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    Friday, August 19, 2022

    City of Norwich recognizes youth leaders

    From left, Nahomi Labajos Medina, Ross Blinderman, Rachael McNally and Nayelis Martinez Diaz with Youth Leadership Awards presented May 6 at Norwich City Hall.(Owen Poole/The Times)

    On Friday, May 6, inside the chambers at Norwich City Council, four city students were honored with Youth Leadership Awards as part of National Youth Leadership Day.

    All four students — Ross Blinderman, Nahomi Labajos Medina, Nayelis Martinez Diaz and Rachael McNally — attend Norwich Free Academy.

    Erin Haggan, coordinator for Norwich Youth and Family Services, and City Clerk Betsy Barrett presided over the ceremony, while Mayor Peter Nystrom was ill.

    “This is a way to mobilize leaders in the community and encourage kids to keep going,” Haggan said.

    Blinderman, a senior, is Health Chair for the NAACP Robertsine Duncan Youth Council (RDYC) and the NFA Senior Class President. He is a Red Cross Blood Drive Program Host, Backus Hospital Junior Volunteer and a National History Day Competitor, as well as an athlete on the Unified Basketball Team, and varsity Soccer and Track and Field. He is a member of the National Honor Society, National Science Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society. He will attend the University of Virginia.

    Labajos Medina, a senior, has gone above and beyond her role as a student and has been a mentor, tutor and friend to many students who have a disability. She has worked with students with disabilities since she was in middle school. Recently, she was hired by the Department of Social Services to assist families living with a disabled child. In addition, Labajos Medina has helped tutor students who are learning English. She had to learn English as a student from Peru and has excelled academically, earning Highest Honors each year. Her future plans include attending college and earning a degree in Developmental Psychology and making a difference in the lives of young people.

    Martinez Diaz, a sophomore, displays an eagerness to learn, and her contributions to Norwich Free Academy and the Sachem Campus community have cultivated a positive and inclusive culture. She brings a sense of pride and joy to our school culture and routinely updates bulletin boards, daily notices and creates birthday recognitions for students and staff. She was also a valued participant in the school’s community service day, making flowerpots for group homes, and blankets for those who were homeless in the community.

    McNally, a senior, has been student Project Outreach coordinator for the last two years. Last year during the pandemic, she worked with a group of students to develop entertainment and activities for residents of several residential programs who were unable to have outside visitors. She recruited students to share their talents for a virtual talent show and then developed an idea for a virtual bingo project where students submitted a video of themselves sharing one of their favorite things.

    This year when Project Outreach received a large donation of yarn, McNally worked with another student to create a winter project where students would receive yarn and needles to create scarves and hats for those in need. Many of the items were donated to the St. Vincent DePaul Place to keep individuals warm.

    In addition, she was the captain of the varsity field hockey team, active in six unified programs, as a member of the orchestra in her freshman and senior years, and is a member of the National Honors and Spanish National Honors Societies.


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