December 2020

1. Janelle Adams, eighth grade, & 2. Carolin Mojena, eighth grade: Hialeah Gardens Middle

Janelle and Carolin are a true testament that the “See Something, Say Something” Campaign works.  During these unprecedented times we must rely more than ever on our student’s eyes and ears. At the beginning of the school year during lunch a student began to ask Janelle some odd questions regarding addiction and immediately a red flag went off in Janelle’s mind. The next question, “do you have a gun?” sent an alarm.  Janelle told Carolin what the student asked and Carolin proceeded to take a picture of the student since neither of them knew the child.  When lunch ended, they went to a 6th grade teacher who was able to identify the student. They then brought all this information to the school’s Trust Counselor.  Thankfully, there was no credible threat, and the situation was handled.  Both Janelle & Carolin are members of the National Junior Honor Society and are part of the school’s Peer Counselors. Both ladies have been on the principals’ honor roll every quarter of their middle school years.  Janelle and Carolin chose to speak up to ensure the safety of their school and classmates.

3. Brandon Amador, pre-k: Blue Lakes Elementary

Brandon is a 4-year-old who has endured more than most children his age due to having suffered the loss of his big brother Benjamin who was Brandon’s hero.  Brandon has selflessly devoted his entire four years of life to Benjamin who suffered from a rare type of childhood cancer called DIPG.  While it was very difficult for the family to watch his brother decline, Brandon made it his mission to bring joy to his parents and brother.  Brandon would comfort Ben during his chemotherapy sessions and made it his primary duty to be Ben’s caregiver.  He loved to push Ben’s wheelchair because he felt as if he was guarding him.  Brandon is a sweet and exceptional boy who is dedicated to school, his family, and maintaining Ben’s memory alive.  Unfortunately, Ben passed away on November 11, 2020 and despite his pain at such a young age, all Brandon can think about is the “Benjamin Strong Foundation” which brings awareness to childhood cancer so that no other child has to suffer the loss he did. Instead of going to the park on weekends or having fun with friends Brandon rather go to the cemetery to go visit his brother.  His warm heart and kind soul make him the perfect candidate for the “Do the Thing Award”.

4. Zeean Firmeza, eleventh grade: School for Advanced Studies Wolfson Campus, Washington D.C. Trip Winner

Zeean at a young age has already demonstrated extraordinary leadership qualities. She founded an organization called “Generation Connected” and has assembled a group of 62 young people from different schools and different states that conduct zoom tutoring sessions online for younger students who are struggling academically in various subjects. Zeean leads this group of tutors, writers, and artists.  Additionally, she also led a mental health workshop for teens and arranged for over 40 mentor/mentee online connections. Zeean is the winner of the “America’s Promise Alliance Power of Youth Award” for 2020. Even though she was very nervous, Zeean summoned the courage to speak on television before the School Board of Miami Dade County Public Schools on December 9, 2020 on behalf of undocumented students in Miami who need more support from the public schools. She was also one of the student leaders in the recent campaign and election of new School Board Member Luisa Santos. Zeean’s leadership and care for the community will take her far.

5. Sebastian Garcia, kindergarten: Andrea Castillo Preparatory Academy, Rapids Water Park Trip Winner

Sebastian was nominated for The City of Doral’s Shop with a Cop event where he was awarded a $100 gift card to purchase whatever he wanted for Christmas. Sebastian at his young age of five decided to use some of that money to purchase toys to donate to his school’s Holiday Toy Drive to benefit children of migrant workers. Instead of using the money for himself, he set some aside to give back to those in need. Sebastian is currently studying at home due to the pandemic and made sure that his mom brought him into school that morning to donate the toys and make the deadline.  Sebastian unselfishly gave back to his community and demonstrated the true meaning of Christmas. His generosity should be honored.

6. Anaiayah Handy, fifth grade: Colonial Drive Elementary, 

Anaiayah exemplifies what it means to do the right thing by being empathetic and caring to several of her classmates. During PE, Anaiyah noticed a few students who were not having the opportunity to actively participate because they were in a disadvantageous position. On multiple occasions, she willingly gave the ball she was holding to these classmates when she saw that they were not enjoying themselves and changed the dynamic of the game.  Anaiayah is a Gifted student who is very excited, happy, and curious about life and her surroundings. She is always willing to share ideas, materials and stories with her class.  She is bright and has a desire to constantly improve and strive for greatness.  When at home, Anaiayah helps her brother by doing his laundry so he can concentrate on football and his grades in his senior year of high school. She also takes care of her grandparents by making them breakfast in the morning, moving heavy things for them and always assisting when needed.  Her grandfather is almost 100 years old and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. One day when his foot got caught on a chair Anaiayah quickly sprang to action and caught her grandfather before he fell.  In addition, she has given to the homeless since she was four years old and gives up to half of her allowance to those in need.  Anaiayah does the right thing at home, school, and in the community.

