NSHSS is proud to announce the winners of the Robert Sheppard Leadership Awards 2016! One $2,500 scholarship is awarded to the first place winner and a $1,000 scholarship is awarded to the top four finalists who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to community service and initiative in volunteer activities.
Benjamin Morales, 1st Place
West Broward High School, 2017, Pembroke Pines, FL
Benjamin has been a devout volunteer since childhood. Following his family’s adoption of his sister, he became more aware of the “extreme poverty” experienced by many Guatemalans. Benjamin filmed a video with his sister and created a Schoolstarter website—reaching hundreds via social media. He created Share-A-Book Project to provide books to Guatemalan students. In four months, Benjamin raised $20,000 to build a new school. The Ben Morales School in El Salitrillo, Guatemala, opened for its first day of classes in July 2015. Each student received a backpack filled with school supplies donated through the Share-A-Book Project. Benjamin has held a bowling tournament to assist in funding a special needs school. He is also currently fundraising to build two more schools, and he created another Schoolstarter website to fund an agriculture center to decrease malnutrition in Guatemalans. Benjamin will serve as president of Bobcat Buddies—an organization assisting students with special needs—his senior year. He has volunteered at local animal hospitals and churches for multiple years.
Christian Boujaoude,Columbia University, Finalist
Monmouth Regional High School, 2016, Tinton Falls, NJ
To increase awareness of human trafficking, Christian created, developed, and implemented a nonprofit organization entitled R U Aware. R U Aware has united students, law enforcement and communities within Monmouth County. Christian recruited over 150 volunteers who served over 5,000 hours. He also raised over $3,000 and received a grant from Youth Service America. Christian founded a school club to educate students about human trafficking, and he coordinated a human trafficking awareness seminar. Christian has promoted his campaign via social media, newspapers, television, radio and blogs. He has also lobbied for a proclamation to declare January National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith invited Christian to sit in on a hearing pertaining to international human trafficking. Christian was captain of the football team, president of DECA, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Amnesty International. He was vice president of the National Honor Society, and he served as a Student Council Officer for the last four years.
Sophia Gonzalez, Finalist
Westminster Christian School, 2017, Palmetto Bay, FL
Since Sophia was two years old, she has battled juvenile arthritis. At 15 years old, Sophia was introduced to the Arthritis Foundation. Through this foundation, Sophia accepted the role of Youth Honoree of the 2014 Miami Walk to Cure Arthritis. She assisted in fundraising, made speeches, and assisted in the logistics of the walk. Sophia was proud to represent the 300,000 children suffering from juvenile arthritis in America. She was named the Top Fundraiser—raising over $13,000. Sophia also formed five teams and attained new corporate sponsorship—earning the title of Top Walk Team. Due to her efforts, Sophia received a scholarship to attend the Juvenile Arthritis National Conference. She was also asked to serve as the Youth Honoree in 2015, and she raised nearly $16,500 in the 2015 Miami Walk to Cure Arthritis. Sophia served on the Leadership Council and Marketing Committee, and she was also a peer coach and mentor for Global Issues Problem Solving.
Nathan Grant, Finalist
Cincinnati Country Day School, 2016, Cincinnati, OH
Nathan’s twin brother has Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) II Hunter syndrome—a rare condition disallowing the ability to hear and communicate with others. Nathan created an international organization, Siblings with a Mission, to assist children who share similar experiences dealing with disabilities—such as MPS, autism and Down syndrome. Nathan explains that “each group supports siblings through an online story column in which siblings share advice.” Siblings with a Mission has assisted over 250 siblings and provides sibling workshops, video chat and a resource center. Nathan has spread awareness of disabilities in India, Singapore, and Pakistan. He has also led a sibling workshop at the National MPS Conference. Nathan is the author and editor of The MPS Sibling: Short Stories for Brothers and Sisters. He is co-captain of the Science Olympiad Team, founder and leader of Everyone Loves Pizza—which reviews pizzerias and donates pizza to children and adults with special needs—and he is a volunteer violinist for the special needs residents of St. Joseph Home.
Josie Pearce, Finalist
Los Alamitos High School, 2017, Los Alamitos, CA
In 2015, Josie won the title of Miss Garden Grove’s Outstanding Teen. She was afforded the opportunity to volunteer at community events, the local children’s hospital and service club fundraisers. Diagnosed with lupus at age 15, Josie chose the Lupus Foundation of America as her platform. She participated in Walk to End Lupus Now Los Angeles, and she created a print ad to be placed alongside canisters to collect “Change for Lupus,” which was donated to a San Diego lupus walk. Josie recorded a national public service announcement encouraging others to “’Know Lupus’ for a world with ‘No Lupus.’” She also hosted the Lupus Foundation of America’s annual Evening of Hope Gala in New York. Josie is a four-year volunteer for the Museum of Latin American Art, and she has worked with the Ronald McDonald House, Adopt-A-Pet, Adopt-A-Family, and Operation Shoe Box, which sends goods to soldiers overseas.