Gratitude Awards Digest



 Gratitude Awards and Serve.Learn.Inspire. Programs

Young people are faced with countless challenges, which often seem insurmountable. This has been particularly evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, even during the most challenging times, our youth also have incalculable opportunities to impact their neighborhoods, schools, and communities in powerful and positive ways. Since 2016-2017, PublicServiceNV (PSNV) has engaged, educated, and recognized Nevada youth, who create their own projects to address community needs. Through its Gratitude Awards Program, PSNV honors these youth for their civic engagement. The Gratitude Awards Digest memorializes these achievements for all time.

PSNV Board members have worked with nearly 4,000 Nevada students. Class by class, we have interacted with these eager learners through the Serve.Learn.Inspire. Civic Engagement Education Program (SLI). This program provides a new civic engagement model through a 10-lesson curriculum that includes lessons, self-reflections, team activities, and supplemental materials.

The Year of Covid-19 Pandemic: Challenges and Opportunities

The 2020-2021 school year was filled with extremes for students. Remote learning, separation from activities and friends, disengagement from life itself, and more. This was a year of countless challenges and great opportunities.

In April 2020, the PSNV Board voted to take a gap year with the Gratitude Awards Program due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When discussing the SLI Program, Senator Valerie Wiener (Ret.), PSNV Founder and President, asked the Board to delay its decision until the July Board meeting. At that time, they could consider a possible alternative for in-classroom instruction. In July, the PSNV Board voted to offer a virtual alternative to our traditional classroom visits.

At this same time, teachers were spinning with all of the unknowns ahead. These ranged from learning unfamiliar technology to teaching classes of students they had never met to engaging these students through often-blocked screens. With all of this and more, PSNV Board members crossed their fingers that one or two of our Faculty Champions would say “yes” to our alternative. In addition to providing the continuity of civic engagement education, we realized that this virtual engagement would also allow us to explore the possibilities of expanding our connections beyond in-person classroom visits. To our amazement and joy, we eventually worked with 13 Faculty Champions in seven schools and/or programs.

PSNV Salutes our 2020-2021 Faculty Champions, Their Schools, and/or Programs:

  • Nitza Brand-Reprezo, CIS Academy, Eldorado High School
  • Linda Harris, CIS Academy Coordinator, Eldorado High School
  • Abbi Johnson, CIS Academy, Western High School
  • Stacy Miller, Instructor, Las Vegas Academy
  • Erica Mosca, Founder and Executive Director, Leaders in Training
  • Sharida Newton, CIS Academy, Chaparral High School
  • Matthew Nighswonger, Instructor, Shadow Ridge High School
  • Treasha Parker, CIS Academy Director
  • Nayda Peace, CIS Academy Coordinator, Chaparral High School
  • Cynthia Romero, Instructor, Leaders in Training
  • Ashlee Rowerdink, CIS Academy Coordinator, Western High School
  • Kasey Strube, CIS Academy Coordinator, Chaparral High School
  • Luanne Wagner, Instructor, Ed W. Clark High 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

The Year of Exemplary Engagement

From September 17 to October 23, 2020, Senator Wiener visited 18 classes (531 enrolled students) via “live” virtual visits to acknowledge them and what they are experiencing during the pandemic. She also invited them to fully participate in the three “recorded” virtual, highly interactive SLI sessions (which she sent to the Faculty Champions). She also strongly encouraged these students to create “virtual service projects” to address a need identified by a community they have chosen to serve. PSNV stressed the need for virtual projects to ensure student and community safety.

Senator Wiener shared that she would return virtually “live” in 2021 to recognize students for their projects. Due to the challenges of the pandemic, it was important to provide opportunities for these students to feel connected. And relevant. EmPowerment at its best.

During one class visit, a student thanked Senator Wiener for visiting his class and expressed how sorry he was that their time together could not be in person. He added, “Thank you for inspiring us” and, after a long pause, he added, “Thank you for believing in us.” Like never before, PublicServiceNV continues to appreciate the power of youth and the value of believing in them. Now is the time, more than ever, to remember this message.

