18 singers deliver at Beaverton Teen Idol fundraising event

by: TIMES PHOTO: LACEY JACOBY - Kaiya Pelletier sings in the Beaverton Teen Idol competition.Kaiya Pelletier knows what it’s like to be homeless — and how good it feels to find a passion in life.

The Sunset High School senior moved to Beaverton after spending two years adrift with her mother in a tent near Austin, Texas.

“When you experience something as real as homelessness, it brings you back to re ality,” she said. “That you are a human, surviving. It changes who you are, and thankfully I discovered music in the process of this change.”by: TIMES PHOTO: LACEY JACOBY - Jesse Rosario sings in the Beaverton Teen Idol competition.

Pelletier acknowledged both extremes of her recent life on Saturday, when she was named one of nine finalists in the Beaverton Teen Idol contest. Pelletier raised her voice along with 17 other contestants at the second annual event to determine the “best pop voice” in Beaverton while raising funds for HomePlate Youth Services, an organization dedicated to help combat youth homelessness.

About 80 people turned up on Saturday afternoon in the Beaverton City Library Auditorium on Southwest Fifth Street to hear Beaverton-area middle school and high school students belt out or croon their favorite tunes to Karaoke-like backing tracks.

Through a $5 admission fee and donations, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board-sponsored event raised close to $800 for HomePlate, said Geetha Somayajua, the event’s founder, producer and advisory board vice chairwoman.

“We raised $800 in just two hours. We’re really proud of that accomplishment,” said Somayajua, a Westview High School senior, noting the advisory board covered expenses such as renting the library theater. “One hundred percent of the proceeds go to HomePlate.”by: TIMES PHOTO: LACEY JACOBY - Contestants in the Beaverton Teen Idol competition stand to be acknowledged.

Finale time

While heartfelt ballads and perky pop/rock predominated the show, Somayajua was impressed with the range of musical styles on display Saturday afternoon.

“This year’s lineup was amazing,” she said. “All these kids, hearing them sing — they’re so talented. There was a huge variety of styles — R&B, jazz, pop, even some country. It was so great to hear the lineup.”

Judges included Tyrene Bada, a city of Beaverton employee and professional singer, along with Nan Haemer, a Beaverton-based voice teacher and vocalist. by: TIMES PHOTO: LACEY JACOBY - Jahlett Tofi sings in the Beaverton Teen Idol competition.

In addition to Pelletier, 17, the nine finalists include Jesse Rosario, Savannah Panah, Jahlett Tofi, Dana Hicks, Kelsey Bentz, Tristan Herrera, Brooklyn Atack and Brianna Braukmann. The students will advance to sing in the Beaverton Teen Idol Finale event on Friday, May 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Sunset High School Auditorium, 13840 N.W. Cornell Road. One winner will be chosen to perform with Portland Teen Idol.

Kate Taylor, who serves as the city of Beaverton’s staff liaison for the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board, said the event was inspiring for all involved.

“It’s great to see the community show up to support vocalists and support HomePlate and help accomplish our goal,” she said. “It’s a great cause, and gives youths in the community an outlet for their talent.”

Pelletier’s sharing of her real-life experience with homelessness, she noted, brought an air of authenticity to the event.

“Her story was probably the highlight of the day. Her song, “Not Gonna Change,” was an original song. She spoke about what it’s like to be homeless and how music helped her get out of it. It was pretty awesome,” Taylor said. by: TIMES PHOTO: LACEY JACOBY - Dana Hicks sings in the Beaverton Teen Idol competition.

Passing it on

Pelletier finds encouragement in organizations such as the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board and events like Beaverton Teen Idol.

“It’s important to donate to organizations that help homeless teens, because you don’t know what they’ve been through, or how much your donation could really help that one person,” she said. “Being homeless is not a fun experience, it can make you feel helpless and afraid, but to donate would mean that you are willing to help change somebody’s life, even if it’s just a warm meal or a soft bed to sleep in at night.”

Somayajua, who empathized with the difficulty Teen Idol judges had in selected nine finalists on Saturday, said she looks forward to passing on her Beaverton Teen Idol leadership role to a younger student before she goes on to college.

“Live performance instills students with a lot of confidence, self esteem and professionalism. I’d like to continue that legacy,” she said. “It makes me really happy to bring my passion for music to elicit positive change.”by: TIMES PHOTO: LACEY JACOBY - Brianna Braukmann sings in the Beaverton Teen Idol competition.

Student traded tent in Texas for new home in Beaverton

It was the summer before her freshman year of high school when Kaiya Pelletier and her mother lost the childhood home where she’d lived for eight years.

“We decided that the best option for us would be to pack up all of our belongings into a storage unit, and live out in the woods in a three-room tent,” the Sunset High School senior shared on Monday. “After spending the summer in the tent out in the blazing summer heat, we made a spontaneous decision to move to Portland.”

They had no local connections when they arrived, but found a welcoming environment in Beaverton, where her mother, Suzanne, found a comfortable apartment, and at Sunset High, where Pelletier enrolled last year. Teaching herself to play guitar proved a turning point in her outlook for the future.

“I began teaching myself to play the guitar and wrote songs, and it brought me out of the situation I was living in,” she said. “Music saved me. It brought me back and showed me who I truly am.”

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