Students who ‘simply do the right thing’ saluted



Plainville High School celebrated the leadership of two students, Ryan Espinoza-Ortiz and Zoe Leider, in the ninth “Students Rock” ceremony that PHS has held. Twice a year, faculty members discuss and nominate two students for the award who “simply do the right thing.”

“These students both have overcome adversity and strife, and instead of coming in and complaining and making excuses, they show up every day with smiles on their faces,” said Maria Colangelo, event coordinator and faculty member. “Instead of us hoping to brighten their day, they brighten ours.”

As part of the ceremony, faculty members shared thoughts and reasoning as to why Leider and Ortiz were nominated.

Aldo Vellera, PHS school counselor, said Ortiz has accepted life’s challenges “head on and with maturity beyond his years.”

“Although he continues to face these obstacles, he continues to not just survive, but to thrive,” said Vallera. “His goals are appropriately ambitious – they always have been – however, his drive and fortitude has led him to many successes.”

Mary Tullo, science teacher, said Ortiz is a model chemistry student who took on the lessons independently.

“Make no mistake about it. I did very little other than acknowledge and encourage,” said Tullo. “I hope that he will continue to work hard and reach his potential, which is limitless.”

Ortiz’s Spanish teacher, Pamela Gervasio said he is intelligent, responsible, gracious, and good-humored. Gervasio also shared comments about Leider.

“Zoe is an amazing young woman. She is intelligent, kind, generous, good-natured, optimistic and wise,” said Gervasio. “She is brave and resilient beyond her years.”

School counselor Kelly Hickey has worked with Leider for three and a half years, and said she has seen her resilience, positive attitude and dedication help her find success regardless  of the situation.

“Although Zoe may not be the most outgoing or loudest student in her class, she is 100 percent dedicated to every commitment she makes whether her academics, her part time job, her involvement with community service and with her family and friends,” said Hickey. “I have a feeling Zoe does not realize how many people she has positively impacted.”

Science teacher Jill Miller shared that Leider is always accountable to brighten the day.

“She is the student that helps you center yourself,” said Miller. “She is the student that makes you smile.”

Both students said they were surprised, and thankful, to receive the award. They both shared a word of advice for their peers.

“No matter what you’re going through, persevere,” said Leider. “Keep doing what you have to do to succeed.”

Leider plans to study environmental science at Green Mountain College in Vermont after graduation.

“Stay positive through everything you do,” advised Ortiz. “Know that the teachers are there to help and support you. Make the best of your education.”

After high school, Ortiz plans to take EMT courses, then go to George Washington College to study both pre-med and language.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Steve Lepage, left, and faculty member Maria Colangelo, right, pose with the latest selections for Students Rock, Zoey Leider and Ryan Espinoza. (SHERIDEN ROY PHOTO)