January 2021


1. Alberto Acosta, ninth grade, Miami Senior High :

Alberto has been helping his mother deal with grief from the loss of his cousin and uncle who recently passed away from terminal illnesses.  Alberto knew that even though he was struggling to deal with the sadness himself from losing dear family members, he needed to be strong and continue being a support for his mother in her time of grief.  He helped her recover by aiding her with her job, doing household chores, checking in with her while at school, taking her out for ice cream and setting up Zoom meetings with their family so they could keep in touch during the pandemic.  At school Alberto is part of the marching band and doubles in bassoon and flute for concert band.  He is enrolled in several honors and AP courses and is part of the Legal Magnet Program.  During his free time, he enjoys spending time with his parents and grandparents and helping around the house.

2. Mia Atkinson, first grade, Colonial Drive Elementary, Rapids Water Park Trip Winner:

Mia is an energetic and happy first grader who is adamant about helping anyone in need.  She makes sure her classmates are following safety guidelines and alerts her teacher if she notices classmates are not spaced apart properly in line or if they remove their masks during class.  Mia also isn’t afraid to confront bullies head on.  While standing in line, she noticed a student who began to mock another student.  Mia confronted the bully and told him to stop and went to her teacher.  Mia’s teacher was amazed by her kindness, caring, and courage as she took control of the situation at her young age.  In class she also helps students to write and sound out words and gives pencils to those that need.  At home, Mia plays the role of big sister by feeding her younger brother and helps take care of her younger cousins so her grandmother and aunt can get things done around the house.  Mia is curious about the world around her and is especially concerned about the homeless population.  She helps the homeless by offering her change and collects non-perishable items to distribute when she encounters someone in need. If Mia sees a stranded motorist, she will ask her father who is a mechanic to stop and help them.  Mia’s care and concern for those around her exemplifies what it means to do the right thing.

3. Christa Curry, eleventh grade, Barbara Goleman Senior High , Washington D.C. Trip Winner:

From a young age Christa had a passion for helping the community and started an organization called Christa Cares which provides resources to homeless women and their children and has also expanded to reach veterans as well.  This past Christmas, Christa delivered toys to 100 children at the Miami Rescue Mission and delivered bags with blankets to Veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  She also distributed $50 Walmart gift cards to the children at Miami Bridge during the pandemic.  Through her donation, approximately 15 kids were provided personal care items to use or have when they transition from the center.  When Christa heard about a family displaced during COVID with a premature infant needing special care, that feat was not too large for Christa. Through her efforts; clothes, supplies, and rent was paid for the family.  Christa Cares also holds an annual Mother’s Day brunch for homeless women living in shelters where the women are provided with toiletries, gifts, and awards.  Christa often uses her own money earned from allowance and birthday gifts to fund most of her endeavors while also receiving assistance from local sponsors such as AT&T which awarded her a $25,000 grant to assist ten families with rent during the pandemic.  In addition, last year Christa received the United Way of Miami-Dade Outstanding Youth Award for her community service.

4. Gabriella Diaz, seventh grade, Southside Preparatory Academy :

Gabriella understands the concept of “see something, say something.” In December, Gabriella saw a student looking up inappropriate content on his school laptop.  She then asked the teacher if she could speak with the assistant principal to report what she saw.  While it was difficult to report her classmates, she understood that staying quiet is condoning the inappropriate behavior.  She demonstrated integrity as she believes in doing the right thing even if no one is looking.  Gaby was also nominated recently by her music teacher, as the Values Matter KINDNESS winner of the month.  In class, she is always willing to help her classmates and keeps up with her assignments.  She stands up for other students and is friendly to all and has a great sense of humor.  Every morning when Gaby enters the school building, she says good morning and has a big smile on her face.  Gaby is truly a blessing to all those around her.

