RKA honors students who inspire through kindness

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Kindness. Moral Support. A helping hand. Those were some of the qualities students, teachers, staff members and parents honored on Jan. 13.

It was part of The David A. Stein Riverdale /Kingsbridge Academy M.S./H.S. 141’s “You Make A Difference Breakfast” awards presentation and reception, which took place at the school’s library. Staff, students and parents could recommend each other to receive an award.

Kimberly Cerbone, whose daughter Francesca Troiani, a sixth grader, was nominated for an award, said she was “proud—very, very proud.”

“It’s nice to know that she was raised in a way that she’s making a difference,” Cerbone told The Press before the ceremony. “I was completely blindsided by it, but it was nice to get a letter. Whether she wins or loses, it doesn’t even matter. The fact that she was nominated was important. That was enough for me.”

“I’m really excited because we really don’t do stuff in my old school,” said Francesca, who started at RKA last fall.

Francesca’s teacher Kimberly Johnson recommended her along with two of her classmates.

“Those students have gone above and beyond to assist other students on a consistent basis,” Johnson said in her nomination statement. “They help create a positive environment where each student pushes him [or] herself to do their best. I am lucky to have them!”

Another nominee, Gael Fernandez, who began his first year at the school, said he “felt good because it was my first time getting an award [at RKA].”

His sixth-grade teacher Melissa Garcia recommended him for an award. “He’s a great kid and he goes above and beyond to make sure that everybody’s happy. He tries so hard to be a good friend and he just radiates happiness… So, I just thought this was a great way to recognize him,” Garcia said.

She recalled an incident when Gael noticed one of his classmates was upset—and went over to talk to her. “She opens up to him and tells him that she’s been going through some stuff and he turns around and goes, ‘I just think you are great and I’m always here as a friend,’” Garcia said.

“For somebody in sixth grade to say that, not only is that mature but it shows how much he cares.”

Parent Elizabeth Sieger and her daughter Matilda nominated the school’s librarian Julia Loving. Matilda said Loving stood out because of her caring nature and kindness.

“She was really one of the first teachers who ever said and encouraged me to go that extra mile because she believed that I had potential to do things outside of school—and also her encouragement and compassion for the kids that are in our Gay/Straight Alliance. It is really something that I find admirable and it ended up with me joining the club,”the eighth-grader said. “She’s been an important person in my life at RKA.”

Sieger, who said Loving initially stood out because of her unusual last name, added that she wanted to honor the friendship and support Loving has shown her daughter. In the seventh grade, Loving encouraged Matilda to enter the Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition. Matilda won school-wide and received an honorable mention citywide.

Elizabeth Benders, president of the parents association, called the morning “truly inspirational.”

“It shows the spirit of RKA and highlights those who have made a difference by positively inspiring others to be proactive and promote a positive culture at RKA,” Benders said in an email.

RKA Principal Lori O’Mara said the school created this event about five years ago to acknowledge the contributions of individuals who make the school a wonderful place.

“I hope that everyone can take away the feeling that appreciation comes in all forms and happens for many different reasons. I hope people see it as a genuine reflection of the gratitude that people have for the ‘everyday’ moments as well as the extraordinary ones,” O’Mara said in an email.

Over 70 people received certificates recognizing their efforts at the reception, which took place before the start of the school day. Everyone nominated won an award for his or her contribution to the RKA community.

“I think it’s beautiful that everyone appreciates things and they are recognized for it,” said Cerbone.

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