7. Ismary Ledesma, eleventh grade: Hialeah Gardens High School

Ismary has had to deal with more than most students her age, especially during the pandemic.  She is a full-time high school student while also holding a full-time job as a cashier at Publix. When schools opened up and some students were allowed to return on campus for Phase 2, she arrived excited to get some semblance of normality back in her life. Unfortunately, soon thereafter Ismary’s mom was diagnosed with stage-4 breast cancer. Needless to say, Ismary’s world has been turned upside down. She’s been trying to stay strong and take care of things for her mom, but she is just a child herself. She decided to return to schooling online so that she could help her mom and work.  Despite the difficulties, she has not complained and knows that she has to be her mom’s source of assurance and calm. She is truly doing the right thing, putting the most important person in her life before her own needs.  Despite such hardship, she is trying her best to keep up with her schooling and her teachers are working to assist her and her mom.  It is admirable to see how Ismary, at such a young age can differentiate her priorities and her perseverance and resiliency should be recognized.

8. Mike Monzon, sixth grade: Miami Lakes Middle

Mike is an excellent student and a wonderful classmate. He is always doing the right thing showing that integrity is a priority in his life.  As an A student, he consistently earns good grades for being attentive, diligent, driven and dedicated. His work ethic at such an early age is to be admired.  Mike demonstrates qualities of a leader; he is respectful, confident, humble, and socializes with his peers in a genuine and respectful way.  At home Mike helps around the house with chores and with his younger sister’s academic progress.  He loves to read, play sports, and has been in karate since he was 3 years old.  Over the weekend, Mike received a text message from a classmate who was feeling overwhelmed and reached out to him saying that she wanted to hurt herself.  Mike was very concerned for his classmate and immediately told his mom and contacted his teacher right away.  The teacher got in touch with the schools’ administration team and trust counselor and they were able to contact the family and assist the student in crisis.  Mike’s determination, compassion and caring heart saved his classmate from doing the unthinkable.  He knows very well that if he sees or is told something alarming or distressful, he needs to report it immediately. Mike is an excellent example of a great student and a true friend.

9. Hillary Simmons, twelfth grade: MAST Academy

Hillary has an impressive list of leadership positions, activities, and AP classes. From her post as Black Student Association president to her role as an editor on the school newspaper, all that Hillary does, she does out of her fervent belief that the best of us are in this world not so much for what we can take out of it, but for what we can put into it.  As editor of her school’s award winning student newspaper, she has shown to be a natural leader and has helped the group function successfully as a team.  Last year, their newspaper won a Silver Medal from the Colombia Scholastic Press Association and an area that was singled out for excellence was the breadth of coverage of different groups at school, of which Hillary was instrumental in seeing that this happened.  Hillary created a community service project that shares her extensive research of the complex college admissions process with fellow minority and less-affluent students.  Through this project, she is helping kids who do not have the means to buy the services of concierge exam tutoring and essay-prep.  During her junior year, she immersed herself in learning more about the college admissions process by speaking to college representatives, CAP counselors, and previous and current senior students.  She also conducted online research and attended seminars and college fairs.  Soon, she realized she had a treasure trove of valuable information that she could share with her peers. She reached out to her friends, texting every contact in her phone and posted flyers on social media. Ten months later, $cholars has 170+ members, many of them who would have never, but for her efforts, had the leg up of peer-to-peer college prep, admissions advice, and tips for success on high-stakes tests like the SAT and the ACT.  Due to her leadership, initiative, and desire to help her peers succeed, Hilary makes a great Do The Right Thing winner.

10. Angely Turcios, fifth grade: Keys Gate Charter School

Angely is a model student and an even better friend. She exemplifies maturity and demonstrates the right way to treat others.  A new student arrived in her class and the other girls were engaging in bullying behavior by making fun of and isolating the new student saying she was weird and that she had no friends.  Instead of joining the group, without being asked, Angely went up to the girl who was sitting alone on a bench and asked if she would like to play with her. The new girl declined. A few minutes later, again, without being asked, Angely approached the girl again and this time just asked if she could sit with her. Before long, the two girls were talking and laughing. As the week went on, Angely made sure to always include her new friend and they continued playing together at recess.  She even got one of the other girls to join them and they have been like the 3 musketeers ever since. In addition, one of the other girls in her class who is usually not the nicest, seemed to be upset and Angely took it upon herself to go over to the girl’s desk, kneel down on the floor in front of her and say, “I know we are not friends but I don’t want you to be upset and you can tell me what’s wrong and I can be there for you and help you.”  Angely shows compassion for her fellow students and sets a great example for her peers to follow when it comes to treating others with kindness and respect.