September 2016, Volume 20, Number 4


Commendable Service

On June 28, more than 900 MDC students, faculty and staff received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for their outstanding community service. During a ceremony at Wolfson Campus, they were commended by keynote speaker Trabian Shorters, an Ashoka Fellow, tech entrepreneur, social innovator and founder of BMe Community, a growing social network of all races and genders committed to building better communities across the United States.

An initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service and administered by Points of Light, the President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes individuals, families and groups that have achieved a substantial amount of volunteer hours served over a 12-month period or cumulative hours earned over the course of a lifetime.

Among those receiving the gold award were Homestead Campus student Mirasladys Bustamante, who created a Girls Empowerment Group for at-risk teens, and Medical Campus student Lina Gaviria, who spent four months and more than 500 hours raising money and locating doctors to treat a 5-year-old migrant boy battling retinoblastoma, whose story follows.

In addition, MDC Kendall Campus Professor John Frazier received a Lifetime Award in recognition of his more than 5,000 service hours with the United Nations and UNICEF in East Africa, Central Africa and Haiti over the past 20 years.

In the Nick of Time

MDC graduate and certified pediatric nurse Lina Gaviria knew there was something special about 5-year-old Brayan Vieda from the moment she met him at an MDC medical mission in Immokalee.

Gaviria approached the child and noticed an opacity in his right eye.

“My heart stopped for a second because I had the immediate suspicion that he had retinoblastoma,” Gaviria said of the rare form of cancer of the retina that is almost exclusively found in young children.

Gaviria’s suspicions proved correct, setting in motion a months-long process in which she found skilled doctors who would do the necessary operation for free. She also started a GoFundMe page that raised money to pay for the treatment facility and the prosthetic eye that Brayan would ultimately need.

During the ordeal, Brayan would often stay with Gaviria’s family as he dealt with a post-surgery infection.

“Brayan’s care was very delicate,” said Gaviria, 31. “But during his recovery, we took him to the zoo and seaquarium. He had a blast.”

The boy was finally fitted for his prosthetic eye on June 13 – more than three months after Gaviria made her life-saving discovery.

Given her selfless work with Brayan and many other patients she has helped since graduating from MDC in 2007 with an associate degree in nursing, it is no wonder that Gaviria was recently given a prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award.

“Winning this award was overwhelming,” said Gaviria, who came to Miami on a student visa from Medellin, Colombia, at age 16. “It’s an honor. This shows that after all the obstacles, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Gaviria recently returned to MDC and earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Next spring, she hopes to continue her education at the University of Miami, where she plans to become a CRNA (Certified Nurse Anesthetist).

Through it all, Gaviria is grateful to MDC.

“It has been my foundation from the start,” she said. “Having MDC on my résumé has been a huge help in getting jobs. I’m proud to say I graduated from MDC.”

Dance Without Boundaries

Camille Molas, a 17-year-old dual-enrollment student in the School for Advanced Studies at MDC, is planning on becoming a lawyer and is interested in Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, Brown, Columbia, Penn and Yale.

But Molas, who has a 4.0 GPA at MDC and a 5.1 weighted GPA in high school, is more than just brilliant academically. She has a heart, too, and that’s evidenced by the work she’s done with special-needs students.

Molas, who is also considering applying to Stanford before going on to law school, recently received a Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award for performing more than 250 hours of community service in less than one year.

Part of that work was at Zoo Miami and Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society. But her true passion is for a project she founded called Dancing Beyond.

Having studied dance since the third grade, Molas taught movement to her special-needs students in first through fifth grades at the Children’s Rehab Network in South Miami.

“These kids have truly touched my life,” said Molas, who was born in the Phillippines and moved to Miami at age 7. “When I moved to the U.S., it was hard for me to assimilate to a new culture and a new language – until I found dance.

“I got confidence from dance, and I wanted to share that with the children. … These kids are so sweet and innocent. They love to dance, and they don’t realize they have a disability. They don’t compare themselves to others. Whatever they have doesn’t stop them, and I learn from them.”

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