By Tamas Mondovics

Six youth leaders, among them 14-year-old Randall Middle School student with Downs Syndrome, Zachary Foyt, enjoyed the limelight last month as recipients of the County’s Youth Excellence and Achievement Awards (YEA! Awards).

Each year, The YEA! Awards recognize three middle and three high school students in Hillsborough County, who have displayed initiative, innovation, a commitment to themselves and others, and a pursuit of excellence in a leadership capacity.

The students were invited to meet the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and were presented their awards during a recognition ceremony.

Foyt received his award for his Success Despite Difficult Odds, while his fellow award recipients included Turkey Creek Middle School’s Savannah Shaw and Plant City High’s Nicholas Rodriguez for Leadership,  Ana Gomez, of Leto High School for Success Despite Difficult Odds, Homeschool student Avalon Theisen and Jesuit Prep student Zack Aldridge for Volunteer or Community Service.

“I am incredibly proud of Zachary,” said Randall ESE teacher, Aimee Eftink, who submitted the nomination to the BOCC, which were visibly impressed by Zachary’s determination and perseverance.

Eftink emphasized that although Zachary’s speech is limited, he has a way of making people understand him and, rather than getting frustrated, he works hard to use whatever means he can, such as signs and gestures, until he is understood.

“Imagine a situation in your life when you have been frustrated or angry and wanted to tell somebody,” Eftink said. “Now, imagine not being able to say it.”

His larger than life personality, amazing sense of humor and “life of the party” attitude was evident during a dance hosted by the Randall PTA.

As it was related to the BOCC, not one student was dancing, a problem Zachary was determined to rectify, by choosing 2 or 3 girls to dance with him, followed  by signaling for a few more, and then a few more.

“Within minutes, he had every boy, girl and many teachers dancing,” Eftink said. “Zachary is persistent and calm, and is the little engine that could.”

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