Gratitude Awards Digest


Why was the Gratitude Awards Program created?

Young people are faced with countless challenges, which often seem insurmountable. However, they also have incalculable opportunities to impact their neighborhoods, schools, and communities in powerful and positive ways. With the intention of motivating Nevada youth to participate in their own civic-engagement projects, PublicServiceNV inaugurated the Gratitude Awards Program at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

During this second year of the program (2017-2018), PublicServiceNV Board members worked collaboratively with the Public Education Foundation, Clark County School District (CCSD) classroom teachers, and others to elevate this intention. “Faculty Champions,” who helped facilitate PublicServiceNV’s community-engagement programs with students, are listed below:

  • Canyon Springs High School: Shane Bean, Toni Marchian, and Julie Roos;
  • Ed W. Clark High School: Luanne Wagner;
  • Las Vegas Academy: Jeff Archibald, Stacey Dallas Johnston, and Stacy Miller;
  • Las Vegas High School: Lisa Peltz;
  • D.D. Keller Middle School: Rochelle Lively; and
  • Leaders in Training: Erica Mosca and Daniel Leyva.

PublicServiceNV Board members worked closely with each of these Faculty Champions during classroom trainings with their students. From August 31 to October 3, 2017, PublicServiceNV Board members visited 17 classes (507 students) twice to engage them in the highly interactive Serve.Learn.Inspire. Civic-Engagement Education Program. We developed the 10-lesson curriculum for this program in July 2017. This civic-engagement education program lays the foundation for students, who choose to participate in the Gratitude Awards Program, which involves their selecting a community, working with that community to determine a need, and creating a project to address that need.

Students who earn Gratitude Awards benefit from being:

  • Recognized with certificates during a PublicServiceNV awards ceremony at their schools.
  • Acknowledged on for their vital contributions to their communities.
  • Rewarded financially by directing PublicServiceNV donations, in their names, to area nonprofits and/or schools.
  • Gifted with their own autographed book sets.
  • Honored in the Gratitude Awards Digest, which is online and distributed to CCSD and other education decision-makers district-wide.
  • Remembered through the donation of book sets, in their names, to their school libraries or programs.

Let us now take a moment to appreciate these magnificent students and their contributions.

award-thanksgiving-pLeaders in Training Program

Category: Human Kindness

 “Thanksgiving Food Drive”

Awards Event: January 20, 2018

Individual Project

  • Odalys Vega, Individual Recipient
  • Erica Mosca, Faculty Champion
  • Daniel Leyva, Faculty Champion


Project Description (as described by Odalys Vega):

I created a Thanksgiving Food Drive for the upcoming holidays for low-income families. I partnered with HELP of Southern Nevada to collect food donations for Thanksgiving baskets for low-income families affected by unemployment, as well as the working poor. I filled out forms, created a flyer, and set up collection boxes. In approximately two weeks, I filled a large box with 150 non-perishable Thanksgiving-themed food items. This meant that families in need could receive assistance to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner.

Inspiration for This Project (as described by Odalys Vega):

Growing up in Las Vegas, I was surrounded by hunger and homelessness, from inside my family to the girl who sat next to me in fourth grade. My family is not economically privileged, and I remember when I was younger that we had to go receive help from a food pantry. For these reasons, it was easy to dedicate my project to help feed low-income families on Thanksgiving Day.

To me, Thanksgiving was one of the only times I could be with my entire family. A strong family bond is important, especially when you’re going through a tough time. When my dad left, it was my family that gave us a place to live. It was my family that helped my brothers and me heal. It was my family that never made me feel like I was from a broken home. And, these were the traditions that reminded me of this.

Impact of This Service on the Community and Me (as described by Odalys Vega):

This project meant that families can be reminded that they’re not alone. Thanksgiving is a day when families in need can be a family . . . a day when we can be grateful for each other. 

Donations (Distribution of $300, as determined by the Odalys Vega):

  • Leaders in Training Program—$150
  • East Career and Technical Academy—$150

What’s Next?

Roy C. Thompson, Assistant Principal, East Career and Technical Academy, attended this awards event. When accepting the donation check for ECTA, he looked at Odalys and said, “I see you every day at school. Now, going forward, I know who I can count on for leadership at our school.”

award-social-inequality-pLeaders in Training Program

Category: Public Safety and Justice

 “Social Inequality”

Awards Event: January 20, 2018

Small Team:

  • Veronica Rico, Team Leader
  • Ytxzae Enriquez, Team Member
  • April Sambrano, Team Member
  • Erica Mosca, Faculty Champion
  • Daniel Leyva, Faculty Champion


Project Description (as described by the Team):

We chose the community of East Las Vegas for our project, because it is the community that we belong to, and it is the one that affects us and our loved ones immediately. We created a survey, “What Are You Mad About?,” to learn how our community feels. We created a video that shows our community that their opinions were going to be heard by others, including political figures, so that they know that they matter to the people in Las Vegas.  The point of our project was to get the voice of the people in our community and to show that we aren’t ignorant of what is going on with the education of students here. We just don’t know what we can do. My team and I wanted to help these voices be heard by those in charge of our education. We talked to teachers, parents, hair stylists, flea market workers, and anyone else who had an opinion on this, might be concerned about their own children, and might want to support us in this effort.