(Because of Covid-19, students were limited in the actual execution of their projects. However, PSNV determined that it was very important to acknowledge students for their efforts. Therefore, this year, PSNV recognized individuals for their project plans.) 

With great joy, between March 3 and March 11, 2021, Senator Wiener returned to Ed W. Clark High School, Las Vegas Academy, and Leaders in Training to recognize 57 students for the exemplary project plans they created to address a community need. These students crafted plans for 21 projects.

Fourteen students (six projects) were recognized with the PublicServiceNV “Letter of Participation” for applying what they learned in the interactive virtual SLI classes and worked, as individuals or teams, to create preliminary plans to address essential needs in the communities that they had selected to serve. Forty-three students (15 projects) created plans and detailed, ready-to-implement steps to facilitate these plans. These students were recognized with the PublicServiceNV “Certificate of Contribution.”

In addition to being recognized during virtual events and in this Digest, which is distributed to education leaders throughout Clark County, Nevada, these students will also be honored on

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Serve.Learn.Inspire. Civic Engagement Education Program

2021 Virtual Recognition Events 

Ed W. Clark High School

Faculty Champion: Luanne Wagner

Virtual Recognition Events (2): March 3, 2021

“Certificate of Contribution”

* Project: Animal Welfare Project                  Team Members: Maricruz Sanchez Mejia, Marlia Navajo, Moises Talavera, Litzy Vasquez

“During this pandemic, we have become more stressed, based on the events happening in the world. Animals can help us cope with our stress and anxiety. Adopting animals from shelters is a great way to start.”

* Project: World Kindness                              Team Members: Abel Bruk, Lamar Jackson, Laura Cortez Pueblas

“We expect this project to spread human kindness, because it is something that we need, no matter where we live. First or third world country, it’s important to be kind to others.”

“Letter of Participation”

* Project: Animal Welfare Project                  Team Members: Catherine Ascencio, Joceyn Loredo, Raquel Navarrete, Noah Roehl

“Many strays live on the streets. Many people are giving up their animals, because they can’t afford important items—food, medicine, and surgeries—with the pandemic. We need to provide better care for animals.”

* Project: Equality Project                             Team Members: Christofer Hernandez, Ashley Martinez, Emily Monroy, Maria Puentes

“People need to treat everyone with equal kindness, because it doesn’t matter what their race, religion, or sexuality is. At the end of the day, we are all human beings.”

* Project: Gender Equality                             Team Members: Jonathan Capistrano,  Samantha Lepore, Christine Reyes

“It’s important to take a stand and give a voice to those who cannot speak. We’re willing to do what’s needed to reach out and help those who can’t help themselves and to do what’s needed to stop discrimination.”

* Project: Health and Wellness                      Individual: Alin Leyva

“Watching others suffer during the pandemic, it’s essential to help those in need, especially those who don’t have access to health and wellness products and services.”

* Project: Homeless Project                           Team Members: Maynor Rodriguez-Andrade, Christian Gutierrez, Arvin Thomas N. Quion

“We see everywhere around us people begging for money and food. The ones that say “God Bless You” . . . are kind in their hearts. Even young homeless say it as well. Everyone should live their dreams of having a purpose in this not-so-perfect world.”

* Project: Justice and Equity                          Team Members: Iva Asoau, Joselyn Cedillo, Ziwei Li, Anthony Pretell Rivas, Adalai Zambrano, Christopher Zapata

“Through schoolwide murals, we can showcase our school’s diversity and inclusion. We can show support for everyone, no matter what race they are.”

Las Vegas Academy

Faculty Champion: Stacy Miller

Virtual Recognition Event: March 10, 2021

“Certificate of Contribution”

* Project: Shade Tree Joy Project                  Team Members: Elizabeth Parker, Camilla Urquiza

“The pandemic has disrupted many lives without any consideration of who they are or what they might be going through. Shade Tree residents need a welcome break. They need ways to experience joy during the pandemic and other personal circumstances they’ve escaped.”

