Celebrating Long Island’s Talent
Each year at the HWCLI Annual Halloween Ball, we honor outstanding students from across Long Island for their commitment to social justice and improving their communities. We congratulate our honorees for their achievements and thank them for their dedication to building a brighter future for Long Island.
16-year old Myrka Argueta, an 11th grader at Brentwood High School, is committed to celebrating the extraordinary potential of youth in her community. She is an active leader, having served as school President in junior high and currently representing Brentwood and Long Island in the Miss Latina Long Island and Miss Teen USA National Pageant beauty pageants.
For the last four years, Myrka has been actively giving back in Central Islip and Brentwood working at two organizations: at Building Bridges, Uniting Communities and at Teatro Yerbabruja Art Center. Most recently, she has been working hard to support Puerto Rico in disaster recovery where Myrka has been packing boxes of supplies to send and looking for ways to make sure that Long Islanders are actively supporting Puerto Rico’s recovery. A young advocate, Myrka wants to erase the negative perception of Brentwood as portrayed in the media by highlighting the extraordinary young people in her community and spreading the empowering message that every person-regardless of age-can use their lives to make a meaningful difference.
10-year-old Jack McNamara is the son of 9/11 first Responder FDNY Firefighter John F. McNamara who died of 9/11 related cancer after working hundreds of hours in the aftermath of 9/11. Before his death, John worked to secure health and compensation aid for other sick responders, a mission his son Jack continued after his death.
Jack, a sixth grade honor student at the Ivy League School in Smithtown, NY, engages in many volunteer activities, including serving on the Board of the FDNY John F. McNamara Foundation, named after his dad. He has also been an advocate for support of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and recently has his photo added to the permanent Responders display at the 9/11 National memorial Museum. While Jack’s father was a fan of that other NY Team, Jack is an avid Mets fan attending games often and even travelling to see them play!
Sari Avila Franklin
Sari Avila-Franklin is a fifteen-year-old Magna Cum Laude Honors sophomore at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School. She is on the Varsity Tennis team and an active member of the Global Ambassadors Club which helps create a bond of service among students and foreign exchange students while making them feel welcome and at home.
At a young age, Sari realized the importance of helping the community and volunteered in the towns of Brentwood and Islip with events like Clean the Streets and the Latino Health Initiative Fair. Her most valued project is at Pronto of LI, a non-profit organization, where she teaches a five-week long session for residents who are about to take their US Citizenship Test. Sari teaches the 100 US facts they need to know and helps work on reading and writing skills for those experiencing difficulty. Her greatest joy is when her students return to tell her that they have passed the Naturalization Test and are now US Citizens. Coming from a family of immigrants, and in view of the current political climate, Sari realizes the importance of having immigrant voices heard. She ensures that the adults she teaches are mindful of their responsibility to speak up for those who can’t by voting in local and national elections. Her goal is to expand these classes throughout Long Island by enlisting the involvement of more student volunteers.
Glorianna Jackson is a 15-year-old sophomore high school student at Henry Viscardi School. She was born with a spinal cord birth defect called myelomeningocele, aka Spina Bifida. She uses a wheelchair for mobility, but she doesn’t want to be treated or viewed as the girl in the wheelchair. Her birth defect doesn’t stop her from playing varsity basketball at her high school, or skiing at Adaptive Sports Foundation in Windham N.Y., or being a dancer with Dancing Dreams, a nonprofit dance school for kids with disabilities. She was elected to Vice President on her high school student council, and she cofounder her school first gender / nongender sexuality alliance, The Rainbow Club. She loves her family, Broadway musicals, pop culture, art, and hanging out with her friends.
Glorianna wants herself and everyone else with a disability to be treated fairly and respectfully, especially for their dreams of becoming productive and creative members of society. She took art classes at The Long Island High School of Arts and at School of Visual Arts. She has college goals of attending either NYU or Purchase University to become a theatrical set designer. Her deep sense of justice and fairness propelled her to help rally her fellow classmates to walk out to show support with the Stoneman Douglass students victims and survivors, which got the attention of Newsday. She also helped organized follow up school protests and a bake sale to raise awareness about school gun violence. She attended the March for Our Lives protests in Washington D.C. and New York. She wants to make a difference and have her voice heard, even if only behind the scenes.
