At her graduation from Coral Gables Senior High, Leidy Villa wore a medal and gold rope for finishing in the top five percent of her class. She also wore a blue rope to represent the International Baccalaureate program.
“I was also given a special recognition during the graduation ceremony by Principal Costa for having perfect attendance since first grade,” she said.
She probably should have been recognized for her 1,300 hours of community service — most from volunteering at the Shake-A-Leg program working with autistic children.
“In the summer I would be assigned to a specific class,” she said. “I’d partner up with a teacher.”
Part of the day was spent doing classroom activities and part was for water activities.
“I also worked the aftercare program,” she said.
In the fall, Villa heads to the University of Florida to major in behavioral analysis. She wants to be a psychologist for kids with autism.
“I’ve always been good with kids. I’ve always known how to deal with them,” she said. “Dealing with children is harder than people understand. They do look up to you. You have to be a person they can trust. I want to be that friend. Even if it’s as simple as hearing about their day or more complex and talking about dealing with their families.”
While at Gables, Villa was on the board for the IB Honor Society in charge of the Mentoring Mind program. As such, she created workshops for IB students. One workshop helped teach freshmen students how to get started on research papers, including how to create a topic, how to find legitimate sources and how to structure their paper.
Villa did a service program for IB. She and a friend did Books by the Bay. They worked with Barnes and Noble to donate books to Shake-A-Leg.
She also went to a school near Gables to tutor students and help the aftercare instructors.