Annual Award Ceremony Honoring the Actions
of Students that Make the World a Better Place to Air on Social Media
September 25, 2020 [St. Petersburg, FL] -- Since 2001, The Florida Holocaust Museum (The FHM) has been honoring the humanitarian efforts of exceptional high school juniors with its annual Anne Frank Humanitarian Award (AFHA), presented by Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc. Typically, these remarkable young people are recognized to much applause during school presentations and at a special award ceremony at the Museum. Unable to hold an in-person awards ceremony this year, The FHM called upon community, business, and non-profit leaders, elected officials, FHM Board Members, Holocaust survivors and celebrities to record videos highlighting each of this year's 93 award recipients. The FHM wanted to make sure, especially now during this difficult time, that these students heard some applause.
Beginning on Tuesday, September 29th at 9:00 a.m., these individual videos will run on the FHM’s Facebook page through October 5th. In total 93 videos will be aired showcasing the extraordinary accomplishments of each one these students. The honorees were nominated by their principals, guidance counselors, or teachers for their accomplishments during the 2019-2020 school year. The award winners represent every public and major private high school in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota Counties.
“Every year, we are reminded, through the actions of these amazing honorees, that everyone’s actions make a difference,” said Executive Director Elizabeth Gelman. “These students deserve recognition and we are incredibly grateful to Publix Super Market Charities and to the community leaders who stepped up to help honor us these terrific young adults through this new format.”
“I am excited that everyone will have a chance to watch these videos and learn how these students are creating positive change in their schools, their communities, and our country,” said Gelman. “They are an inspiration to us all.”
By “doing the right thing”, AFHA recipients hold true to the nature and spirit of Anne Frank who, in the face of great hardship, did not abandon her ideals. Their conscious efforts to better the lives of others in their schools, community, and beyond, embody the mission and principles of the Museum and help make the world a better place. As role models for their peers and the community during their senior year and beyond, their gifts of kindness, altruism, and community service help to make the world a better place and remind us that with their leadership our future is bright and hopeful.
The program was started in 2001 by Irene Weiss, a former FHM Board Chair and current Advisory Council Member, and is chaired Traci Klein, The FHM Board Member. Retired WFLA News Channel 8 anchor, Gayle Sierens, has served as the AFHA Honorary Chair since its inception.
Each AFHA recipient will receive a glass plaque, a family membership to The FHM, a copy of The Diary of Young Girl by Anne Frank, and an inspirational stone. The program is made possible by presenting sponsor Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc. Additional sponsors include: The James H. and Amy G. Shimberg Family Foundation, Laura and Kevin Morris in memory of Zach Morris, Werner and Rosa Cohen (of blessed memory), Lois and Peter Pardoll, Irene and Steve Weiss, Rachael and Don Worthington, Carolyn Bass; and Jody & Dennis Sherman.
Some of the 2020 Anne Frank Humanitarian Award Honorees:
Britnee Blake, Blake High School, Hillsborough County
On campus, Britnee is a Student Ambassador, president of Student Alliance, a member of National Honor Society, and she founded a peer tutoring program. She has volunteered for Feeding Tampa Bay, Metropolitan Ministries and is a member of the NCAAP Tampa Youth Council. Britnee was chosen to speak at a Tampa March for Our Lives demonstration, participated in a high school summit on campus safety and mental health, and served as a panelist at a Greater Tampa Chapter of Jack & Jill of America race relations event. Britnee earned a gold medal in a national NAACP photography contest, and she won a video competition sponsored by the Florida Scholastic Press Association. She also interned for the Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network.
Grace Hirshfeld, Wesley Chapel High School, Pasco County
Grace is President of Best Buddies and founded a chapter while still in middle school, the first of its kind in Pasco County. She has traveled to the state capital twice to meet with legislators about the importance of the organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She donates her time to the Eastside Special Olympics Summer Games, and for five years she volunteered for Friends with Sylvia, a summer camp for autistic children at USF. Grace serves as the Girls’ Regional President for BBYO and is currently pursuing the Girl Scout Gold Award for service and leadership. Grace is also Captain of the Girls’ Varsity Lacrosse team.
Francis Garcia Fernandez, Manatee High School, Manatee County
Francis is the District President of SUTIRR, a club that strives to take action in the wake of racism and prejudice. He is Junior Class president, a member of Key Club, and he worked as a research assistant at the New College of Florida. Francis is the co-founder of a TEDx organizing team, President of the Florida Law Honor Society, a Model United Nations delegate, and a National Honor Society member. As a U.S correspondent for XS News, based in Singapore and in conjunction with Rice University in Texas, Francis has covered international stories such as the impact of COVID-19 on education and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. He is captain of the Varsity Cross Country team, a member of the Varsity Track & Field team, and a student athletic trainer for the Varsity Football team.
Samantha Kopec, Tarpon Springs High School, Pinellas County
In the summer of 2018, Sam and her sister began cooking weekly meals for the foster children at Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor. They had no idea that what started as a Bright Futures project would turn into Feeding the Fosters, a non-profit organization that helps private foster families get hot, homemade meals on the table. In two short years, Feeding the Fosters now has more than 1,000 volunteers producing and delivering meals to approximately 30 families twice a week. Partnerships with local businesses also help feed hundreds of people at a time at fellowship events. Sam has volunteered for Be the Change and she provides childcare for autistic children at Calvary Church. She is a member of National Honor Society and Tri M Music Honor Society, and one of four band presidents at the Leadership Conservatory of the Arts.
Erick Reynoso-Placencia, Booker High School, Sarasota County
Erik is Booker High’s President and Student Liaison to Unidos Now, a local organization whose mission is to encourage and empower Latino students through education and civic engagement. As a member and current Vice President of Key Club, Erik has participated in a variety of service initiatives, including community cleanups for the elderly and the disabled, and volunteering at blood drives. For the past two years Erick has assisted the Guidance Department with the planning and organization of Freshman Orientation, and he represents his school as a Student Ambassador at a number of campus and civic events. He has also organized food and clothing drives for distribution in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian, and he mentors his peers through his participation in the CFES “College For Every Student” Brilliant Pathways program. He was named CFES Student of the Year, and he is on track to receive the Cambridge AICE Diploma in 2021.
Please stay engaged with The FHM online through the Museum's virtual tour, virtual resources, online curriculum, collections, Holocaust Survivor testimonies, and on its social media pages Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
The Florida Holocaust Museum looks forward to announcing the reopening of the Museum. Please continue to visit TheFHM.org for Museum updates.
About The Florida Holocaust Museum
One of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, and one of three nationally accredited Holocaust museums, The Florida Holocaust Museum honors the memory of millions of men, women and children who suffered or died in the Holocaust. The FHM is dedicated to teaching members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides. For additional information, please visit www.TheFHM.org