Eastside students win advocacy awards

Thirteen students from Eastside High School have earned cash prizes for their efforts in tackling critical social issues and now plan to donate their awards to those in need.

The students are winners of the national 2021 Milton Wolf Prize in Student Advocacy. To qualify for the prize, they had to identify an important community problem, research the issue, learn how the problem is currently being addressed, create a visual presentation on their research and educate others while soliciting help to address the issue.

The award offers cash prizes for five winning projects and five runner-up projects and small grants to three schools with strong submissions. Winners then donate the money to community organizations.

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The class, led by International Baccalaureate Spanish teacher Maria Zelaya, created and presented the projects in both Spanish and English.

“I am very proud of all the students who created projects for The Milton Wolf Prize in Student Advocacy,” Zelaya said in an Alachua County Public School press release. “They chose their topics, did the research and presented in Spanish for my class and in English to members of the community. This is what global education is all about: students recognizing the problems in their community, understanding the different perspectives, communicating their ideas (in two languages) and taking action by making a difference in their community.”

Eastside’s program collected two of the five winning awards, four of the five runner-up awards, and received a small grant for their submissions.

With $900 in earnings, the award-winning students have pledged $450 to Louisiana residents affected by Hurricane Ida, while the other $450 will go to provide essentials for underprivileged students at Eastside. Their plan is to create small care packages for students who do not have access to certain necessities and make those packages available at Eastside’s front office.

Award Winners

  • Winner: Rani Batist, Isabella Vallente-Lauzan: Homelessness in Gainesville, FL
  • Winner: Sawyer Cohen, Heet Patel, Andres Padron: Homelessness in Gainesville, FL
  • Runner-up: Douglas Monroe: Cyberbullying
  • Runner-up: Leann Omalay: Substance Abuse in Alachua County/Gainesville
  • Runner-up: Rani Batist, Ahmik Paul, Daniel Park: Housing Inequality
  • Runner-up: Sabrina Sehlin, Payal Thakor, Saanwi Lalwani: Sexual Violence

The award’s namesake, Milton Wolf, was a Jewish community leader who was a decorated humanitarian and served as America’s ambassador to Austria during the height of the Cold War.

The non-profit group Centropa presented the award. It’s a historical institute dedicated to preserving 20th century Jewish family stories and photos from Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans and disseminating them through films, books and exhibitions.

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