VACAVILLE — Jessica Johnson spent most of Saturday at Andrews Park participating in Fiesta Days events.
She’ll be back again next Saturday to host “A Day in the Park,” an event to celebrate children, especially those with autism and special needs.
The reigning Miss California Global Nations 2014, Johnson has held a bevy of pageant titles, dating back to 1998. The 27-year-old Vacaville resident earned the newest title in January.
She works for NorthBay Healthcare as an administrative support specialist and teaches dance at Danc-Sing Stars Studio in Fairfield.
Among her dance students are two girls, 8 and 14, who were turned away from a local dance studio because they have autism, Johnson said.
“Carole (Warren) and I think all kids are special,” Johnson said. Warren operates Danc-Sing Stars Studio.
She spoke with mothers of her dancers to learn about their daily struggles. The recurring theme was that the girls weren’t being accepted by their peers.
Both girls are doing great at dance, Johnson said. At the same time, other students at the studio have become more accepting of the two.
Johnson wants to see that expand beyond the studio walls and hopes “A Day in the Park” is just the beginning.
At the urging of a friend, she connected with Matrix, a parent network and resource center, for families of special needs children. It serves Solano, Napa, Marin and Sonoma counties. Johnson now volunteers for the organization.
Her vision for the event is to have all children, regardless of abilities, interacting with each other while being entertained.
It starts with teaching them to be nice to each other.
“Kids are the future of our world,” she said. “We need to show them how to treat each other with respect, to take care of each other and respect their differences.”
Johnson’s boyfriend is also involved in youth, coaching baseball in the Sonoma area, she said.
The students at Danc-Sing Stars Studio are her children for the time.
“I have about 100,” she said. Among them, 16 2- and 3-year-olds.
She graduated from Vacaville High School in 2005 and California State University, Sacramento, in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
After winning other pageants, Johnson used her titles to spread the word about organ donation. In 2007, her father dealt with a rare kidney disease and was on dialysis until a donor could be found.
“That saved his life,” she said. “It impacted my life. If it wasn’t for an organ donor, he wouldn’t be here.”
Warren was Johnson’s teacher until Johnson turned 15. She started helping Warren then, she said.
Posing with young girls, while wearing her crown and sash, also afford her the chance to raise awareness about her platform. She had flyers on hand at Fiesta Days to let people know about “A Day in the Park.”
“They are looking up to me. I need to be a good role model,” she said.
By showing kindness toward others, Johnson hopes the youth she sees will pay it forward.
“A Day in the Park” is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Andrews Park. Music, entertainment and face painting are planned. Admission is free.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.