Village student Leia Schwartz gets ‘breath-taking’ surprise

By Gary Alan Ruse….

Pictured at the assembly are (l-r) Laura Schwartz, Leia Schwartz, Mary Joe Fernandez and David Schwartz.

Leia Schwartz, a Palmetto Bay student in the 10th grade at Coral Reef Senior High who is an asthma sufferer, was surprised when during a full school assembly she was brought to the stage and presented with a $2,500 savings bond for her continuing education.

Making the presentation to Schwartz was tennis pro Mary Joe Fernandez. Fernandez who is the spokesperson for Everyone Breathe, an educational initiative that provides parents and caregivers with information and tools to help them manage their child’s asthma symptoms.

Fernandez also presented a $5,000 grant to the school to implement a program to improve the quality of asthma care and education for students and faculty.

Amazingly, the purpose of the assembly set the morning of Sept. 27 was successfully kept a secret from Schwartz, who once was the poster child for the American Lung Association and who, along with her father, David, is an advocate for asthma-related issues.

“I couldn’t believe that my friends and family didn’t tell me, but it was such a wonderful surprise,” Leia said in an Oct. 6 interview. “I’m so thankful that the school will now have money to improve the air and environment, not just for me, but for all of the other students.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), asthma is on the rise and affects nearly 25 million Americans, with more than seven million of them children.

In addition to Fernandez, attending the assembly were more than 600 students from Coral Reef High, along with Dr. Larry S. Feldman, Miami-Dade School Board vice chair; school officials, plus Schwartz’s parents, David and Laura.

Out of nearly 500 applications received by the Everyone Breathe Asthma Education Grants program, only 10 grand prizewinners were selected.

Schwartz is the current Junior Orange Bowl Queen and besides being an outstanding student, athlete and a singer/songwriter, she has participated in many charity fundraisers and special health related projects.

More information on the Everyone Breathe Asthma Education Grants program can be found online at <>.

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