Be More Inspiring
Rising Star Award
This award will honor an individual, under the age of 21, who has distinguished himself or herself in the community directly accredited to their inspiration, dedication, motivation, or acts of kindness. Nominees represent up-and-comers whose accomplishments in, and contributions to, our community make them stand out among their peers and position them as future leaders. A short essay on the nominee’s impact was necessary at time of nomination. The top candidates that achieve the most votes via an online poll will be further researched by an impartial judging panel to decide the ultimate winner.
Read the essays for each nominee, then cast your vote for this category below.
NOTE: The essays below have not been edited and are presented as originally shared by the author. They may contain grammatical or spelling errors.
Jaylens Challenge Foundation, Inc.
While Jaylen Arnold was in the 2nd grade, he was bullied by his peers to the point of being placed in hospital homebound. He was bullied and mocked so consistently that his Tourette ‘s syndrome and Autism became extremely uncontrollable and harmful. Jaylen became non-functioning and needed to be removed from that environment by his medical team. Jaylen decided he wanted to make a difference for other kids being bullied. After being bullied for having these disorders, he decided to take a bold stand. With some help, he devised a plan to create a website to educate the public about the prevalence of bullying in schools and workplaces across the globe. That is how Jaylens Challenge Foundation, Inc. was created.
Jaylen’s work has made a significant impact. Jaylen has spoken to over 200 schools in 25 states reaching 200,000 students in face-to-face assemblies in classrooms and in corporations all over the world, while providing much needed anti-bullying curriculum. Since our inception, 65 middle/high school students reported halting a suicide plan after hearing Jaylen speak. Thousands of students have sent private messages to Jaylen personally admitting their ignorance and acts of bullying and made a commitment to change their behavior. Thousands more have confided in Jaylen about their personal struggles, acknowledging them, and for the first time – realizing they have the power to enact change within themselves.
Recently, Jaylen was the only American chosen as a recipient of the most prestigious Princess Diana – Legacy Award. This award honors a young person who has made a significant impact while inspiring others without the expectation of payment or recognition for their work.
Since she was 11 years old, Savannah Billett has been an effective and powerful advocate for kids fighting cancer. We first met her when our son Ezra was diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer in 2009. She took it on herself to organize a fundraiser at a local restaurant, raising over $500 that evening. This from an 11 year old!
Now, as a USF St Pete student, she has raised over $10,000 toward funding clinical trials through Beat Nb, this year organizing a fishing tournament which itself raised over $5,000. She even presented the event to St Pete’s mayor, Rick Kriseman, as a part of her leadership program at USF St Pete. Currently, Savannah is working on the second annual Fishing for the Fight tournament, with a goal of tripling this year’s success.
Savannah has presented multiple talks on childhood cancer in the Tampa Bay community, and can often be found at one of Tampa Bay’s local children’s hospitals, spending time with her friend Bella who has been battling neuroblastoma for 8 years – since our son was diagnosed. She has been on television (FOX News) sharing about childhood cancer, and is currently studying to become a professional fundraiser (which we know she already is!).
Kids fighting cancer have a strong ally in Savannah. We’re proud to have seen her growth over the years and are moved by her consistent heart toward these kids. She doesn’t hear no – this woman is tireless in pushing toward a cure and sharing the stories. She’s seen – she sees – firsthand the heaviness of cancer in children, and has dedicated herself to beating it.
Savannah is an inspirational rising star.
Sallybrating With A Cause
At 12 yrs old, Sally Campbell began volunteering and serving cancer patients at the Hope Lodge in Tampa. She would gather several of her friends and they would take a dinner to the patients who reside there while undergoing their treatment. Sally has also volunteered at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s Christmas In July event for the last three years. She has also served as a team captain for her own Relay for Life team. She has volunteered for events hosted by the Children’s Cancer Society including the Lemon-aide Project and the Gelatin Plunge. Sally has served the homeless with the Love One Another Ministry in Dade City. Sally has participated in many cancer awareness events including a Cure Search Walk and Miles for Moffitt. Sally has reached out to her family, friends, school and community for support in all of her fundraising and awareness efforts. Sally is now 15 yrs old and she has been able to raise over $25,000 in monetary and other donation types for many causes within her community. Sally has been responsible for hosting her own fundraisers including a bake sale/lemonade stand once a month, an annual golf tournament, bowl-a-thons and a motorcycle poker run with the local Eagle Riders.
All of the proceeds from these events have proceeded the many charities and causes which Sally has love to support. In the summer of 2016, Sally was given a chance to form her own non-profit 501-c3 called Sallybrating With A Cause where she currently sits as the president on her junior board. She has led many of her friends (other youth) to join her efforts. Sally serves as a mentor at teen camps and girl power events. She has demonstrated to other young people that they can do amazing things and make positive changes as well.
Girl Scouts of West Central Florida
This year, Katie joined an elite group of women by earning the highest achievement in Girl Scouting – the Girl Scout Gold Award. This award recognizes high school girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership, empathy, and vision through sustainable and measurable projects that make an impact on their communities.
