Media Query- PDX Parent: December 3rd, 2019

Denise Castañon, editor at “PDX Parent”, was one of the first from the media to approach me for information on my Kid Governor election. She had three questions for me and I just had to write my answers and send it back. We are doing a ton of opinion writing and narratives at school so this one was pretty breezy for me. I just sat down after dinner and wrote my answers down.  I figured my handwriting isn’t the best, :), so I had the answers typed up too.

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  1. How did you feel when you found out you’d won the election?

I was very happy and surprised as I did not expect it to be this big. I also felt honored that I got such a great opportunity.

  1. What made you so passionate about ending homelessness?

I think it happened gradually, over the last year and half. At first, I was just learning to cook from my mom and made some YouTube Videos of my cooking. Then, around my school’s Jogathon fundraiser, instead of lemonade stands or cookie sales, I decided to raise money making dosas (Indian savory crepes). I even gave a name to my service, RFK- Raaga’s Fun Kitchen. Seeing how much I was enjoying cooking, my mom took me to a homeless shelter with an institution called Chetana Foundation- they cook and serve food to the homeless every Sunday. Before going there, I used to be really scared of such places. But it made me feel good to see how happy the people at the shelter were with our food. Later, my mom told me about JOIN and how they go beyond simply providing a meal and how they help transition the homeless into permanent housing. We even went and visited JOIN in Portland. Since then, I really felt connected to their mission. I have hosted four fundraisers for JOIN so far.

  1. Tell me a little more about the cooking fundraisers you’ve held to raise money for a homeless shelter? What did you cook, who else helped you? Where did you sell the food?

My parents are from South India and my mom is the one that taught me how to cook. So I mostly cook Indian food. I love making desserts like Carrot Laddu, Gulab Jamun, and Ras Malai. I have also made appetizers like samosas and vadas and sides like Dal Makhani and Butter Chicken. My parents help plan the menu and let their friends and coworkers know about it. My mom helps with grocery shopping and figuring out how much to cook. I research the recipes online. We have a kitchen in our backyard and that is where we cook. We don’t have any official license to cook in our kitchen. So we don’t publicly advertise our fundraisers and just invite friends. We had done fundraisers where people ate in our backyard. We also had lunch boxes to go that people came to pick up. My mom made a Facebook page too for RFK, you should check it out. 🙂

Raaga PDX Parent 2A few weeks later, one of my mom’s friends sent her a picture from her copy of PDX Parent magazine. It is so interesting to see my responses stitched together and made into a magazine article!

Announcement of Election Results: November 20th, 2019

A few days after I submitted my campaign video, we got a message from Mary Beth Herkert that my video made it to the top seven. During the voting week, I was excited to watch not only my video but also the campaign videos of all the other six finalists with my classmates at school. As we watched all the videos, we analyzed the pros and cons of each and cast our vote for the one we thought was the best. I knew I had a campaign plan that was sincere, passionate, and easy for fifth graders to follow. However, I also liked the campaign videos of many of the other finalists- Ben who advocated for Parks that were inclusive of children with disabilities, Akshara with her campaign against plastic pollution, Bella advocating for kindness were all very impressive. I just hoped for the best and waited patiently for the results.

The day of results, November 18th, came and went and there was no mention of the outcome. I began to assume that perhaps another candidate won the most votes and left it at that. Wednesday, November 20th, started as any other day. I went to school and was still settling down when my teacher, Mrs. Brundidge announced to the class that there was a surprise assembly that morning for 3rd-5th graders.

When we all walked to the cafeteria and sat down at the assembly, certain things felt different. For starters, there were media people there with their giant cameras- a first for me at our school. The second thing that felt different was- my abacus teacher, Miwako Sensei, was seated there. I assumed that she was there to give a presentation about the benefits of using abacus. But then, I saw my parents, my little sister Taara, who was supposed to be at her daycare, and my friend, Mahathi, who was supposed to be in Middle School, all seated along the sidelines!

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Before I could process it all, Erikka Baldwin, Oregon’s Kid Governor 2019, announced the results of the election and that I was going to be Oregon’s next Kid Governor!

Mary Beth explained to everyone about the Kid Governor program. Deputy Secretary of State, Rich Vial, spoke about the importance of kids learning about their civic duties at a young age. My teacher, Mrs. Brundidge, had some amazing things to say about how deserving I was to receive this award! I later talked to the press and answered their questions. After I clicked some pictures with my family, Mary Beth, Mr. Vial, and previous Kid Governors, Dom and Erikka. I signed some paperwork and returned to my classroom.

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I felt very proud of myself and grateful for the opportunities that I had to be able to come this far. That day, I was still beginning to understand what this all meant, but I knew that an exciting year lay ahead of me. It was the day I realized that even fifth graders can be in a position of making a positive change to the community, if they truly believed in themselves.

