,” Sanchez said.
The nonprofit foundation will hold its debut event at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. Oprah Winfrey and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are scheduled to join Lady Gaga for the conference. The California youth will be trained on how to advance social change through digital media.
Sanchez's mother says she was worried because her daughter has never traveled out of the state before but understands that the event is for a worthy cause.
“She’ll be out there all by herself,” said Maria Sanchez, her mother. “But she’s a good kid, we’re honored and very, very happy.”
The Born This Way Foundation will address issue, such as self-confidence, anti-bullying, mentoring and career development. Some of Sanchez’s neighbors in Lamont say they are proud Sanchez was selected from their small, agricultural town.
"That’s even better knowing that someone from here is going, and I know her," said Yasmine Pineda, who went to high school with Sanchez. “It’s so great and exciting.”
Sanchez heads to Los Angeles on Sunday. She and the other 17 youth leaders will meet there before they go to Boston. She will be there for 5 days and has not started packing yet. She says she is a little nervous but won’t get star-struck because she’s focused on learning.
“I want to go to the event and learn from it,” she said. “And bring it back to my community and share all the information.”
If you'd like to know more about the Born This Way Foundation, you can log on to www.BornThisWayFoundation.org