Inspiration for This Project (as described by Veronica Rico, Team Leader):

I grew up thinking that I was decent in school, where it had a 30-to-one ratio. Then, I moved across town to another school, where I wasn’t being challenged enough. Soon enough, it caught up with me, and I have struggled more in high school. Now, at the most critical year of my educational career, I find that I’m being cut short once again. This cannot continue to happen.

We (our team) realized that we are being held to the same standards as other people around the country, yet we do not have the same opportunities that they have. It has been said, over and over, that the ACT is a make-or-break for us, but we take the test at such an ignorant age when we take time for granted. Fellow Leaders in Training students talked about having their own ACT class integrated during the day. I thought about my discussion with a counselor at my school about not wanting to take forensic science and how I’d rather have an ACT class instead. She responded that no one had the time or money for that. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought this could be changed.

We are not vapid, vacuous, or doltish! We—I—belong to a group of misled people, who all live in the same city, and we share the same zip codes, and we know the culprit. It’s called inequality. . . . We do have the capability of being anything but dull-witted!

Impact of This Service on the Community and the Team (as described by the Team):

We faced challenges when dealing with people and actually asking them if they would take our survey. Most people would just wave us away as if we were selling them some type of product when all we wanted was their truths! However, we did get to meet new people in our community and see how they felt. Some of them were very proud of us and glad that we were handling this project. We gave our community a voice, which will be spread so that something can be done.

Donations (Distribution of $500, as determined by the Team):

  • Teach for America—$150
  • United Way of Southern Nevada—$150
  • Daniel Goldfarb Elementary School—$200

What’s Next?

The team has experienced great inspiration from the power of this civic-engagement project and plans to share the results of the team’s survey with key Clark County decision-makers, including the CCSD Board of Trustees.

fullsizerenderLas Vegas Academy

Category: Human Kindness

“Una Nueva Vida”

Awards Event: January 29, 2018


Small Team:

  • Monse Rodriguez, Team Leader
  • Adam Chapel, Team Member
  • Gabriel Estevez-Llanes, Team Member
  • Alejandra Sandoval-Rubio, Team Member
  • Isis Vargas, Team Member
  • Regina Zavala, Team Member
  • Stacy Miller, Faculty Champion


Project Description (as described by the Team):

Our team decided to serve the immigrant community, because it is something that we all have a personal connection to. In order to celebrate Hispanic heritage, we decided to make and sell elotes and Mexican styled pinwheels at the Las Vegas Academy’s Fall Festival on November 3, 2017.

Inspiration for This Project (as described by Veronica Rico, Team Leader):

We were inspired by the project manager’s father. After waiting 31 years, this year, with the help of Hermandad Mexicana, he has been able to financially achieve naturalization. It is a known problem here in the United States that immigrants simply do not immediately look for naturalization because of the cost and time. By providing support, we hope to help the immigrant community here in Las Vegas, Nevada.

We faced challenges with where our money should go. We kept switching out ideas and simply could not settle on one. It wasn’t until we all looked into our personal experiences that we found where our earned money should go.

Impact of This Service on the Community and the Team (as described by the Team):

This experience opened all of our eyes to the need in the immigrant community. We all realized how difficult it is for immigrants to come into our country and become citizens. We gained more knowledge from it, and we’re now advocating for the immigrants in our community. With the $190 we raised with our project, we have helped immigrants be able to take classes for free so that they, too, can become citizens.

Donations (Distribution of $500, as determined by the Team):

  • Nevada Partners—$250
  • Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada—$250

What’s Next?

During the Gratitude Awards Event at Las Vegas Academy, Monica Ford, President, Nevada Partners, shared with the students that Nevada Partners provides these otherwise-fee-based classes for immigrants for free. She encouraged these students and their schoolmates to work within their community to spread the word about these free classes.


PublicServiceNV “Certificate of Contribution”

PublicServiceNV also honored Las Vegas High School students, who submitted team projects that demonstrated the power of civic engagement. Each of these students, though they did not earn a Gratitude Award, did receive a PublicServiceNV “Certificate of Contribution” during a presentation event at Las Vegas High School on December 15, 2017.

Category: Health and Wellness


  • Samantha Davila, Team Leader
  • Adelina Flores, Team Member
  • Lisa Peltz, Faculty Champion
  • Category: Human Kindness

HeartWarming Experience

  • Giselle Gradilla, Team Leader
  • Jennifer Mendoza, Team Member
  • Jennifer Mora, Team Member
  • Jasmin Navarrete, Team Member
  • Lisa Peltz, Faculty Champion

Category: Human Kindness

Latino Citizenship Fundraiser

  • Sarah Gutierrez, Team Leader
  • Karen Balderas, Team Member
  • Abel Jara-Magallanes, Team Member
  • Ricardo Juarez, Team Member
  • Axel Rodriguez, Team Member
  • Leslie Soriano, Team Member
  • Lisa Peltz, Faculty Champion

Going Forward . . .

If you can identify a Faculty Champion or a CCSD middle school or high school that might be interested in participating in PublicServiceNV’s Community Engagement Programs, please contact or call us at 702-221-0068. The 2018-2019 Gratitude Awards Registration-Submission period runs from August 13 to December 9, 2018. During this period, we will also be working with Faculty Champions and the Serve.Learn.Inspire. Civic Engagement Education Program in their classrooms. We look forward to hearing from you.