SAN DIEGO — Jackie Gomez is living her childhood dream.

“I’ve always had the desire to help people at a really young age, and that’s why I chose to become a coach,” Gomez said.

The former University of San Diego standout is director of the La Jolla Knights Volley Club.

“They’re really important to me. I treat these guys like they’re my family,” Gomez said.

Three years ago, she found a way to extend her family.

She spoke with the head of The Bishop’s School, changing her life for the better.

“He was like, ‘Hey, have you ever heard of social innovation? From there it took off,” Gomez said.

In the contest, students research issues affecting our community, then present solutions during a “Shark Tank”-like forum. The winner receives a $5,000 donation from a parent donor.

All this happens after several months of hard work.

“What we don’t want is kids to assume what other people need when they’re not in their shoes. So they do a lot of good work in the community before they solve a problem,” Gomez said.

Gomez says this is the first program of its kind in San Diego schools. The trailblazer is appreciated by the kids who participate. 

“We had to a lot of work for the social innovation competition, but it was really helpful and meaningful work. Definitely feels good and rewarding for me,” said Jordan Lou, a social innovation participant.

Bringing together her love of coaching and social innovation, she invited girls on her volleyball team to join the competition.

“I asked them who is interested in doing social innovation in upper school,” Gomez said. “I would say over 50% of them raised their hand. I think they’re genuinely excited about it.”

For Gomez, that’s what it’s all about.

“I get to guide young youth into doing amazing things, what can get better than that,” Gomez said.