* Project:  Somos Amigos Tutoring                Team Members: Ann Goebel, Alondra Chavez-Lopez, Chase Pickford

“We feel overjoyed to have an impact on a community around us—bilingual Hispanic students, who are struggling with English language proficiency. Being able to positively affect lives outside of our own is the beauty of being kind.”

* Project: Mariachi Mural Renovation           Team Members: Rose Jiang, Jennifer Yeh

“In an effort to recreate a previous historic mural at LVA, we can display an improved piece of artwork. This art would showcase and represent the acclaimed Mariachi Major and their profound legacy.”

* Project: Musically Yours                              Individual: Madelyn Hassenzahl

“Not enough resources are provided for disabled and slower-learning people to express themselves. By helping just one facility with ukuleles, others might understand the power of music as a coping mechanism and a new skill for the people they serve. This would allow them to share their music and love of it . . . forever.”

* Project: Virtual Family Bingo                      Team Members: Kendra Bermudez, Sylvia Mendiola Garcia, Ashley Gyllensten, Fanci Emma Wiggins

“Covid 19 has required many elderly community homes to lock down and separate residents from family members. Virtual family bingo will push back the boundary and allow families to reunite by allowing them to virtually spend more time together.” 

* Project: Young Inventors Project                 Team Members: Raine Brickan, Julia Eshete, Emma Newton, Chloe Varatto

“During the pandemic (and beyond), it’s very important for people, who have the skill and motivation to do something great, to have the option to go forward with that something. This project, focusing on young inventors in Ethiopia, will give them opportunities to change their own lives and the world.”

Leaders in Training

Faculty Champions: Erica Mosca, Cynthia Romero

Virtual Recognition Event: March 11, 2021

“Certificate of Contribution”

* Project: Animal Welfare and Youth Support Project      

Team Members: Nethelie Ruby Cajeras, Devan Smith

“This isn’t about looking good on a college application or about financial rewards. This is about serving those in our community who need it most. Helping both youth and homeless animals is not something to do just once; it will happen again and again in the future.”

* Project: Eye Care for Kids 3-School Project          Individual: Nicole Valenzuela

“It was such a privilege to work with a community partner to find a way to provide needy kids with eye exams and free glasses. What a special moment to be there when they’re able to see clearly (for some, it’s the first time).”

* Project: Homeless Children                                   Individual: Carlos Hernandez

“With the rise of homelessness in Nevada, due to current circumstances in the world, it’s important to give back. Having received donated shoes as a child, it’s exciting for me to know that I can share my gratitude—and experience theirs—as I provide for others in need.”

* Project: Hospital Care Packages                           Team Members: Rickayla Davis, Jocelyn Lopez

“During a global pandemic, it’s important to find ways to help families in need. It feels really good when this involves providing food and other home goods to families who are struggling to pay their hospital bills.”

* Project: Student Tutoring Project                         Team Members: Martin Bueno-Garay, Edlyn Limon, Rayven Limon

“To help students achieve and succeed, they need to become aware. This involves developing the necessary insights to understanding and appreciating the importance and value of education in their lives.”

* Project: Youth Foster Care Packages                    Team Members: Laura Hernandez, Mikayla Octaviano

“The foster care system under-invests in children and provides only half of what it costs an average family to raise a child. Though the pandemic created additional challenges to addressing this need, it’s essential to remember these children.”

* Project: Youth Foster Companion Project             Team Members: Jaelynn Ciballos, Katerine Galindo

“We want to spread and share love to foster kids, because they’ve been through so much. We want these children to know that we’re listening and want to help them. We want to be the people they can count on for compassion.”

Going Forward:

YOU Can Help Build a Stronger Community . . .

One Child at a Time


If you can identify a Faculty Champion or a 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 their communities.” Let’s work together to “engage, educate, and recognize” our community’s youth . . . NOW. We look forward to hearing from you.