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EDITORIAL: Learning, Empowerment, Achievement Foundation (LEAF)

(L to R) Leaf Foundation Board Member Carlos Sanchez, Secretary of Leaf Foundation Luz Sanchez, (2017 Honorees Laurie Hernandez, Wanda Hernandez), Chair of the Leaf Foundation Leezenia Rodriguez, Leaf Foundation Board Members Kenneth Gonzalez, Esq. and Hector Bonilla

The Leaf Foundation is the brainchild of Dr. Senovia Robles who started the foundation when she was Principal of the Adult School. Robles has been retired for around two years now, but the foundation is stronger than ever.

The first gala was held in 2013 to help provide scholarships to Perth Amboy School System Students enrolled in various Adult School programs. The students can use the scholarships in which ever way they need. Their mission statement is: to support and offer scholarships and resources for the student population enrolled in the Perth Amboy School System serving all Middlesex County Communities. A diverse student population, participating in various High School Diploma programs in a non-traditional educational setting will be provided with a variety of opportunities to further their educational goals.

Founder of the Leaf Foundation Dr. Senovia Robles

Leezenia Rodriguez, one of Dr. Senovia’s daughters is Chair of the Leaf Foundation. This foundation has grown stronger each year and has contributed thousands of dollars to those who otherwise would have to struggle to further their eduction. The scholarship recipients in return have come back to give the community.

The Amboy Guardian was fortunate to be able to interview two of this years honorees. Laurie Hernandez, 2016 Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist Gymnast (Special Recognition Award) and her mother, Wanda (Outstanding Mentor Award).

As we were interviewing Laurie and Wanda, what stood out in our conversation is the mutual respect they have for each other.

I took advantage of Wanda’s wisdom by asking her how she would handle a conflict that I personally had witnessed. There was a situation where a young woman was spewing profanity at her toddler. I was tempted to intervene, but hesitated because of the fear of the woman turning her anger on me.

Wanda simply told me that she would have approached the woman with her concerns and say, “I can see you are having a very bad day. I’ve had them, too. Is there anything I can help you with?”

Wanda made me realize it’s not always best to prejudge why a person is behaving the way they do. Just show that  you are concerned.

I asked Laurie, “What attributes did you get from each of your relatives? The one that stuck with me is when she paused for a second and put one of her fingers up to her face before responding that she learned respect from her father. She related a time when asking her mother for something. “And my father responded, “And what else?”” She completed the request she asked of her mother with one  more word: “Please.”

From my: 

Mother: Patience

Sister: Her Smile and Giggles. She radiates positivity

Brother: Curiosity and Ambition

Grandmother: Chin and Sassiness

Laurie also stated that she feels her Grandmother’s presence. She related that her Grandmother always wore a special cross necklace. “After her passing, I found in one of my pockets a bible verse that my Grandmother was one of her favorites.”

To read more about the interview with Wanda and Laurie see Page 5.

It’s a natural to have Wanda Hernandez who is a social worker at the Robert Wilentz School and her daughter, Laurie who are both an inspiration to children and adults to be recognized at the 2017 Leaf Foundation Gala taking place May 6, 2017 on the Riverboat St. Charles.

With Easter and Passover occurring during the same week, Laurie and her mother exemplify how important devotion, compassion and hard work can pay off to benefit, not only you personally, but how you live your life can inspire others. C.M. 

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