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 more than 4,000 Nevada students. Class by class, we have interacted with these eager learners through the Serve.Learn.Inspire. Classroom Engagement Program (SLI). This program provides a new civic engagement model through a 10-step classroom activity that embraces the principles of philanthropy: time, talent, and treasure.

The COVID-19 Pandemic: Challenges and Opportunities

The 2021-2022 school year continued to provide learning and engagement challenges for youth. Students returned to the classroom, many of them with expectations that the effects of the 2020-2021 remote learning year would disappear. Certainly, students, as well as teachers and other school personnel, experienced unexpected challenges. However, it was also a time when many learned how to grow 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. For the 2021-2022 school year, PSNV reinstated the Gratitude Awards Program, utilizing the remote model of engagement that was first utilized in 2020-2021.

As we learned in 2020-2021, the “live” virtual visit to each classroom, complemented by the three recorded civic engagement sessions, allowed us to explore the possibilities of expanding our connections beyond in-person classroom visits. In 2021-2022, we were thrilled to work with 18 Faculty Champions in 10 schools and/or programs.

PSNV Salutes our 2021-2022 Faculty Champions, Their Schools, and/or Programs

  • Genesis Barajas, CIS Academy Site Coordinator, Sunrise Mt. High School
  • Danita Britt, Instructor, Aldeane Comito Ries Elementary School
  • Cade Buer, Instructor, Shadow Ridge High School
  • Jeneya Butler, CIS Academy Site Coordinator, Valley High School
  • Marvin Campos, CIS Academy Site Coordinator, Chaparral High School
  • Ruby Cornona, CIS Academy Site Coordinator, Eldorado High School
  • Carmenita Gay, CIS Academy Site Coordinator, Western High School
  • Anthony Jacobs, CIS Academy Instructor, Western High School
  • Darby Mims, CIS Academy Instructor, Valley High School
  • Erica Mosca, Founder and Executive Director, Leaders in Training
  • Matthew Nighswonger, Instructor, Shadow Ridge High School
  • Treasha Parker, CIS Academy Director
  • Nitza Brand-Reprezo, CIS Academy Instructor, Eldorado High School
  • Steve Romero, Instructor, Leaders in Training
  • Alex Ruiz, CIS Academy Instructor, Chaparral High School
  • Elizabeth Smith, CIS Academy Instructor, Sunrise Mt. High School
  • Paige Smith, Instructor, Shadow Ridge 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 August 24 to September 22, 2021, Senator Wiener visited 24 classes (653 enrolled students) via “live” virtual visits to acknowledge them and how they have grown through the pandemic experience. 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 step into community service to create projects to address a need identified by a community they have chosen to serve.

Senator Wiener shared that she would return virtually “live” in early 2022 to recognize students for their projects. Due to the challenges of the pandemic and the adjustment to transitioning back into their communities, it was important to provide opportunities for these students to feel connected. And relevant. EmPowerment at its best.

With great joy, between February 22 and March 11, 2022, Senator Wiener returned to Ed W. Clark High School, Leaders in Training, Shadow Ridge High School, and Western High School to recognize 20 students for the exemplary projects that they created to address an identified community need. Two projects (13 students) were honored with Gratitude Awards; two projects (seven students) were recognized with “Certificates 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


Serve.Learn.Inspire. Classroom Engagement Program

2022 Virtual/Live Recognition Events

Gratitude Awards


Category: Health and Wellness

A Better Tomorrow

Ed W. Clark High School

Awards Event: March 10, 2022

Small Team Recipients:

Team Leader: Luz Meily Pereida Martinez

Team Members: Stacie Avalos and Emily Corona

Faculty Champion: Luanne Wagner

Project Description (as described by the team)

Our project helped anyone, who struggles with obtaining menstruation products and provided alternatives and resources to prevent any hygiene issues. The goal was to get others involved in helping with the process of educating and raising more conversations around the lack of access to products and the hygiene issues that can occur when these needs are not addressed. We created alternative sources for students, who are not comfortable with certain products and would prefer an environmentally friendly product. We are also aware it is a bit more difficult to come across inexpensive products. We worked, as small groups, to educate younger girls, whose parents were not able to talk with them about this topic. In addition to our team, many of our classmates helped with the process of assembling supply kits, creating activities, delivering presentations, and providing forms.

Inspiration for this Project (as described by the team leader, Luz Meily Pereida Martinez)

We wanted to address issues surrounding menstrual cycles. Despite the fact that this is a public health issue, it is often overlooked. Because it is taboo and unspoken, many people face discrimination or disadvantage as a result of a lack of representation, products, or education.

We wanted to address this issue, because we do not want younger generations to have the mindset that prevents them from speaking freely when they need help. Our group also wanted to bring attention to the fact that products are never in reach for students in schools, from elementary to high schools. Many surveys indicate that students, who are on their periods, miss school. One in five American students were not able to attend school during their cycles. Whenever periods are discussed, we fail to mention transgender people, who are sometimes in need of these products. Once again, this creates another form of shame that surrounds the idea of having to ask for what is needed.