Every nine seconds, a woman in America is physically abused.
After meeting a family whose daughter died at the hands of her boyfriend, Katie knew she had to educate and empower more people about this issue. Katie shared, “Almost everyone knows someone affected by domestic violence. It has no economic boundary; the world rarely discusses this widespread problem.”
In partnership with The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and The Spring, Katie created an event to raise awareness about domestic violence and unhealthy relationships among teenagers. Her event, Break the Silence, focused on empowering students to speak up about domestic violence and coincided with a school basketball game. The crowd symbolically “broke the silence” by wearing purple, learned about the warning signs of unhealthy relationships, and connected with local resources.
One of the most empowering moments was the “Clothesline Project”, where dozens of t-shirts hung outside the school’s gym, each personalized with heart-wrenching messages from domestic violence victims. Crisis counselors were on site to provide services and resources. Break the Silence is now an annual event at Robinson High School.
Katie is a testament to the power of the Girl Scout mission to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. The lessons and skills learned through Girl Scouts inspire girls to give back and share the good with their neighbors.
Katie graduated from Robinson High School and currently attends Duke University. Katie received the Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow Award for her Girl Scout Gold Award.
[email protected] (Service Dog Training and Education Program)
Dino is only 7-months-old, but he’s already in college. The puppy is a Canine Companions for Independence assistance dog-in-training and is allowed to live in student housing on the campus of the University of Central Florida as part of a partnership with Canine Companions.
Dino rooms with UCF sophomore Amanda Davis, a volunteer puppy raiser who takes the black Labrador-golden retriever mix with her to classes, study sessions and around campus. The cute ball of fur arrived at Amanda’s Lake Claire dormitory room with lots of potential, but in need of help to shape him into a trustworthy assistance dog. Amanda underwent a rigorous selection process and has made a huge personal commitment to work with Dino over the next year and a half.
By the time Amanda turns Dino back into Canine Companions for professional training she will have helped the puppy master 30 commands, and provided basic obedience instruction and socialization opportunities. Those are essential skills for dogs that are meant to be matched with people with disabilities.
Amanda is also the Building Representative for the Living Learning Community in the Lake Claire dorms, which allows students and their assistance dogs-in-training to live together. She constantly works to promote assistance dog awareness and hopes that this education will better the interactions between students and other service dog handlers on the UCF campus.
She is in the LEAD Scholars Academy, which educates on leadership theory and service learning and works at a local restaurant and at the campus bookstore.
Amanda, who grew up in St. Petersburg and attended St. Petersburg High School, is pursuing a bachelors degree in sociology with a minor in philosophy.
Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa
Riley Desin, 16, was born with a rare genetic condition called hereditary multiple exostoses, which causes growths on the bones in his arms and legs.
In Riley’s case, which is considered severe, doctors discovered growths from nearly head to toe, and his left arm was bowed.
As a patient of Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa, Riley has faced more than a dozen surgeries for removal of the growths and lengthening of the bones in his arms and legs. Despite his condition, he stays active in basketball and other physical activities, such as playing outside with his two Great Danes. He also is active in his church and a member of the National Honor Society at school. Last year, he won his class’ top awards for math, English and P.E.
For the past 16 years, Riley has helped to put on a golf tournament that has raised nearly $500,000 to help the Tampa Shriners hospital fulfill its mission of providing the highest quality care to patients regardless of their families’ ability to pay. This year, Riley is expected to surpass that half-million dollar mark.
In addition to fundraising, Riley speaks to numerous groups about his condition. He also assists with other hospital fundraisers and represents the hospital at special events, including the Shriners Open, a PGA tournament in Las Vegas. Riley also serves as a mentor to a 6-year-old boy who also has HME. He is showing his young friend that despite the condition, his future can be bright.
“Someday I will work at Shriners Hospitals,” Riley says. “I love the mission, and I love being a Shriners kid.”
Riley’s dedication to give back to the hospital, help other kids and educate the community make him an inspiration to everyone. He is indeed a Rising Star.
Heather and Morgan Fox
Suncoast Hospice|Empath Health
I am pleased to recommend Morgan and Heather Fox (twins!) for consideration for the WEDU Be More – Rising Star Award. Morgan and Heather were dedicated volunteers with the Empath Health/Suncoast Hospice Teen Volunteer Program from November of 2013 through May of 2017, contributing over 850 hours of service each! In recognition of their exemplary volunteer service, they were the recipients of the Empath Health Outstanding Youth Award for 2017. Upon graduation from high school this past May, they also graduated from our teen volunteer program and are now contributing to their university community at the University of Florida.
Morgan and Heather participated in several aspects of the Teen Volunteer program, volunteering at our Resale Shoppe, making special crafts and baked goods for patients and families, joining in community and veterans outreach activities, and serving on the Teen Leadership Board for the 2015-2016 academic year. While these activities are remarkable, the most impressive aspect of their volunteer service has been serving directly with patients and families. Morgan and Heather each made more than 180 visits to hospice patients and their families at area nursing homes on a regular basis, providing opportunities for socialization and life review. In addition, they were active in our Party Pals program, celebrating special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries with patients.
