Juliette Gomez is on a mission.
With her children’s book “Can I Push You?,” she aims to spread a message of friendship, kindness, and standing up to bullies.
The book is close to Gomez’s heart. It was written in honor of the sisterhood and friendship that Gomez shared with Kelli Jean, whom she met in Kindergarten. The pair formed a deep bond and became the best of friends.
“In Kindergarten, my friend had fluffy hair – and I had these ‘goggle’ glasses with tape on them. We were both always getting teased and bullied. And that’s what I based the book off of. It kind of wrote itself,” said Gomez in an interview with The Beat.
Kelli Jean passed away from a brain tumor in 2014.
“We had a deep-rooted connection,” said Gomez. “We were both betrayed a lot as children, so we promised that we’d never do that to each other, and always be there for each other.”
Two years before Kelli Jean passed, the friends decided that they would collaborate on a book of poetry together. However, the cancer had come back, and the book was never completed.
With “Can I Push You?,” Gomez is not only keeping Kelli Jean’s memory alive, but she is also going out to schools to give presentations and inspire children who have gone through similar situations with bullying.
“When I share our stories about how we were bullied, kids in the audience will stand up and share their stories,” said Gomez. “It gives them a platform to talk about themselves.”
Gomez is active in the Milpitas community. She serves on the City of Milpitas’ Parks and Recreation Commission, and is also a Board Member with the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce. She’s also currently serving as Vice President of the Joseph Bettencourt Foundation. Whenever there’s an opportunity to support community, Gomez is always motivated to be there.
“In my life, I’ve had mentors who have taken me under their wing,” said Gomez. “That’s why I want to pay it forward to someone who needs a helping hand or someone who feels like they don’t have an opportunity.”
Gomez recalled a teacher named Mr. Meisner at Piedmont Hills High School who saw something in her. This made a profound impact on her life.
She was working at McDonald’s during high school, as part of a work experience program. But Mr. Meisner wasn’t having it. He thought she should be somewhere else, and he told her so.
Then he got Gomez a job as a receptionist for a broadcast marketing company.
“That’s how I got my start,” said Gomez. “I met other mentors there and learned from them. That’s how I was able to buy my house.”
That house was purchased by Gomez in Milpitas in 1993. And she has been here ever since.
Tonight, at the Cesar Chavez Plaza on Calaveras Blvd, Gomez will be reciting one of her poems at the Mexican Independence Day Flag Raising, which she co-organized with Catedral de Fe Milpitas. At the event, there will be an altar/ofrendas table; and people are encouraged to bring photos of their loved ones who have passed, to honor their memory.
A photo of Kelli Jean will, of course, be up on the altar.
“She’s still alive in so many hearts,” said Gomez. “She lives on through the conversations I have about her. If you stop talking about someone, they fade away. The memories fade away. So I’m always talking to her.”
The Mexican Flag Raising event goes from 6pm – 7pm at 457 E. Calaveras Blvd.