Campaigning for Kid Governor

To become Oregon’s Kid Governor, fifth graders need to think of a community issue, and make a video outlining their three-point plan to help with their issue. These videos are reviewed independently by a panel of judges appointed by the Kid Governor Program at the Secretary of State’s office. The top seven videos from across the state are be selected as finalists. Fifth graders from across the state watch these final videos in their classrooms and vote for their favorite video. The finalist with most votes across the state is elected as the Kid Governor.

Given my interest in helping the homeless, I chose my campaign platform to be homelessness. To help transition the homeless into permanent housing, I put together a three point plan, Learn-Love-Legislate.


The first L, Learn, means that I want to spread awareness, and make people understand what homelessness means. I would like to put a social studies lesson plan together to help fifth graders Learn about this issue.


The second L, Love, means to spread our kindness. Often the homeless are treated with disrespect. I believe that everyone deserves to live with respect and dignity. I propose to create kindness clubs in every school, and within those clubs, we will hold food drives, clothes and supply drives, and much more. If nothing else, even a simple smile can show our Love and brighten their day!


The final L, Legislate, is to write to our Legislators, and make our voices heard. I would encourage fifth graders to write to our legislators, to help legislate the laws that can end homelessness.

Of course, I couldn’t have made the campaign video by myself. I sat with my mom and prepared my speech to effectively communicate my idea. I talked to people at Transition projects and at Chetana Foundation, and got feedback on what can be done to help the homeless. I worked with Sophie Jaggi at JOIN, and tried to get an understanding of how the organization operates, how their day space gets utilized, and where they need most help with.

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Last but not the least, I got the help of my friend from language school, Sushil Vemuri, now a junior in high school. Sushil spent many hours driving with us to JOIN Portland and late into the evening to help put my video together! Here is the link to the campaign video I submitted for consideration for Oregon’s Kid Governor election.


It all started two summers ago, when we were driving home from breakfast. We saw a homeless man on the street as we stopped at a traffic light. We had just gotten a smoothie to go that we hadn’t drunk from yet, and my mom wanted to give it to him. I didn’t think that was such a good idea and tried to not even look at that man. I was scared that he would do something to us. My mom rolled down the window and gave him the smoothie. He looked so happy and grateful! From then on, I was not scared whenever I saw a homeless person on the sidewalk or road!

A few weeks later, I went to volunteer at a homeless shelter with a local organization, Chetana Foundation. That experience further helped me in changing my perspective towards homelessness. I really wanted to do my bit to help the homeless!

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Just around that time, we heard on radio that the CEO of Amazon,  Jeff Bezos, donated a large sum of money to JOIN Portland, an organization that helps the homeless transition into permanent housing. It prompted me to learn about JOIN and felt immediately connected to their mission.

I love cooking and I decided to do my bit to help end homelessness using my cooking endeavor, Raaga’s Fun Kitchen. I hosted fundraisers where I raised money with my cooking and donated the proceeds to JOIN. The fundraisers were very successful. I was having a lot of fun doing what I like, and I was helping the homeless too!

In December 2018, my mom heard an interview on the radio from the last Kid Governor, Erikka Baldwin. When my mom shared the news about the Kid Governor Program with me, I knew it would give me an even more amazing opportunity to spread the word about homelessness, beyond my cooking endeavor. I immediately decided to campaign to become Oregon’s Kid Governor.


My name is Raaga Mandala and I am a fifth grader at Jacob Wismer Elementary School. On January 8th, 2020, I was inaugurated as Oregon’s Kid Governor at Oregon’s Capitol Building in Salem.

My entire fifth grade class, my teacher, school principal, and vice-principal were in attendance that day. My grandparents flew in from India, and my uncle from California, specifically for this occasion! Secretary of State, Bev Clarno, welcomed everyone to the ceremony. Boy Scout Troop 150 from West Salem presented the colors and led the pledge of allegiance. My friends, Swathi, Annika and Tripthi, sang the national anthem. Deputy Secretary of State, Rich Vial, did the invocation. Governor’s legal counsel, Misha Isaak, Representative Courtney Neron, and Chief Judge of Court of Appeals, James Egan, explained to us about the three branches of government- The Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, respectively.

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Mary Beth Herkert introduced everyone to the Kid Government program and how it started in Oregon, three years ago, with the intention of imparting Civics education to children. She then introduced the seven finalists from the 2020 Kid Governor elections and recognized them for their leadership and community service. Erikka Baldwin, Oregon’s Kid Governor for the year 2019, talked about her experience of and accomplishments during her one year term.

Raaga Inauguration 2It was at that point that the retired Chief Justice of Oregon’s Supreme Court, Paul J. De Muniz, led me in taking the oath of office. My parents and grandparents were there standing next to me. I had my left hand on the holy Hindu scripture, Bhagvad Gita, that my dad held in his hands. I raised my right hand, followed Chief Justice De Muniz’s instructions, and I made the official promise to faithfully discharge my duties as Oregon’s Kid Governor, to the best of my ability. I felt pride, and an even bigger sense of responsibility as I delivered my first speech as Oregon’s Kid Governor.

So, what did the path look like for my journey from being an ordinary school girl to becoming Oregon’s Kid Governor? Becoming a change maker is actually easier than you think!