Morgan and Heather are engaging, reliable, and sincere young women. They place the needs of our patients and families at the forefront of their desire to serve, as evidenced by the variety of volunteer roles and the outstanding number of service hours. These young women are outstanding role models for our community and ambassadors for caring and compassionate hospice care. It has been a pleasure to work with Morgan and Heather and I could not be more confident in my recommendation for this community award.
The Kind Mouse Productions, Inc.
Elizabeth is a humble 17 year old high school senior with a love to help others. In her quiet humble ways Elizabeth is the President of The Kind Mouse Mice Intern Outreach Program as well as the co-chair of The Kind Mouse MouseVision Video Program and mentor of The Kind Mouse Mice In Training Outreach Program where students ages 5-12 run their own board and learn about running a nonprofit.
Elizabeth is always the first to volunteer for a project and is never afraid to tackle a new task. She is a forward thinker and strives to make the lives of less fortunate more comfortable.
Elizabeth is a firm believer in educating the children. She has taken it as a personal mission to teach by example and attempt to put hope where there is none. Her goal is to inspire others through her quiet positive actions.
Elizabeth does a lot of her mentoring through hands on involvement and video productions.
Elizabeth with her MouseVision co-chair has started by themselves an 8 week, entire student body food drive throughout their entire school. This is not only a food drive to feed the children The Kind Mouse serves, the teachers are using this as a learning program of social conscious and math.
Elizabeth and her co-chair are also working on a 6 part PSA to help stop “Lunch Shaming”.
Elizabeth is truly inspiring!
The Kind Mouse Productions, Inc.
We are very proud to have Sarah as our daughter. Ever since she was about four years old and understood the meaning of presents at birthday and Christmas she would tell us she doesn’t need or want anything. On her celebrated 6th birthday she requested and donated items to SPCA to benefit animals in need. On her 10th birthday December, 2016 she requested and donated her presents to children in need VIA The Kind Mouse Productions, Inc. She is a model student at Shorecrest Preparatory School and set a great example for her little sister and others around her. She is very caring, giving, loving and kind hearted and I hope someday she would be able to lead our community and our great country.
The Kind Mouse Productions, Inc.
Lily is like a shining star when she walks in a room. Her kind heart, sweet smile and willingness to make the world a better place is like a aura around her.
Lily loves the mission of The Kind Mouse. She is determined to help the chronically hungry children of Pinellas County in anyway she can. She does this as serving as the Vice President of The Kind Mouse Productions, Mice Intern Outreach Program. Through the program she does outreach, assists with food drives, serves food to the children we serve, mentors, purchases and packs food and produces videos on our cause.
Lily is a very talented spokesman and videographer. Currently she and her co-chair of The Kind Mouse video production MouseVision is working on a 6 part PSA to stop “Lunch Shaming.”
She is also the co-chair of an 8 week food drive and community conscious program in her school where not only hundreds of pounds of food is collected for the chronically children in Pinellas County but the drive is being used as a vehicle in the classrooms to raise awareness of the hunger problems in our area as well as a math program in the lower grades.
Lily is always the first to reach out to the children we serve with a sweet smile, a kind word or at times even dancing with them. If you hear a giggle, you know Lily has touched another heart.
Humane Society of Pinellas
Jackson Settle is an 11 year-old boy with a heart of gold and genuine compassion for those in need, especially animals and the elderly. He learned about Senior Pet Connection from a Humane Society of Pinellas volunteer and he immediately chose it for his assigned community service project at school. HSP’s Senior Pet Connection supports low-income and homebound seniors by making monthly deliveries of pet food and supplies at no cost. Like a “meals on wheels” for pets, this program allows seniors to provide the level of care they know their pets deserve, without having to leave their home. HSP staff and volunteers also assist participants with routine vaccines and preventatives in addition to the pet food. After learning there was a wait list for Senior Pet Connection, Jackson set a modest goal of raising $300.00 to have one senior added to the program. Over the course of several months, Jackson worked on a campaign he called “Pets + Seniors = Love” to raise awareness about the need to support our elderly neighbors. He raised funds through social media and a GoFundMe page. He asked family and friends to donate in lieu of birthday gifts. He collected cash at a Humane Society event, where he also got to share the program with people to inspire them to help out too. Jackson also went with a HSP staff member to deliver food to clients and he learned firsthand how the program helps. Meeting the elderly recipients and petting their cats and dogs made it personal. He heard them say how much they need this service and how appreciative they are. He realized that some of them don’t get any other visitors and cherished his hug. And he sensed their vulnerability which deepened his compassion. To date, Jackson has raised $1500+!
Hope Kid Inc
thay help feed kids on weekends
until the 2018 WEDU Be More Awards Luncheon & Ceremony
Thursday, February 22, 2018
The 2018 WEDU Be More Awards are made possible by: