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. PublicServiceNV (PSNV) was eager to engage, educate, and recognize Nevada youth, who create their own projects to meet community needs. Therefore, PSNV created the Gratitude Awards Program, which was inaugurated in four Clark County School District (CCSD) high schools during the 2016-2017 school year.

Since then, PSNV Board members have interacted with more than 3,400 CCSD students, along with nearly 50 students at West Wendover High School in northern Nevada, about their own empowerment opportunities. We engaged students through the Serve.Learn.Inspire. Civic Engagement Education Program, which provides a new civic engagement model through a 10-lesson curriculum that includes lessons, self-reflections, team activities, and supplemental materials.

It takes dedicated teachers to make all of this work, and PSNV “Faculty Champions” are these education and engagement heroes. They invite PSNV Board members into their classroom to teach Serve.Learn.Inspire., and they work with their students to encourage them to convert the “learning” into “doing” by participating in the Gratitude Awards Program.

PSNV Salutes our 2019-2020 Faculty Champions, their Schools, and/or Programs:

RETURNING Faculty Champions (Two or More Years):

  • Jeff Field, C.P. Squires Elementary School
  • Roberto Lopez, Jr., CIS Academy, Sunrise Mountain High School
  • Stacy Miller, Las Vegas Academy
  • Erica Mosca, Leaders in Training
  • Matthew Nighswonger, Shadow Ridge High School
  • Julie Roos, Canyon Springs High School
  • Shoichi Sato, CIS Academy, Western High School
  • Sukari Smith, CIS Academy, Western High School
  • Luanne Wagner, Ed W. Clark High School

NEW Faculty Champions Joining the PSNV Team:

  • Genesis Barajas, CIS Academy Coordinator, Sunrise Mountain High School
  • Nicolle Capetillo, Las Vegas High School
  • Brandon Carmon, CIS Academy Coordinator, Western High School
  • Clarence Dortch, D.D. Keller Middle School
  • Kathy Durham, West Wendover High School
  • Dr. Brian Dunkelberger, Las Vegas High School
  • Eliana Martinez Luna, CIS Academy Coordinator, Chaparral High School
  • Darci Miller, C.P. Squires Elementary School
  • Ana Munoz, C.P. Squires Elementary School
  • Nayda Peace, CIS Academy, Chaparral High School
  • Lisette Perez, West Wendover High School
  • Nicole Pulliam, CIS Academy Coordinator, Sunrise Mountain High School
  • Ashlee Rowerdink, CIS Academy Coordinator, Western High School
  • Elizabeth Smith, CIS Academy, Sunrise Mountain High School
  • Kasey Strube, CIS Academy Coordinator, Chaparral High School
  • Denise Vasconcellos, C.P. Squires Elementary School

In addition, PSNV would like to thank our Community Partners for their constant support:

  • Communities in Schools
  • Leaders in Training
  • Nevada Collaboratory
  • Public Education Foundation
  • Teach for America

2019-2020 Successes

From August 19 to September 12, 2019, PSNV Board members visited 29 classes (876 students) to engage them in Serve.Learn.Inspire. In February, 2020, PSNV recognized four teams (46 students) with Gratitude Awards and three teams (12 students) with PublicServiceNV “Certificates of Contribution.” As part of the Gratitude Awards Program, PSNV donated money, as directed by Gratitude Awards recipients, to:

  • Baby’s Bounty
  • C.P. Squires Elementary School
  • Ed W. Clark High School
  • Las Vegas Academy
  • Las Vegas Rescue Mission

Each year, Gratitude Awards recipients benefit from being:

  • Recognized with certificates during a PSNV awards ceremony at their schools.
  • Acknowledged on for their vital contributions to their communities.
  • Rewarded financially by directing PSNV donations, in their names, to area nonprofits and/or schools.
  • Honored in the Gratitude Awards Digest, which is annually uploaded to org and hand-delivered to CCSD and other education decision-makers district-wide. However, during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, PSNV is circulating the Digest through mail and electronic distribution only. Let us now take a moment to appreciate these magnificent students and their contributions.


