Youth Eastside Services’ Latino HEAT program has chosen three students of Sammamish High School to honor as part of a Cesar Chavez Celebration held April 4 at the organization’s Bellevue office. Each of the youth have overcome difficulties and transformed themselves into responsible, hardworking students and leaders in their school. The Cesar Chavez Living Legacy Awards recognize the youth’s embodiment of the principles Chavez stood for—service, leadership and justice.
Trouble with drugs and fighting first brought Joey to Youth Eastside Services (YES) when she was in middle school. She made the decision to take her life in a better direction than the one she was heading for. Today, she is a leader in the Latino HEAT program, an excellent student and active in her community.
Placido began turning to drugs to cover the pain and grief of losing his little brother to drug-related violence. Thanks to a caring community, that included YES Counselor Tina Morales, today he expresses himself with art and hopes to be an artist someday.
Also recognized was Luis, who won a special “Determination” award for graduating on time, despite three bouts of leukemia and a recent stem cell transplant. His grandmother, Evalia, was a speaker at the event and recognized Luis’ choice to enjoy life, despite the difficulties dealt him. She urged kids to honor Luis by making decision that help them thrive, rather than choosing gangs or drugs.
Latino HEAT stands for Hispaños En Ación Together and is a leadership, community service, and cultural empowerment group that meets at Sammamish High School. Members of Latino HEAT take action and address problems in the community and participate in many fun and educational cultural activities. The program is run by YES as a means to deter drug and gang involvement in Hispanic youth.
“These kids are on a path of transformation that embodies the values of Cesar Chavez, and I am immensely proud of them,” said Morales, who counsels the students in Latino HEAT to live healthy, drug-free and violence-free lives.
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