05 Feb 2019 Winning Team Presents to School Board
On January 28, 2020 in honor of “Mentoring Month” at Orange County Public Schools, School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs recognized DM&A’s me & my commUnity program which mentor’s high potential, underserved young women in their junior year of high school. OCPS’ Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Kathy Shuler, introduced the founder, Diane Meiller-Cook, who shared the details of the program, which is designed to provide opportunities for high-potential, underserved students an opportunity to work in groups alongside Central Florida’s most successful females as they develop solutions to our region’s most serious and pressing problems. The 2019 team tasked with solving the issue of Domestic Violence in Orange County was voted by their peers as having the best solution.
The group of four who are now seniors in high school included Michelle Ortiz – Dr. Phillips High School, Heloisa de Assis Goncalves – Freedom High School, Neemy Gressine – University High School and Crystal Cristino-Sanchez – Evans High School). Each of them addressed the board regarding the significant impact the program has had on their lives and plans for the future, closing with the program’s motto “Be the difference by making a difference”. After the presentation, Vice Chair and District 4 Board Member, Pam Gould stated “I think this program is a pathway to activate the talent, it is a way for the students to understand the skills and the talents they have within them.”
Throughout the past twelve years there have been over 450 participants from all twenty OCPS high schools and more than 80 volunteer mentors in the me & my commUnity program. The opportunity to learn and experience first-hand the characteristics of dynamic leadership while developing a solution to critical community issues in a framework which emphasizes the importance of teamwork, collaboration, negotiation and critical thinking skills reinforces the importance of mentorship for our community’s future female leaders.
After the presentation, OCPS District 3 Board Member, Linda Kobert provided words of inspiration as she shared her personal story. “My background was very similar to yours. I was a middle of the pack kind of young lady and I was very shy. There was one teacher who me in the eyes and told me I was a very smart girl. No one had ever told me that before. For those who are mentoring these young women, that is all it takes. So, stay on your path and know you can do it.”