One instance defined the future for youngster Jonas Royal Corona, a 13-year-old recipient of the Dynamic Youth Award at the 16th annual Latino Spirit Awards at the State Capitol today (May 1, 2017).
Corona first volunteered to help the homeless at age four. Alongside his mother, Renee Corona, and his aunt Janet Corona, the trio handed out food to hundreds of homeless in Los Angeles. Then one day Jonas saw the face of homeless youth in Los Angeles.
Jonas, then just six years old, said he was moved at the sight of a hungry and homeless youngster.
“I was in L.A. on Skid Row. I gave them food and clothing for over two years. And over those two years, it was just homeless adults because homeless adults are the only ones coming to receive help,” he remembers.
“Then the first homeless child came; that made me feel terrible. So I wanted to help out more.”
He wanted to expand on volunteering and to help kids specifically. His mother contacted several homeless shelters throughout the city, but the answer was always, no, citing Jonas age, then at six years.
Not giving up, Jonas urged his parents to get him involved. Jonas led the effort and founded Love In The Mirror, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Long Beach.
“They said I was too young. They said I needed to be 10, but I was six. That’s when I created Love In The Mirror,” said Jonas.
“I already knew that it was bad that homeless adults were there, but children, four years old, younger. It’s hard just to walk around all day not having a place to sleep, not having a place to eat. It’s a terrible thought.”
The organization provides toiletries, clothing, toys and learning materials. Numerous drives are organized to help raise the needed funds and gain further sponsorship. The organization also provides other services such as referrals for medical and mental attention.
Nearly 50,000 homeless in southern California have received help through Love In The Mirror.
“We love children volunteers. That’s my mission is to get more children volunteers. I want young minds to go and help volunteer,” said Jonas.
An avid tennis player, Jonas aspires to be a professional tennis player himself. His favorite player is Spaniard Rafael Nadal.
He also wants to take Love In The Mirror internationally, thereby globalizing the effort to help the homeless.
“I’m super honored to be here. It’s been a super-awesome day,” said Jonas, an eighth grader through California Virtual Academy, an online public charter school.
Parents Renee and Steve Corona delivered their oldest of two children to the state capitol, where Jonas was recognized by the entire California Legislative Caucus and marched alongside State Senator Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens.