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Hall of Stars - October 2013

Meet the October Award Winners
From right to left: Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, Jori Opara, Kelly Marie Gonzalez, Unique Watkins and Board of County Commissioners Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa.

The Emerging Leader - Unique Watkins

Miami Jackson Senior High School, 12th grade
Commissioner Jean Monestime, District 2

Unique is a straight “A” student at Miami Jackson Senior High School, who is competing for Valedictorian. She is a dancer and has been a member of the Canaanite Dancers for over 11 years. She teaches dance to little girls at Charles Hadley Park. She teaches the young ladies to be graceful and impresses upon them that they can do anything they put their minds to, lifting their self-esteem.

 When asked why she volunteers her time, she responded, “I like working with them. Some of them don’t have this at home. Some of them would never have gotten a chance to do this otherwise.”

She also works with little kids during her church service and has been voted “Youth President” twice by her peers at the church.

Unique wants to be a teacher so that she can change the world one child at a time by influencing those students who others have given up on or overlooked.

The Unstoppable Scholar - Kelly Marie Gonzalez

Miami Sunset Senior High School, 12th grade
Commissioner Juan Zapata, District 11

Despite the challenges associated with living with Type One Diabetes, Kelly Marie is driven to improve herself as she prepares for a career in Business. This summer she interned at the South Florida Educational Credit Union, gaining invaluable experience in multiple aspects of the business world, and this year she will complete the Miami Sunset National Academy of Finance Program.

As the District 26 Secretary and Vice President of Public Relations for her school’s Future Business Leaders of America Chapter, Kelly Marie has impacted not only her school, but also her community through her communications and media efforts. She won third place in the State of Florida for Business Ethics last year and also volunteers with The Ronald McDonald House of Charities.

Kelly Maries recently spent a week in California attending the Future Business Leaders of America National Leadership Conference, competing in Business Ethics against over 60 of the best teams across the country.

The Pursuer of Excellence - Jori Opara

iPreparatory Academy, 10th grade
Commissioner Jean Monestime, District 2

Jori actively engages in year-round events and activities that cultivate and inspire her academic, professional, and civic growth. She is enrolled in Advanced Placement and honors courses at her school, where she maintains a 4.417 GPA.  Her passion is writing poems and song lyrics in her spare time. She volunteers and tutors as a  Key Club Section Leader, a Student Liason for the iPrep Academy PTSA, and a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Ivy Rosettes.

Jori is also a member of the Culture Shock Miami Student Advisory Council, which is the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Department’s $5 ticket program to the arts for students. As a Student Council member since 2009, she attends monthly meetings, where she assists in making policy and marketing decisions that will effectively reach her peers throughout the community. She also serves as a Culture Shock Miami Ambassador at her school, encouraging students to attend arts events and promoting the program to fellow classmates, teachers, and school administrators. Given her leadership and interest in promoting the arts, in 2013, Jori was invited to serve as a panelist at the 2012 Southern Arts Federation Performing Arts Exchange Conference.

This summer, Jori became involved in the Miami Foundation’s Ashoka’s Youth Venture Program, which inspires and invests in teams of young people to create and launch their own sustainable, community-benefiting ventures.  Jori and a fellow team member created a model for students about cyber bullying and media responsibility. This ongoing project gives teenagers insight into the dangers of being on social media.

During the 2013-14 cultural session, Jori is being recruited to work as a Cultural Correspondent in order to bring a different perspective of the arts to young audiences by conducting interviews with cultural leaders from various organizations throughout the County. She also aspires to serve as a Student Ambassador for the People to People Ambassador Program, an international education travel program featuring unique activities for building independence and maturity, exclusive cultural moments to increase global awareness, and exciting destinations to foster a love for international travel and foreign cultures.

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