Youth Fair presents 9 students with Community Service Award

Youth Fair presents 9 students with Community Service Award
Youth Fair presents 9 students with Community Service Award
Pictured with Youth Fair officials are Community Service Award honorees.

The Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition recently announced the nine recipients of the annual Walter B. Arnold Jr. Youth Hall of Fame Community Service Award.

Inducted into the Youth Hall of Fame were Sophie Barry, an eighth grade student at J.W. Carver Middle School; Waleed Mneimneh, grade 11 at Palmer Trinity School, and Leia Schwartz, a senior at Coral Reef Senior High School. Each received a $1,000 check for their dedication to helping others.

Six other finalists were Tyquan Howard, grade 7, Madison Middle School; Brenda Banda-Torres, senior, Homestead Senior High School; Guido Dominguez, grade 8, Nautilus Middle School; Joshua Shevlin, senior, Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School; Carolina Gonzalez, grade 11, Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, and Kyla Linchenat, grade 8, Richmond Heights Middle School.

Each finalist, including the Hall of Fame inductees, received a $100 check.

The late Walter B. Arnold Jr. (1914- 2000) had a 41-year history of leading The Youth Fair, including as general manager and president. The Youth Hall of Fame Community Service Award was created in 2001 in honor of the man who had the vision to take a small 4-H Fair and turn it into one of the most beloved attractions in Miami-Dade County with a loyal following of 600,000 fair goers. The Youth Fair is a charity that exists solely for the public benefit in Miami-Dade.

In March, the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition provided $7,000 in combined prize money to the winners of the first Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics essay contest open to high school juniors and seniors across the nation. Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) was the first district to have its juniors and seniors participate.

The Youth Fair awards more than $80,000 annually in college scholarships to local public and private high school students. To date, The fair has awarded more than $10 million to Miami-Dade high school students to help them achieve higher education.

The Youth Fair is the only venue where students showcase their educational, art and science achievements all in one place and are rewarded for their efforts. More than 40,000 student projects are exhibited to more than half a million families, friends and fairgoers.

About the Hall of Fame inductees:
Sophie Barry of J.W. Carver Middle School learned while planning her bat mitzvah that many children in the county don’t receive birthday presents or parties. She started a project of her own by contacting homeless centers such as Camillus House and Mother Seton Village in Homestead, where she hosts monthly parties for children with birthdays. She has raised awareness through friends, family and soccer teammates. They help support the cost of cakes, gifts, decorations and making a personalized poster she makes for every child for whom she brings a brighter birthday.

Waleed Mneimneh of Palmer Trinity School has raised $35,000 to benefit autism. Waleed was inspired to attain this level of community service by the two most important things to him in life, a love for playing competitive tennis and commitment to autism after learning of his younger brother’s diagnosis. In ninth grade he founded the Autism Awareness Club that grew to 86 members from his high school and helped him organize two Ace for Autism tennis tournaments for raising donations to the University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

Leia Schwartz of Coral Reef Senior High School’s Chorus Magnet program created Healing Harmonies, a community outreach program composed of 200 music students from South Florida dedicated to “healing through the arts.” The club performs for the elderly, sick children, hospital patients, healthcare facilities and healthrelated charities, teaching its members students how a simple gesture like a song can help improve someone’s life. Leia overcame her own physical limitations of a lifethreatening lung illness to make a difference in the lives of others.

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