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July 24, 2021

Reimagining First-Gen Chisme | Kansas City, KS. | Leslie Ponce-Díaz, BArch/BFA ’23

by Leslie Ponce-Díaz

The ice cream cart within First-Gen Chisme plays an important symbol that inspires the work that I do to support First-Generation students. The paletero (ice cream man) always drew the attention within my community with ringing the bells on the ice cream cart. All the kids always ran to the ice cream cart waiting to purchase cold sweets on a hot summer day in Kansas City. This inspired me to merge my cultural background with educational resources to help grab the attention of upcoming students interested in pursuing post-secondary education. This is how First-Gen Chisme was born. I purchased a candy cart on Etsy and spray painted it to match the First-Gen Chisme color branding. I then organized folders and pencil pouches to hand out in various community events. Building the cart to hand out supplies is a poetic act that brings the attention of the youth and excites them for what First-Gen Chisme has to offer.

These are all of the individual pieces that make the First-Gen Chisme cart.
The cart take approximately 2 minutes to disassemble.

La Placita is a bi-monthly Market at Bethany Park. It features vendors, entertainment, and different forms of community organizations. It is organized by CABA, an organization that focuses on community outreach and engagement within Central Avenue located in Kansas City, KS. The Central Avenue Betterment Association (CABA) is committed to a nondiscriminatory approach and provides equal opportunity for participation and advancement in all our areas of activities, programs, events as well as work facilities.

Bethany Park faces Central Avenue Street directly. This is a very popular street where many pass by to shop near the local businesses.

My two cousins, Ashley and Mia, and my brother, Axel, volunteered for community service during the school supply giveaway at the Placita! We handed out school supplies and invited other youth to paint with us at our table. It was a great success and we had lots of fun making art and handing out supplies to families that walked by. We were able to hand out around 15 First-Gen Chisme Plushies, 40 school folders, and 30 pencil pouches.

I will be participating in another school giveaway at Central Middle School with a local non-profit organization, El Centro. El Centro, Inc. focuses on strengthening communities and improving the lives of Latinos and others through educational, social, and economic opportunities. I created four flyers to help promote the event on our social media!

As First-Gen Chisme continues to participate in community events to hand out supplies and talk about educational resources and Enough is Enough, I have begun to ponder on how this work can be sustainable and enhanced within my community in Kansas City, KS. My ultimate goal is to create a non-profit headquarters of First-Gen Chisme located in Kansas City, KS. I would like it to focus on creative arts, design, education, and architecture within the community. As a current teacher’s assistant for DownCity Design and Project Open Door, located in Providence RI, I am inspired to bring in the expression of art and design within my own community. I have realized that my community is a heavily STEM-based environment and not so much attention is given to creative arts or design. In Kansas City, MO, there is a larger opportunity for arts nonprofits, however, I would like to support my own community in Kansas City, KS through the arts because it can be an opportunity for students to reduce stress and violence through creative and artistic expression. Although I am not certain on where I would locate the non-profit, I will be focusing on a proposal site close to Bethany Park in Central Avenue Kansas City, KS. I am choosing this site as I have realized the impact that businesses have on families when located near Central Avenue. 

As a rising fourth-year student in Architecture, I will be using my architectural skills to propose a First-Gen Chisme non-profit headquarters located at 49-189 N 12 St, Kansas City, KS 66102, up the hill from Bethany Park where the school supply giveaway event was hosted. Architecture allows me to dream and propose of the possibilities of constructing First-Gen Chisme into a physical non-profit organization.

It demonstrates the site up the hill from Bethany Park where the Architecture proposal site is located.

Before designing the non-profit, I researched current non-profits within my community that have been successful for educational and youth betterment purposes. In Kansas City, what are current non-profit programs that are beneficial to the Kansas City community? I chose four non-profits to research that have been positive avenues for youth within the community.

Researching the current non-profits within my community helped me gain an understanding of the meaningful work that they are doing to enrich the experiences of youth living in Kansas City, Kansas. The majority of the non-profits focused on STEM and athletic related activities. There was only one non-profit I found that focused on providing art classes for youth within the Latino Arts Foundation.

My goal is to create a non-profit through First-Gen Chisme that focuses on creative arts, design, and educational opportunities for all students located in the Kansas City Metro Area.

