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LEAD Student Contest winners honored in Tampa

February 17, 2016

Published by: Marlene Sokol, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

For the past six years — about as long as Domanic Betancourt has been an artist — John R. Nelson has been in his life.  He's a hero to the 11-year-old student at Brandon's Mintz Elementary School, but not because he's a Tampa Police officer.

As the child's stepfather, Nelson "feeds me and puts a roof over my head," Domanic said Monday. "And when there's something at school, something like this, he's here."

Domanic's father-son drawing earned him one of nine winning spots in this year's LEAD competition in the Hillsborough County Public Schools.

LEAD, which stands for Learn, Empower, Advocate, Dream, is a Black History Month event that seeks to help students appreciate local African American leaders.

But for most of this year's winners, inspiration came not from people in public life, but rather those who touched them personally.

Some, including Kenda Sheppard of Progress Village Middle School and Emani Howard of Orange Grove Middle School, used the occasion to give tribute to their parents.

Others simply found people who taught them by example.

Logan Waddington, of Hammond Elementary School in Odessa, was troubled to learn that black people historically did not have civil rights. So he made Marcus Parker, an affable basketball coach, the subject of his winning video documentary.

Jenna Callison of Hillsborough High School was touched by friend Patricia Guthman, who volunteers her time with the Buddy Baseball organization. So she made a film about Patricia, set to music. The words "Patricia inspires me to be a better person" flashed across the screen at Monday's awards ceremony.

This is the second yearly contest, culminating like last year's with a celebration at the Tampa Museum of Art.

More than 1,200 students entered this year, said Superintendent Jeff Eakins. They were rewarded with boxes of prizes that included tickets to Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Storm games, Kindle Fire tablets, Dell laptop computers and $1,500 college scholarships.

Some are already tasting success.

Daiana Gonzalez-Videla of Blake High School has seen her artwork has appear on city buses and recycling trucks. She won the high school visual arts competition for her painting of the late Rev. Dr. A. Leon Lowry.

Looking closer to home, Ainsley Amendola of Bryant Elementary School paid tribute to Debra Blossom, a school district employee who arranges for students to become peer tutors.

"She's gone above and beyond to help us teach reading to other kids," Ainsley wrote. "In a way, she helps kids get ready for the real world."


Winning the LEAD Competition for 2016:


Ainsley Amendola, Bryant Elementary School, inspired by Debra Blossom.

Kenda Sheppard, Progress Village Middle, inspired by her grandmother.

Kyle Johnson, Robinson High, inspired by Pat Harrell, a former principal.


Logan Waddington, Hammond Elementary, inspired by basketball coach Marcus Parker.

Emani Howard, Orange Grove Middle, inspired by Ebou Howard, her father -a minister and gospel singer

Jenna Callison, Hillsborough High, inspired by friend Patricia Guthman.

Visual Arts:

Domanic Betancourt, Mintz Elementary, inspired by his father - Tampa Police officer John R. Nelson.

Riley Tubbs, Progress Middle, inspired by Ted McNair, a Middleton High School graduate and 21-year Air Force veteran who teaches and coaches chess.

Daiana Gonzalez-Videla, Blake High, inspired by the late Rev. Dr. A. Leon Lowry, a Tampa civil rights activists and the first African-American elected to the Hillsborough School Board.


Meet each one of our LEAD winners HERE!


Read original Tampa Bay Times story here


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