1. Vanessa Bittar, eleventh grade, School for Advanced Studies West Campus :
Vanessa turned her passion into a project to help homeless children at Chapman House in downtown Miami and Homestead. As a child Vanessa was always very imaginative and constantly sought new ways to express her creativity when she discovered a love of drama and musical theatre. Through her love of theatre, she decided to start a project where she could teach theater to kids in homeless shelters. She wanted to take her passion and share it with children who are less fortunate. However, the pandemic arrived and many of the shelters closed to volunteers. Vanessa was undeterred and once activities at the shelters resumed, she volunteered virtually teaching kids at Chapman Partnership in downtown Miami and Homestead. She has loved teaching at the two homeless shelters virtually and looks forward to meeting her students in person soon. She is also currently looking into expanding her project to Lotus House. Vanessa is happy to share her passion with the kids in the homeless shelters and bring some sunshine into their lives. These kids have been through tough times and Vanessa feels that making a difference in their lives in this way is definitely a way to “Do the Right Thing.” Vanessa has also participated in other events that have helped the community to include; organizing a fashion show that raised money for kids with Down Syndrome, assisting with organizing a theatre competition for all schools in Miami-Dade, and she is currently a part of an organization called “Hope for Miami” where she tutors kids after school who have difficulty with reading comprehension and math. For Vanessa it is a great pleasure to help others in the community and positively impact those who need a helping hand.
2. Brailey Chenard, eighth grade, Hialeah Gardens Middle School:
Brailey has maintained straight A’s all school year long earning him Principal’s Honor Roll every quarter. This demonstrates a turnaround for Brailey as he was a regular C student previously. Now he is always the first student to complete all his assignments and attends tutoring as many times as he can to make sure he is adequately prepared for his exams. He is a very respectful and self-disciplined young man, crediting his Mom’s teachings for the respect, kindness and courteous behavior that he exhibits on a daily basis. Every day after school at bus dismissal Brailey holds the cafeteria door open for all the students and staff. He is a wonderful example for his classmates, recently volunteering to help a new student learn the ropes and focus on his class work. All of his teachers rave about him and his positivity and about what a sweet and respectful young man he is. This school year Brailey helped the school’s administration and counselor locate a young lady who purposely did not get on her school bus. Brailey was able to give details that he had overheard which helped police locate the young lady and bring her back home safely. His maturity and grace during this worrisome event made all the difference and prevented a possible tragedy. Brailey loves to draw, play baseball, hangout with his friends and spend quality time with his family. In the future he would love to play baseball professionally but would also like to attend Harvard University and major in Architecture. Brailey has a bright future ahead.
3. Stella Duran & 4. Evelin Mitzova, eighth grade, Norman S. Edelcup Sunny Isles Beach K-8:
Stella and Evelin were eating lunch when they witnessed a student harassing and being verbally abusive to another student regarding his choice to wear a religious skull cap. Upon identifying the issue as needing adult support, Stella and Evelin opted to not be bystanders and instead stand up to bullying behavior by seeking adult intervention. Both Stella and Evelin demonstrated outstanding citizenship, care for others, and determination. Both did the right thing in this situation and serve as outstanding role model for their peers.
5. Barbara Espejo, first grade, Brucie Ball Educational Center:
Barbie is a wonderful, happy first grade student. She loves to sing and dance and always has a smile on her face. She was diagnosed with Lymphoblastic Leukemia and has to undergo therapy on a weekly basis. Even when she is not feeling well, she always has a smile on her face and does her best to participate in class. She is learning English and loves to show her parents all the new words she has learned. At home, she helps mom with chores around the house and assists in translations when needed. Mom says she is always concerned about homeless children and wants to study to become a doctor or nurse when she grows up. Despite the circumstances, Barbie is determined to persevere.
6. Sophia Marti, eighth grade, Hialeah Gardens Middle School:
Sophia has consistently received Principal’s Honor Roll and is in the National Junior Honor Society. She will move on to high school with 6 completed high school courses and was selected to take part in the Gladiator Scholar Shield Program where she will take college courses during the Summer. She is an active member of Girls Who Code, Journey, Peer Counseling, Cheerleading, Justice League and SWAT Club. Through Justice League she was instrumental in helping a law pass to secure the safety of human trafficking victims. She is one of the founding officers for the Students Working Against Tobacco or SWAT club, organizing various presentations about the harmful effects of tobacco. She has also participated in several community service projects. On top of her active school life, at home, she experienced a life changing event when her little brother was diagnosed with leukemia at the tender age of 2 and underwent treatment and hospitalization for a long 4 years. At the time, it was hard for her to grasp what was happening, but she knew her little brother needed her love and support more than ever. Sophia spent countless days in the hospital by her brother’s side playing with him, talking with him and would even nap with him, making sure he felt as happy as he could. Sophia stood up for her brother recently when another child was insulting towards him. She immediately addressed the young man explaining that those types of comments are not appropriate. Thankfully, Sophia’s brother has been cancer free for 4 years now and enjoys an active life playing baseball. Sophia attends all his games and cheers him on proudly. With the help of her amazing family support system, she was able to navigate through this tough situation. During these difficult covid times Sophia reached out to 2 friends who she noticed were sad and self-isolating. She made it a point to get together with them and help raise their spirits. In the future, Sophia would like to attend UCLA or UM once she graduates and is interested in interior design or acting. For her ability to be focused, strong, helpful, caring and positive, Sophia deserves this recognition.