Gratitude Awards Program

2020 Award Recipients

Category: Education

Bus Transportation Savers

Awards Event: February 4, 2020

Small Team:

Team Leader: Zachary Fried

Team Members: Kameron Salek, Samuel Morgan

Faculty Champion: Stacy Miller, Las Vegas Academy

Project Description (as described by the team)

A partnership between the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada, the Clark County School District (CCSD), and Las Vegas Academy (LVA). It will allow the RTC to transport students to and from school grounds to any RTC stops. The current CCSD app would be updated so parents and guardians can use the new features on RTC buses and CCSD yellow buses like the 2020 GPS standard. Our project would save hundreds of thousands of dollars that can be used for education. It would create a smooth and reliable system of transportation for LVA students and parents, which can then be applied to other CCSD magnet schools. It also prepares high school students for an important life skill in any metropolitan city.

Inspiration for this Project (as described by the team leader, Zachary Fried)

About 130,000 students use the yellow school bus system to get to and from more than 300 CCSD schools. 17,000 students require curb-to-curb service. The average CCSD bus driver travels 41 miles a day on a normal route. Amazingly, the department’s on-time performance rate is 89 percent. Yet, parents are often upset, chastising CCSD for its lateness. Our team created Bus Transportation Savers (BTS) to promote enhanced communication capacity, stability, and interconnectedness across the valley for LVA magnet students. RTC is designed to handle our community’s unique urban planning and increasing road congestion. RTC runs its buses every 15-20 minutes, which would eliminate issues with open periods, missed buses, and after-school activities. Also, CCSD buses only drop students at one designated “assigned” stop.

Impact of this Service on the Community and the Team (as described by the team)

After meeting with LVA Principal, Scott Walker, and CCSD Transportation Director, Shannon Evans, we learned that almost all CCSD schools struggle to transport their students in a timely and safe manner, which also directly affects school facilities and teachers. Because school transportation is essential, we need to help families, who cannot transport their children to their schools. BTS has received exciting feedback from families and the LVA faculty. We offer this transportation plan as an additional and needed option for student transportation.

What’s Next?

CCSD officials and LVA Administrators will continue discussions about project implementation.

Donations (distribution of $500, as determined by the team)

  • Las Vegas Academy

Category: Health and Wellness

Clark Wellness Center

Awards Event: February 13, 2020

Small Team:

Team Leader: Yoselin Esparza

Team Members: Katlyn Engberg, Alondra Lera

Faculty Champion: Luanne Wagner Ed W. Clark High School

Project Description (as described by the team)

A wellness room on the Ed W. Clark High School campus. In this room, students can relax and feel safe when they are not able to be and do their best in the classroom due to a mental health breakdown. Students can benefit from a place where they can walk in and calm down whenever they need a moment to themselves.

Inspiration for this Project (as described by the team leader, Yoselin Esparza)

3.2 million adolescents in the U.S. suffer from depression. Many students at Clark High School have a form of mental illness, whether it’s anxiety or a personality disorder or depression . . . it’s there. I have witnessed many of my peers have panic attacks over schoolwork or unrelated activities. Although we do have teachers and counselors, they are usually flooded with work that makes students feel like nuisances when asking for help.

Impact of this Service on the Community and the Team (as described by the team)

This room will certainly reduce stress for students. However, we also wanted to reduce the teachers’ stress by giving them a better option about where students should be sent whenever they share their feelings. We want everyone to benefit from this special room, which can reduce stress and improve academic performance. We don’t want our friends, who often inspire us, to suffer alone when we are gone. It’s hard to be lonely. We hope this room brings some awareness about mental health and that it’s okay to ask for help.

What’s Next?

Wayne Tanaka, former principal of Ed W. Clark High School, attended the Gratitude Awards event and announced that he has acquired the volunteer services of a construction worker, who will build this room for students at Clark High School. Also, Mr. Tanaka added, “The need is so significant that the room will be even bigger than requested!”

Donations (distribution of $500, as determined by the team)

  • Ed W. Clark High School

Category: Human Kindness

Home is Where the Art Is

Awards Event: February 4, 2020

Small Team:

Team Leader: Airius Fa’afiu

Team Members: Kate Vannoy, Juan Rubio, Saein Yim, Adriana Orchard

Faculty Champion: Stacy Miller, Las Vegas Academy

Project Description (as described by the team)

An art program for the downtown Las Vegas homeless community. Our team went to the Las Vegas Rescue Mission on Tuesdays, between November 26, 2019, and January 5, 2020. We brought art supplies and taught art classes to about 20 of the clients at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. On January 11, 2020, we hosted the Home is Where the Art Is Charity Gallery, where we showcased the collaborative artworks and held a silent auction at Priscilla Fowler Fine Art Gallery.

