Senior Nadine Elosta was one of 27 recipients of a 2023 Student Peace Award of Fairfax County honored at a reception on March 19.
Rep. Gerry Connolly introduced a Resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives listing all the recipients and recognizing their efforts as "building blocks of a more peaceful and tolerant world."
Nadine has been engaged in peacemaking both in and out of school since middle school and throughout her high school career. In the seventh and ninth grades, she participated in a medical mission to Jamaica with American-Caribbean Experience ACE
, a faith-based organization committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in the Caribbean. On this trip, she witnessed the lack of basic medical, educational, and life-sustaining resources. Before leaving on her second mission, Nadine partnered with the school’s Project Humanity Club to raise money for backpacks and supplies for the children. The depth of appreciation that was shown for these simple gifts affirmed to her that “the power of kindness is a force for peace.”
When she returned to school, Nadine collaborated with others to develop programs which would promote unity and community at her school. As president of the ninth-grade class, she organized the first homecoming event to foster friendship among ninth and tenth graders. During COVID-19 restrictions Nadine and three friends formed the First Aid and Safety club. They hosted a successful health-care career day that involved 10 guest speakers from various medical professions who explained their work and answered questions. Post-pandemic, Nadine was instrumental in reviving KAA’s annual DigPink volleyball game that raised funds for breast cancer research.
Nadine’s current leadership role in her school’s Our Minds Matter club
epitomizes the peacemaking actions that earned her the KAA 2023 Student Peace Award. Our Minds Matters is a regionally based non-profit organization to raise student awareness of mental health issues and provide help. At KAA, Our Minds Matter focuses on mental health issues specific to their unique community and specifically aims to combat a stigma-mentality around mental health, which sidelines discussion of student struggles. For Nadine, bringing mental health issues to the fore is personal: “My wish is for our students to be in a place where they feel safe to speak out about painful experiences with bullying, loneliness, isolation, failure.”
As president of Our Minds Matter, Nadine holds weekly meetings to create ideas for activities that achieve mental health objectives; creates monthly calendars for discussion topics and planned events; and communicates plans regularly with the administration. In particular, Nadine ensures that the entire school is included in mental health events, not only for the high schoolers, but also for elementary and middle school students. For example:
- A Mental Health Walk at school for middle- and high schoolers, who searched for QR codes which linked to hidden facts about mental health.
- A session with middle schoolers to discuss types of bullying and its detrimental effects. Club members were impelled to take this action when they found out that middle school bullying had become worse, apparently exacerbated by COVID-19 isolation.
- During COVID-19, the club transitioned to online meetings and held a program in which students Zoomed to a virtual classroom to meet, paint, and discuss what was on their minds.
Outside of school, Nadine volunteers through the Ethiopian Community Development Council
as a “first friend” for new refugees. Assigned to a lady from Afghanistan, Nadine explained, “Although we didn’t speak the same language, through using hand gestures and Google translate we found ways to understand each other. Kindness is a universally understood language, and a force for peace.”