This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna
Samantha Slykas is not a typical community event organizer. First, she’s a 17-year-old student at San Benito High School. Next, she’s got solid experience under her belt, given her age. And third, Slykas and her work have been appreciated in an official Hollister City Council proclamation.
Slykas is the founder of the Safety For All Ages Fair, which first launched in 2019 as the Self-Awareness and Safety Fair. The fair returns for its third installment on March 5 at the Veterans Memorial building in Hollister.
The event is open to anyone who wants to become aware of issues that surround bullying, sexual harassment, self-defense and gun violence.
“The main message is safety. I want to have all these sorts of safety and messages under one roof. Mainly focusing on COVID, physical, mental and emotional inflictions people have had for the past two years,” said Slykas.
Because she experienced bullying in elementary and middle school, Slykas had difficulties creating connections with friends.
“I felt that [safety] wasn’t talked about or mentioned in schools, I wanted to bring that light to people and to inform them,” she said.
Slykas would start planning the event four or five months in advance. She’d make phone calls to invite organizations to attend the fair.
Considering her age, several organizations were surprised by Slykas’ determination to plan the event on her own. Sometimes her mom has to step in and vouch for Slykas.
“I have to call for her, too, because of how old she is,” said Samantha’s mother, Dee Slykas. “People don’t believe she’s doing this on her own.”
The first fair, in 2019, was a solid success, with nearly 300 attendees. Community leaders including city council members, and Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez were among those who attended. Slykas was recognized for her efforts to raise awareness of bullying. Hollister proclaimed May 6, 2019, as Samantha Slykas day.
Because of COVID, Slykas was unable to hold the event in 2021. This year, however, she’s set to host the third fair on March 5 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building. Slykas has taken COVID precautions and said hand sanitizers and distance between seats will be available.
There will be booths outside and inside for any organization that would like to participate. Slykas is also looking for guest speakers—“anyone that offers safety or extracurricular activities for people to be involved in.”
“I want people to know there’s places they could go to help and be involved in the community,” she said.
Organizations or individuals interested in being involved in Safety For All Ages Fair can contact Dee Slykas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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