Inspiration for this Project (as described by team leader, Airius Fa’Afiu)

I was inspired to do this project during the summer a couple of years ago. That’s when I met a homeless woman, named Danielle, whom I passed every day on my way to work. When I decided to visit her during my lunch breaks, we bonded over being artists. She showed me her loose sketches of fashion ideas done on scraps of paper, which she had retrieved from garbage cans. Her art was collaged so beautifully. Now, with the Gratitude Awards Program, I had the chance to do something with this inspiration. Home is Where the Art Is was created to give artists, like Danielle, the resources and outlet for creativity, no matter their technical skill or prior knowledge.

Impact of this Service on the Community and the Team (as described by the team)

We collected at least 11 oversized plastic bags worth of clothing and food, as well as raising more than $1,000 for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. Many of the works of art, which were purchased at the silent auction, were donated back to the Las Vegas Rescue Mission for all of the clients to enjoy and appreciate. In a society that can be self-centered, we hope that we have influenced or inspired others to act altruistically.

During the Gratitude Awards event at LVA, the Las Vegas Rescue Mission shared the following letter from one of its clients, dated January 30, 2020:

“I am very happy that I was a part of the Home is Where the Art Is project. Never in a million years did I ever think that I would paint artwork, let alone be able to display it in a gallery in a silent auction for sale. This was an experience of a lifetime for me. It was very rewarding as well as therapeutic to my recovery. I strongly believe now that art and painting are very important pieces of the treatment puzzle and should be a part of the recovery process for everyone. The peace I got from doing this every week was so rewarding and has helped me to become more grounded in my spirit. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this.”

What’s Next?

One team member was so inspired by this project that he continued to return to the Las Vegas Rescue Mission weekly to play the piano for hundreds of clients during dinner. Also, LVA Principal, Scott Walker, spoke during the Gratitude Awards event and shared his interest and inspiration, going forward, to “make this bigger so that LVA students, schoolwide, can contribute their artistic talents to benefit the Las Vegas Rescue Mission.”

Donations (distribution of $500, as determined by the team)

  • Las Vegas Rescue Mission

Category: Human Kindness

Baby’s Bounty

Awards Event: February 26, 2020

Large Team:

Team Co-Leaders: Ximena Perez, Mya Vargas

Team Members: Eisley Barber, Clarhisse Mae Castillo, Monzerrat Chavez, Jhoana Cruz Corona, Perla Cruz Corona, Alyssa Escobar, Amanda Espana, Alyssa Esquer, Pricila Gallegos Franco, Yaquilin Brito Franco, Arturo Gonzalez, Miguel Gonzalez, Adilene Guillermo Huerta, Elizabeth Johnson, Annalysse Jones, Amberly Montelongo, Vaniety Moraga, Makayla Mota, Alondra Gomez Nava, Monzerrat Gomez Nava, Aaron Ortiz, Alieni Perez, Mauriah Preston, Briseyda Rodriguez, Valeria Romero, Jazmyne Camero Saenz, Elizabeth Martinez Sanchez, Natalaie Sanchez, Colin Suciu, Angelee Vaca, Kimberly Vaca, Janelle Valdovinos, Melaynie Zarceno

Faculty Champions: Jeff Field, Darci Miller, Ana Munoz, Denise Vasconcellos, Squires Community Partners/C.P. Squires Elementary School

Project Description (as described by the team)

A supply drive for Baby’s Bounty. We sponsored and managed a food, clothing, and supplies drive for Baby’s Bounty, which provides needed resources for babies, up to six months old, in at-risk families.

Inspiration for this Project (as described by team co-leaders, Ximena Perez and Mya Vargas)

We got in touch with Baby’s Bounty and learned how they sometimes run low on supplies. We wanted to help parents in need, especially those with babies up to six months old. This is when we knew it would be a great organization for us to help.

