Five high school seniors win community service awards from Mesa Citizen of the Year Association
Mesa High’s Odalis Lopez Villegas and Elijah Torres, Mountain View High’s Madilynn Jackson, and Red Mountain High’s Hailey Boiarsky and Nicole Digonno have been awarded Student Community Service Awards from Mesa Citizen of the Year Association. Each student received a $1,500 scholarship. Eligible candidates must complete at least 150 service hours during high school and demonstrate a commitment to lifelong community service.
“It’s important to recognize the great volunteer work being done by Mesa Public Schools students,” says an association spokesperson. “They’re helping with city programs, nonprofits and other important community outreach in an exemplary manner. As an association, we want to do more to promote volunteerism in our youth to develop our community leaders of the future.”
Lopez Villegas plans to attend Arizona State University to pursue a degree in healthcare delivery. She hopes to become a neurosurgeon and begin her own private practice, a goal developed after participating in virtual clinical shadowing. She is active in clubs including HOSA, National Honor Society, Link Crew and Bring Change to Mind.
“I genuinely enjoy the process of helping and speaking to people,” Lopez Villegas says. “I learned that one does not need to invest money to make a difference. Sometimes people need your time, energy and essence.”
Torres plans to earn a degree in nursing from Grand Canyon University. After becoming a travel nurse, he plans to obtain a physician assistant license and specialize in pediatric care. He serves as student body president, and is active in clubs including National Honor Society, Orchestra Council and AVID. During college, Torres says he will provide musical lessons to children in foster care.
“Community service has been a very crucial part of my life,” Torres says. “Knowing that I did everything I could to help others is something that brings me the utmost satisfaction and joy. I envision myself being involved with community service throughout my life with both my professional and personal career.”
Jackson plans to study neuroscience during her undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University and in medical school. She hopes to study abroad and continue traveling as a medical professional in her career. She is active in numerous clubs, including student council, Academy of Government and History, Dream Catchers, Make-A-Wish Youth Council, Toro Ambassador program and Link Crew, and has organized six community blood drives.
“From my service opportunities, I have learned about the true and sincere goodness of humanity,” Jackson says. “I found my purpose through all of the service opportunities I have been a part of that I will find the most joy and fulfillment from giving everything I have — my talents, my compassion, my determination — to helping others feel seen and loved.”
Boiarsky plans to study political science and psychology at Arizona State University’s Barrett, the Honors College. She is active in clubs including AP Council, Link Crew, National Honor Society and Drama. She volunteers with several theater organizations and is passionate about helping individuals with disabilities, especially through adaptive theater programs.
“I want to be a beacon of light for those who are often shut out; they are the ones who need the most love and support from our communities,” Boiarsky says. “Wherever I end up in my life, I know serving my community will always be my calling, and I will not stop until I have made a difference in the lives of others.”
Digonno plans to major in a medical sciences field and minor in Spanish. She is active in clubs including AP Council, Bio Med HOSA, Academic Decathlon, National Honor Society and Link Crew. She serves on the Mayor’s Youth Committee, and has volunteered at Banner Baywood Medical Center and Spooner Physical Therapy.
“I have learned a lot about myself with service, mainly how it feels to help others in the community,” Digonno says. “Service has been a large part of my life since junior high school, and I most definitely plan to continue during college and with my career.”