Periods become a normalized issue when the stigma associated with them is widely addressed.  Products should not be charged or sold as luxuries because they are necessities. Many people struggle to get the products needed, so they use other unsanitary methods, such as rags, cardboard, and paper towels. Products like these can lead to infections, irritation, and other health challenges. There is also a stigma surrounding periods . . . that they are unclean or something that should not be discussed.

The team created and distributed 70 menstruation hygiene kits to needy students, as well as led multiple presentations, distributed flyers, and facilitated various discussion sessions. “We want to move forward, as a community, with newfound opportunities. We want to continue to strive for A Better Tomorrow.”

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

This service experience affected our team and our community in positive ways. We not only educated others but also got a chance to help many people, who are affected by this issue directly. We also learned about inter-sexuality within certain communities due to their status of gender, sexuality, race, or class. Due to discrimination or disadvantage, we wanted to provide a platform for many people, who do not often speak about this topic because it is considered taboo. As a community, we grew and learned more from each other. One example of this is the “pink tax,” which was implemented in Nevada in 2019. This inspired people to talk aloud about products that are necessities, not luxuries. Therefore, they should not be charged or advertised in that way.

What’s Next?

The team chose to direct the entire $500 PSNV donation in the team’s name to Nevada NOW. During her donation acceptance remarks, Jeri Burton, co-executive director, Nevada NOW, eagerly invited the students to work collaboratively with Nevada NOW to determine how these funds should be directed. She stressed that the students’ passion and commitment should be included in the decision-making about the use of the money for period products.

Category: Human Kindness

Winter Clothes Drive

Western High School/Communities in Schools Academy

Awards Event: February 22, 2022

Small Team Recipients:

Team Leader: Kassandra Hernandez

Team Members: Evelyn Castillo, Taylor Cherry, Anh Huynh, Gerardo Cortez Lopez, Andrei Mallari, Marilyn Mcgee, Elijah Perez, Alexander Ogaldez Rubio, and Axel Herandez-Sanchez

Faculty Champions: Carmenita Gay and Anthony Jacobs

Project Description (as described by the team)

We created a clothing drive that invited students and staff to donate any lightly used or new clothes to Western High School students. After accepting donations for a certain period of time, we scheduled specific dates for students to come to our established area and choose any clothes they needed. We realized that this need was bigger than our school. So, we expanded our clothing distribution to include Project 150, which provides clothing and other resources to homeless youth in southern Nevada.

Inspiration for this Project (as described by the team leader, Kassandra Hernandez)

The lack of winter clothing was becoming obvious as it was getting colder. We initially chose to serve our own school, because we know it better than any other community. We have seen some of our peers struggle, and we wanted to help them and their families.

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

Our clothing drive affected our community by helping them know that others care about them.

This service experience also affected our team, because it showed how our working together could empower us to help others in worse situations than what we might be experiencing.

What’s Next?

The team decided to have PSNV donate $250 to Western High School and $250 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Nevada. Stacy Escalante, Director of Development, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Nevada, gifted all students in the class with a “granted wish”—a book written by one of the Make-A-Wish Foundation teenage recipients. Ms. Escalante also spent additional time with the entire class and invited them to take a personal tour of their foundation headquarters, particularly the “wishing tree.”

“Certificate of Contribution”


Two teams (seven students) successfully submitted projects for consideration. Though they did not receive Gratitude Awards, PSNV recognized each team member with a “Certificate of Contribution” during presentation events at Leaders in Training (March 10, 2022) and Shadow Ridge High School (March 11, 2022).

Category: Health and Wellness

Project: Help the World, One Meal at a Time

Small Team Recipients:

  • Team Leader: Kassandra Ruiz
  • Team Members: Mike Cholula, Michael Lara, Mirna Lopez, Denisse Martinez
  • Faculty Champions: Erica Mosca and Steve Romero, Leaders in Training

“We realized that we could help with a specific community need—feeding the hungry. No one should be concerned about getting a meal, and our effort at the Ronald McDonald House did make a difference . . . one meal at a time.”

Category: Health and Wellness

Project: Youth Collection for Homeless School Children

Small Team Recipients:

  • Team Leader: Mikaela Berg
  • Team Member: Arthur Anderson
  • Faculty Champion: Matthew Nighswonger, Shadow Ridge High School

“Our project helped raise awareness about homeless students and demonstrated how we have the power to help them.”

Going Forward:

YOU Can Help Build a Stronger Community . . .

One Child at a Time

Please help PSNV identify potential Faculty Champions and schools or programs . . . AND/OR Community Champions and/or community programs . . . that might be interested in collaborating with our non-profit and its distinctive civic engagement programs.

  • Serve.Learn.Inspire. Classroom Engagement Program. This highly interactive live and virtual multi-session instruction includes a 10-step civic engagement group activity that teaches philanthropy—time, talent, and treasure.
  • Gratitude Awards Program. This program engages and recognizes students, who choose to take what they learned in SLI Classroom Engagement Program and create and deliver high-level community service projects.
  • Serve.Learn.Inspire. Community Engagement Program. This comprehensive 10-lesson civic engagement curriculum provides high-level, interactive learning opportunities for student participants in local clubs, after-school programs, and community organizations. It also recognizes students who complete the program.

PSNV’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 and working with you.

  • Senator Valerie Wiener (Ret.)
  • Founder and President
  • PublicServiceNV