age 12 / East Ridge Middle School / Grade 7
I give back by wrapping Christmas gifts for people. My uncle, Doug Richardson, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) last January. When I was 10, I decided to help raise money so doctors can find an effective treatment for this disease. Last year, I wrapped 500 gifts and raised $1,800. All the money goes to the ALS Association. My charity is called “Putting a Wrap on ALS.”
I have also raised money for the American Heart Association by participating in the Jump Rope for Heart program. As a fifth-grade student at Minneola Elementary School, I raised $2,000, which was more than any student in the country.
I participate in worthwhile causes because I think it is important to help others in need. If I ever became sick, I would like someone to help me; therefore, I feel I should help them.
My favorite motto is “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”
My favorite subject is science. I love doing hands-on experiments. Last year, my class participated in a gummy bear lab where we investigated whether gummy bears would grow or shrink in water. To my surprise, they grew.
Traveling is something I enjoy doing. When I was 3, I went to Morocco and rode a camel on the beach in Agadir. In 2006, I was in Hawaii and went on a horseback ride through the set of “Jurassic Park.”
Hawaii was also memorable because I met a Pearl Harbor survivor. At the time of the attacks, he was the only certified scuba diver in Pearl Harbor and had to pull bodies out of the water. He told me to always thank soldiers for their service — and I do.
I’m an avid fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and go to all their home games. Before each game, my family and I attend a tailgate party right where players enter the stadium to go to their locker room. I’ve met players such as Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Earnest Graham, Gerald McCoy, Adam Hayward, and Ronde Barber. To me, the football players are just normal people who happen to make millions of dollars.
My inspirations in life are my parents and Uncle Doug. Throughout my life, they have encouraged me to work hard and never give up.
When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer and focus on real estate law and adoption. I plan on attending the University of Florida.
• First class: Takes all advanced classes and is a consistent A-B honor roll student.
• A ‘magical’ touch: In fifth grade, Mariah received the Disney Dreamer and Doer award, which recognizes students who demonstrate outstanding character and perform good deeds in the community.
• A salute to greatness: Recipient of the President’s Award for Educational Excellence.