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Area high school students receive awards for essays embodying Lightning Community Heroes program

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Since its inception two seasons ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Community Heroes program has honored from all backgrounds typically ordinary people, who in contrast, perform extraordinary acts of charity for the betterment of the community in which they live.

Recently, several high school students took their own interpretation of what the program is all about, and put into their own words – literally, down on paper – for an essay contest sponsored by Stantec, which offered 11th grade students in select high schools the chance to share their own vision of what it means to be a hero in the community.

In the spirit of the Lightning Community Hero program, sponsored by the Lightning Foundation, students simply submitted written pieces to be judged by a committee on a variety of criteria, including comprehension, organization and creativity.

The task itself may have been challenging, but the overall goal was rather simple.

The Lightning Community Heroes program shines a spotlight on everyday people who are changing the face of the Tampa Bay community. Looking ahead to the next generation, the team aimed to encourage the area’s youth to start thinking about ways they can use their own lives to make the Tampa Bay community a better place.

“When I heard about this essay contest I knew I had to write about my teacher Mrs. Walker, who is my hero,” one of the winners, Janay Holloway said. “She is so inspiring and she's made such a positive impact on my life. I’m grateful for the experience.”

Along with Holloway, the other winners to take home awards in the essay contest were Alexis Kantor, Trevor Coulter, Rachel Lescano and Genevra Magliocco.

Each individual shared their story, which in similar fashion to Holloway’s, spoke highly about a significant individual in their lives.

“I really thought this essay contest was a great motivation for students,” Kantor added. “I was happy to represent my school.”

Each winner received $500 for themselves, and an additional $500 that was to be donated to his or her respective school. In addition, each recipient of the award was also given a tour of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, a chance to meet Dave Andreychuk and four tickets to the season finale against the in-state rival Florida Panthers.

Kantor added to her sentiments how excited she was to be hosted by the friendly staff of the Lightning.

Holloway, meanwhile, described the experience as one she would never forget.

As it turned out, both learned there was a pretty good incentive for doing their homework after all.

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