Students will have access to take art/design courses taught by local Kansas City KS/MO artists in the area. This will range from music, sculpture, graphic design, architecture, painting, and more. Students will engage in different forms of problem-solving skill sets through the use of design. This is a great opportunity to engage youth in the power of design when used within communities. Students will also have access to hands-on learning as they engage with various career based fields focused in creative, design, and STEM. There will be a variety of classes and involvement activities that  students can participate in on weekends, after school, and in the summer. 

Through educational coaching and mentorship, students will have the needed skills to pursue post-secondary education. First-Gen Chisme will continue to focus on enriching the experiences of First-Generation, BIPOC, and Low-Income youth located in Kansas City, KS.

I hope to continue my inspirations with el paletero man (ice cream man) when designing how the non-profit will function. I would like to have multiple First-Gen Chisme carts that travel to various school campuses. This would help invite students to the non-profit and encourage community participation. Then the carts would travel back to the First-Gen Chisme non-profit headquarters where current and new students can participate in the programming. 

These renderings are a rough draft proposal idea, the Maharam Fellowship allows me to plant the seed for my future goal of creating my official First-Gen Chisme non-profit headquarters located in Kansas City, KS. I believe that the First-Gen Chisme non-profit “headquarters” will provide students with the adequate resources to express themselves creatively and explore opportunities for postsecondary education. I believe that art allows many individuals to voice their emotions and reduce stresses. This non-profit proposal has the opportunity to reduce gun violence within the community as it supports students in various ways. It engages students to think differently with creative problem-solving techniques where they can help their own community thrive. It has been a pleasure thinking through the possibilities of what programming this non-profit can focus on and how my own experiences with volunteering in various non-profits have been helpful when designing my own non-profit space. 

The First-Gen Chisme non-profit building includes various opportunities for learning with vibrant spaces. The space include a multi-purpose room, two meeting rooms, open-space learning centers, lounge area, public bathrooms, gardening shelter, and more.

Outside Perspective of First-Gen Chisme Non-Profit Headquarters Proposal located in Kansas City, KS.
Youth and individuals will have access in expanding their agricultural skills within First-Gen Chisme’s gardening shelter.

The upcoming goals for my Maharam Fellowship are to attend the second free school supply community event on July 24th, finalize branding designs for Enough is Enough, and reflect upon my Maharam Fellowship experience as it will soon be coming to an end in early August. Thank you for tuning in on my Maharam experience so far!

Final Brown University’s Break Through Lab (B-Lab) Updates:

To read more on my venture: 

As B-Lab comes to an end, I would like to reflect upon my experiences in being a part of such a great cohort of student-led ventures at Brown University. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to pursue both the B-Lab and Maharam with First-Gen Chisme. Both of these opportunities have helped expand my knowledge in entrepreneurship and the possibilities of growth for First-Gen Chisme. I learned that First-Gen Chisme is not an “app” its more than that. Its a space that connects students together, “By First-Gen, For First-Gen”. The Mobile and Web Tech solutions that First-Gen Chisme has created, is only one part of our solutions to raising graduation rates of First-Gen, Low-Income students in post-secondary education. Our various solutions of mentorship, coaching, and educational content helps build our vision.

I learned the key aspects on, ‘thinking like an entrepreneur’, these are skills and ways of thinking that I will continue to value in my venture process. I am excited to grow First-Gen Chisme to its greatest potential and I am grateful for the mentorship and guidance I have received during my B-Lab experience. As the only RISD student on the cohort this year, I am very grateful for the opportunity of being a part of such a great community at B-Lab. My next venture steps are to think through what I want First-Gen Chisme Mobile and Web Tech solutions to look like, so they can provide the best adequate support for the First-Gen community. I will also be in search of a team seeking to work in a non-profit space to support First-Gen, Low-Income, and BIPOC students!

Below I have included my one-pager and final First-Gen Chisme presentation for the final 5-minute summer pitch event, Bears Lair, hosted on July 23rd. I am very pleased with how my pitch went and I am thankful for the mentorship I have received from Jason, Jonas, Rob, Viet, and the entire B-Lab community! I was congratulated on creating a visual presentation that is easily understood as well as connects on a personal level to the First-Gen student experience. I hope I made the RISD community proud! 🙂

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