7. Tatiana Reznik, eighth grade, Hialeah Gardens Middle School, Washington, D.C. Trip Winner:
In February, while Tatiana and her younger brother were walking home from CVS, Tatiana witnessed a car run a red light and hit her brother who was crossing the street just a few feet in front of her. The accident caused her brother to be hospitalized on life support for 12 days which eventually led to his unfortunate and untimely passing. Anthony was an amazing boy who was well-liked by his peers, family and his community. Tatiana understood that despite all the heartache that she was experiencing, there were many other people who loved Anthony and were concerned with his well-being. During his stay at the hospital, she would text and communicate to his friends about his condition. She decided to create an Instagram page titled Pray for Anthony, where she would frequently post updates regarding his status. She almost immediately returned to school saying that she wanted to return to some type of normalcy and that being around her friends and his friends was helpful to her healing. She would also make sure to check up on his friends and make sure that they were ok. Tatiana has been vocal in her community of Sunny Isles Beach about the importance of street safety and has been present at several events in the city so that the tragedy that happened to her brother won’t happen again. Her ultimate goal is for every child in the community to be safe to walk the streets. Despite having experienced such loss, she continues to work hard in her gifted classes and has been able to maintain straight A’s. Throughout this ordeal, Tatiana put the feelings and well-being of others before her own and demonstrated true strength and resilience, honoring her brother’s memory.
8. Rachell Sanabria, tenth grade, Miami Springs Senior High School:
Rachell started the year online then switched to physical schooling and has gone back and forth between the two a few times. Noting this odd behavior, her teacher inquired as to what was going on. Rachell stated that her father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and she often needs to take care of him at home as he navigates chemotherapy. Rachell stated she does this by choice because of her love for her dad. Despite these difficult circumstances, she attends class with a great disposition and gives her best. Her ability to juggle the responsibility of being her father’s caretaker and a tenth grade student is truly admirable. She is a great daughter and an inspiration to all.
9. Ayden Solomon, third grade, Colonial Drive Elementary, Rapids Water Park Trip Winner:
Ayden started school and had numerous disruptive behavior issues. Unfortunately, he suffered humiliation and discrimination because of his albinism and acted out in fear and anger and had uncontrolled outbursts and aggressive behavior that required emergency attention. Two years ago, Ayden witnessed his brother being recognized for DTRT and that motivated him to turn his behavior around. Though it has been a struggle, Ayden has realized he must control his emotions by taking deep breaths and not react to negative stimuli. Now Ayden does not have any tantrums and has turned his stress into positive outcomes. He has now risen to be a responsible student who is completing all of his assignments and turning them in on time. He is supportive of his classmates and helps them organize their desks and assists the teacher with classroom procedures. This nine-weeks, Ayden has achieved Academic Honor Roll and is also helping his younger sister to earn honor roll as well. Ayden is very supportive of his sister especially when she has experienced discrimination and bullying. He consoled her when she experienced discrimination in her class when a friend told her she could not play with her because she was not the same color and also came to her aide when a boy at the park used a racial slur against her. Ayden notified the park personnel and the boy was restricted from the park program. At home, Ayden helps his mom and even takes out the garbage without being told to do so. Ayden has truly transformed into a student who does the right thing.
10. Jeronimo Tizon, third grade, Brucie Ball Educational Center:
Jeronimo is an exceptional student. Even though he was diagnosed with medulloblastoma and has been on chemotherapy for several months, he is always eager to participate in class. There are days when he feels nauseous and does not feel well but he still works to the best of his ability. Despite his diagnosis and the struggles that come with dealing with illness, he has been a straight A student and never misses a homework assignment or project. At home, he loves to spend time with family watching movies. Prior to being diagnosed he was the goalie for his soccer team and had dreams of being a soccer player. Now he says he wants to be a doctor to help other children who are going through a similar experience. Jeronimo loves to eat pizza, Mac & Cheese, ribs and Peruvian food. He is very mature and is always ready to help out at home and school, offering to help his teacher tutor first graders. Despite the obstacles he faces, Jeronimo is destined to prevail.