For this year’s YEA! Awards, top row, left to right, the recipients are Nitya Anne, La’Tatiana Beasley and Gabriela Diaz Garcia. Bottom row, left to right, the recipients are Natalie Robles, Lucia Popovich and T’Niya Brooks.

By Brad Stager

Recognizing young people who are orienting their lives toward service to the community is the purpose behind Hillsborough County’s Youth Excellence and Achievement (YEA!) Awards, and three middle school students and three high school students were recently recognized for their public service efforts.

Two of the awardees, La’Tatiana Beasley from Bloomingdale High School and Lucia Popovich from SLAM Apollo Beach, are from the Osprey Observer publication area.

This year’s YEA! Awards categories and recipients are: Success Despite Difficult Odds – Gabriela Diaz Garcia, Horizon Charter School of Tampa, and Natalie Robles, Tampa Catholic High School; Leadership – T’Niya Brooks, Academy Prep of Tampa Bay, and La’Tatiana Beasley, Bloomingdale High School; and Volunteer or Community Service – Lucia Popovich, SLAM Apollo Beach, and Nitya Anne, C. Leon King High School.

The students were publicly acknowledged during an online session of the Hillsborough County Commission on September 2.

Beasley was recognized for leadership qualities displayed in activities such as serving as student government treasurer and committee representative of her school’s spirit committee, as well as actively supporting Bloomingdale’s Special Olympics event and Metropolitan Ministries.

Popovich was recognized for her volunteer/community service. The middle school student is active in her school’s community service club, assists veterans and helps feed people affected by hunger at the Ruskin food bank.

Hillsborough County established the YEA! Awards in 2010 to recognize students who demonstrate a commitment to leadership in their schools and communities.

In comments published on the county’s website, Commission Chairman Les Miller praised the award and its recipients.

“I look forward to the YEA! Awards ceremony every year. These remarkable young people give me great hope for the future,” he said. “Bestowing the awards is an honor for the Board of County Commissioners, and it’s especially rewarding on the 10th anniversary of the program.”

Students are nominated by their teachers and parents, as well as by members of the community who know of their efforts. Awardees are selected by the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women.

Nominations are accepted online in February of each year. You can find out more about the YEA! Awards by visiting, where you can also view a video of this year’s presentation and learn about past YEA! Awards recipients.

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