Impact of this Service on the Community and the Team (as described by Ximena Perez, Mya Vargas, and Briseyda Rodriguez)

After we were done with our project, it felt great knowing that we had just helped this organization, and everything we collected was going to families in need. We definitely felt like we had accomplished something really big by donating 36 baby bundles and 34 toiletry bundles, along with blankets/covers, playmats, and more! Others can’t imagine how hard it is to take care of a baby or even a newborn. It is great to honor Baby’s Bounty and help parents, who have been through tough times. We were able to help at-risk families when parents can’t afford these things for their child to have a healthy life. The people who received these donations were very sympathetic and grateful. Working on this project brought us closer together as a team. We were able to succeed at making parents’ and families’ lives so much easier now that they have the supplies that they need.

What’s Next?

During the Gratitude Awards event, Baby’s Bounty shared that the value of the donations from Squires Community Partners totaled more than $6,600, including hundreds of articles of clothing and accessories, more than 500 toiletry items, 1,500 diapering items, hundreds of diapers, along with playmats, blankets, toiletries, and more. This is the largest donation made by any elementary school to Baby’s Bounty during its 12-year history. According to Faculty Champion, Darci Miller, “These students are going above and beyond and are role models for their peers. It’s overwhelming and heartfelt to see all the good things they are doing in this school, community, and city. I know I can speak for the other advisers when I say that these students are doing amazing things, and this is just the beginning.”

Donations (distribution of $700, as determined by the team)

  • Baby’s Bounty ($350)
  • C.P. Squires Elementary School ($350)


PublicServiceNV “Certificate of Contribution”

Three teams (12 students) successfully submitted projects for consideration. Though they did not receive Gratitude Awards, PSNV recognized each team member with a PublicServiceNV “Certificate of Contribution” during presentation events at Shadow Ridge High School (February 21, 2020) and Leaders in Training (February 27, 2020).

Category: Human Kindness

Project: Canyon Springs Clean-Up

Small Team:

  • Team Leader: Matthew Parungao
  • Team Members: Destinee Banks, Ariana Hernandez, Rossie Miranda, Vivian Ortiz
  • Faculty Champion: Erica Mosca, Leaders in Training

Category: Human Kindness

Project: Feeding the Homeless

Small Team:

  • Team Leader: Jazmyn Strong
  • Team Members: Saniyah Hoodye, Ember LaBrocca, Kayla Ordway
  • Faculty Champion: Matthew Nighswonger, Shadow Ridge High School

Category: Human Kindness

Project: School Trash Pick-Up

Small Team Recipients:

  • Team Leader: Cayson Houston
  • Team Members: William Joseph, Shawn Robinett
  • Faculty Champion: Matthew Nighswonger, Shadow Ridge High School


Following the Submission deadline in December 2019, Senator Wiener received an email from a high school student that, in part, explained:

“I . . . failed to submit my project to the Gratitude Awards before the deadline. However, I just wanted to send a video of the work that I had done in honor of the public service project. I wanted to show the amount of impact your visit had on my life and those who will be receiving these donations. The encouragement I received during your visit aided me into pursuing this donation drive for children in need. I am fortunate enough to say that it was successful. Thank you for . . . helping me believe that I was capable of doing this and successfully completing the donation drive within my school.”

Senator Wiener acknowledged her significant school-wide drive to collect clothing and other items for children being served by the Department of Family Services. She added:

“I am so sorry that you were unable to submit your project. However, even more  so, I am gratified that you understand the true meaning and power behind philanthropy—time, talent, and treasure. This meaning and power are anchored in the giving . . . not the recognition. You have been gifted with something that will enrich your life, now and beyond. What is the gift? . . . Your understanding of              service and your own experience of gratitude.”

Going Forward:

YOU Can Help Build a Stronger Community . . .

One Child at a Time

If you can identify a Faculty Champion or a CCSD school or community program that might be interested in participating in PublicServiceNV’s Community Engagement Programs (the Serve.Learn.Inspire. Civic Engagement Education Program and the Gratitude Awards Program), please contact:


Telephone: 702-221-0068 (office)

PublicServiceNV’s mission invites this opportunity to “engage, educate, and recognize individuals whose service enriches Nevada communities.” Let’s work together to “engage, educate, and recognize” our community’s youth . . . NOW. We look forward to hearing from you.