Ilsi Martinez Euceda
Ilsi Martinez is a 17-year-old rising senior at Huntington High School. Born and raised in Honduras, she overcame exploitation and significant hardship to come to the United States. Separated from her mom for eight years, when Ilsi arrived as an eighth grader, she had to learn the English language and a new culture, all while working to excel academically.
When she got to Huntington High School, she felt like she found her own. Ilsi is involved in a number of school activities that are helping with language access. Ilsi is the President of United Amigos, a club that serves students who are new to the country or English Language Learners, become more involved and engaged in the school and school activities. She joined The Dispatch, Huntington High’s school newspaper, where she writes many stories about the experiences of immigrant students, in both English and Spanish to raise awareness and share experiences with the entirety of the school population. She also is an active member in the Translating Club, a group of students who translate for Latino parents at Parent/Teacher conferences and other meetings. Impressively, she serves on the Principal’s Advisory Committee where she provides helpful insight into student life. Ilsi is a consensus-builder who creates understanding. She believes that every student has a story and works tirelessly to elevate young voices and share the experiences of her peers, who like herself, have extraordinary stories of resilience. She is a true mentor and role model for her peers and very grateful to be a contributing member of the Huntington High School community.
Keeley Lennon is a recent graduate of the Hampton Bays High School, Class of 2019, and is a devoted advocate for those struggling with addiction and their families. In February of 2018, Keeley’s father passed away following a long and hard battle with alcoholism and drug addiction. Growing up around addiction was not easy for Keeley, and she coped with her father’s death and disease through music, sharing her story, and helping others. She made a presentation about how addiction is a disease and ways to stop the stigma to help her find closure and in doing so, she helped others who were also going through a similar experience.
In late winter and early spring of 2018, she began sharing these presentations with her school’s health classes to show her classmates that addiction is a disease. She wanted to show her classmates that if they were dealing with addiction, they aren’t alone and that there is help out there for them. She was motivated by the hope that at least one person could be helped by her presentations – if she could help even one person, she would be happy. Keeley hopes that in the future, we can find a way to stop teens and adults from becoming addicted and also end the stigma around addiction. This fall, Keeley will begin studying biology at Suffolk County Community College with the goal of attending medical school for Orthopedic Surgery. She plans to minor in addiction studies to better understand the beginnings and causes of addiction.
Peyton Hall is a junior at Half Hollow Hills High School West (HSW) and is a champion for social justice in her school and community. She is very excited to serve as the President of the Women’s Empowerment Initiative, a club dedicated to the education and empowerment of young women,at her school for the upcoming school year. Peyton also serves as the Secretary of HSW African American Student Organization and is the Teen Editor for Jack and Jill of America Suffolk County Chapter. Additionally, Peyton has been instrumental in the development of the Youth Council for the Women’s Diversity Network and its programming. For the inaugural Women’s Diversity Summit in 2018, Peyton, along with a small group of teens, helped to create and facilitate two workshops.
Due to experiences at her school, she felt the need to address the use of the n-word through these workshops. Peyton also helped to facilitate the workshop for Women 2 Women at Central Islip High School. Here, she connected with approximately 30 young women to discuss the n-word and its use at school. She used this valuable platform to guide the young ladies into further conversation on leadership, caring for young men and boys of color, and other issues facing young teen girls today. Because of her commitment and passion for a variety of social issues impacting teens today, the WDN decided to make the teens part of the planning for the Youth Council. She’s learning to curriculum map, create resources, and improve her public speaking. Peyton is excited to bring these skills and workshops to the Women’s Empowerment Initiative at her school and to be even more inclusive of social issues that affect everyone. Like her dad, Peyton has a passion for medicine. As she continues to navigate issues that have become important to her and her community, she hopes to become an Obstetrician/Gynecologist so that she can help women- specifically, she hopes to work to resolve the disproportionately high levels of black women who suffer or die simply from childbirth. She has done extensive research through her AP classes that has not only motivated her to choose a specialized field of medicine but to advocate for positive change and equal treatment in medicine, now. She looks forward to continuing her studies,spending time with friends and family, and helping to make the world a better place foreveryone, starting within her own community.
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Established in 1947, the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island (HWCLI) is a regional, nonprofit umbrella organization for health and human service providers. We are dedicated to improving the lives of Long Island’s most vulnerable residents by responding to their needs through the promotion and development of public policies and direct services.
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