5. Melissa Fajes, ninth grade, Miami Senior High:

Melissa demonstrated care and unconditional love and support for a student that was in crisis.  The student was having a very difficult time at home and was feeling judged and discriminated against by her family for her choices which caused her to want to hurt herself.  Melissa was able to prevent the student from harming herself and was able to get the student to eat and laugh again.  She never left her side and supported her without any judgement.  Her empathy and kindness helped save a life.  Melissa is currently part of the law magnet program at her school and wants to pursue a career in criminology in the future.  At home she helps her mom around the house and practices dance at her church every week.

6. Valentin Munoz-Legarre, eleventh grade, MAST Academy:

Valentin is a very motivated, caring, and excellent student.  He is always on task, participates in class, and is always willing to help others if they need assistance.  He also participates in his community, volunteering countless hours to helping the homeless through an organization started by his family called Hermanos de la Calle.  Through the organization, Valentin works to improve the lives of those less fortunate by providing meals, shelter and hope to those left homeless. He also finds time to participate in his school’s extracurricular activities as well and is part of the Social Studies Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, Model UN, and is a Peer Health Educator in the Health Information Project.  Additionally, he plays in the Key Biscayne Rugby Team and volunteers at Ocean Vida, an organization dedicated to restoring and cleaning Key Biscayne’s beaches.  Valentin’s dedication to his community is truly admirable.

7. Emee Catalina Torres, fifth grade, David Fairchild Elementary:

Emee won first place in the district for her grade level for the Hispanic Heritage Essay Contest and received a $100 VISA gift certificate for this award.  As soon as Emee received the money she knew that she wanted to give back and use it to help others.  Instead of using the money on herself, Emee decided to donate the money to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  She was so excited to make the donation all on her own and even received a special thank you on behalf of St. Jude in her name.  In addition, Emee is an A student and part of the girl scouts and is always trying to volunteer her time.  Emee also has a love and passion for animals since she was very small.  She has 7 tortoises at home, a hamster and a rabbit among others.  Emee is a great student who knows the importance of giving back.

8. Nicole Paola Torres, eleventh grade, School for Advanced Studies Kendall Campus:

Nicole launched a mentoring project to help combat the isolation and loneliness many students were experiencing as they were forced to stay home during the pandemic.  Her project, “Learn to Express”, is a student-run community service organization dedicated to encouraging student expression and empowering young people to succeed in education by providing an outlet for their creativity and innovation. Nicole used her technological skills learned through her involvement with “Girls Who Code” competitions to create her own website and reach out through social media to recruit 60 volunteers from all over the United States who could serve as mentors.  Nicole is also very involved at school and is a member of several school honor societies, Model UN, student voice for the International Baccalaureate Academy, Salsa Club, Women of Tomorrow, and participated as a panelist in a recent webinar on volunteering by the MDCPS Office of Community Engagement.  Nicole truly embodies what it means to be a leader.

9. Susan Venegas, twelfth grade, Hialeah Gardens Senior High :

Susan is a student that is always figuring out ways to be productive and proactive. She is humble and soft spoken, yet makes a great impact in everything she is involved in. She is a senior with an outstanding academic achievement record maintaining a 5.3 weighted GPA.  She is an active member of her school’s award-winning marching band and is one of the photographers and co-editors of the school yearbook.  Susan is also involved in community service as a youth leader at her church and with her school clubs. Last year, Susan organized a food drive and an event for Veterans Day where she asked her peers to write letters to Veterans.  Since the start of the pandemic, Susan has had a janitorial job at an elementary school where she disinfects classrooms and areas of high traffic.  She also began a mask up campaign and created posters and flyers to encourage everyone to wear their masks properly.  Susan demonstrates true commitment to her school and community.

10. Cheldon Wilson, sixth grade, Lamar Louise Curry Middle :

Recently two students were involved in a fight during the exchange of classes.  While one student was getting punched by his classmate, the group of 10 other students around were recording the fight.  Cheldon was the only one who stepped in to help and pulled the student doing the punching off of the other while the others were recording.  Even though he did not know either student, other than being classmates, he jumped into action and made the decision to try to stop the fight before more harm was done.  Cheldon is a 6th grader who is new to the school, rules, and policies but that day he did what he thought was the right thing to do.