Throughout the 2019 MLS season, Perfect Sense has again partnered with D.C. United to celebrate individuals who are making a positive impact in their communities. The D.C. United Community Star presented by Brightspot is open to any person or organization that demonstrates leadership, compassion, dedication and a commitment to making their community a better place.
The award is announced during halftime of every home match at Audi Field. Read on to learn more about the accomplishments of this season's recipients.
Shivani Shah, October 6
Shivani Shah, a senior at the University of Maryland, is the founder of Peer to Peer, a mentorship organization that strives to support local refugee students by connecting them with University of Maryland student-mentors. Through after-school and weekend programming, Peer to Peer has helped students improve their academic and social skills while providing a sense of community.
Sophia Biabani, September 22
As part of Kick Childhood Cancer night, D.C. United recognized Sophia Biabani as the Community Star. Biabani led a campaign to support children with cancer and fund cutting-edge research in immune therapies. In hopes that one day cancer can be treated without the need of toxic chemotherapy and radiation, Biabani and a group of cancer survivors launched the #NoMoreChemo campaign and raised tens of thousands of dollars for this cause. She also spent her summer studying cell therapy, immunology, and pediatric cancer research at Children’s National.
Children's National Cellular Therapy Lab. August 21
To kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, two members of the Children's National Cellular Therapy Lab were recognized. Patrick Hanley, Ph.D., Michael Dunlevy and their team are Children’s Cancer Foundation-funded researchers studying cell therapies for childhood cancer and improving outcomes after stem cell transplantation.
Last night, @DCUnited kicked off #ChildhoodCancerAawareness month a week early! @DrPHanley accepted the D.C. United Community Star award on behalf of @childrenshealth Cellular Therapy Lab! Thank you @DCunited and @CCFtoday ⚽️♥️Keep up the great work team! pic.twitter.com/48kmC5CMOy— Children's National Hospital 🏥 (@childrenshealth) August 22, 2019
Staff Sgt. Javier Henriquez, August 11
Staff Sgt. Javier Henriquez currently serves as a member of a flight operations team with the Davison Army Airfield. In 2013, Henriquez deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Since returning home in 2014, he’s been awarded five Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
Adam Watkins, August 4
Adam Watkins is a volunteer with DC Scores, D.C. United's official community partner, and serves as a counselor at the Truesdell Elementary School summer camp
Special Olympics D.C. United Unified Team and New England Revolution Unified Team, July 12
Prior to the match on July 12, the Special Olympics D.C. United Unified Team faced off against the Special Olympics Massachusetts New England Revolution Unified Team. The two teams, comprised of individuals with and without intellectual disabilities, were recognized at halftime to celebrate their accomplishments.
Dharshan Varia, June 29
Dharshan Varia, from Ellicott City, Maryland, is a volunteer with the Metro South Asian Deaf Association. He has implemented key initiatives, including a youth committee to represent the children of more than 100 deaf adults in Washington, D.C., promoting inclusivity and accessibility.
Kalkidan Haile, June 26
Kalkidan Haile is a longtime participant and volunteer with DC Scores. Haile is a student mentor and actively involved in environmental and civil rights issues.
Juliana Franco, June 1
Juliana Franco is an active volunteer with DC Scores. She was a member of the 2018 Street Child World Cup team, representing the United States in Russia.
Ingrid Melendez, May 29
Ingrid Melendez is an active volunteer with DC Scores. She’s served as a camp counselor at DC Scores’ summer camps for several years.
Jessica Amaya-Zuniga, May 12
Jessica Amaya-Zuniga, a senior in the top 5% of her class at Bell Multicultural High School, volunteers with Special Olympics and with DC Scores. She was a member of the 2018 Street Child World Cup team, representing the United States in Russia.
AJ Hendershot, May 4
AJ Hendershot is a student at George Washington University and participates in the Navy ROTC program. Hendershot is committed to serving both her country and her community through dedicated volunteering at various local charities and projects, including Food for All DC.
Zarea Boyde, April 21
Zarea Boyde, a senior at Dunbar High School, is a volunteer with DC Scores. At school, she volunteers as a poetry mentor, offers pro bono artistic services, and excels in the classroom as well. She's also a published author, with an article in the Huffington Post, a poetry slam judge, and a sports manager at William Hall academy.
Henry Mader, April 9
Henry Mader is a 4.0 student at Blyth Templeton Academy. He’s spent time studying and playing soccer abroad in Mexico and Argentina. In his free time, Mader volunteers at SWS Elementary School, mentoring and spending time with children who have special needs. He's also a volunteer at DC Scores, where he referees games, works in the office and assists at summer camps.
Meg Grieve, April 6
Meg Grieve, a volunteer with DC Scores, works tirelessly to help kids throughout D.C., where she's given more than 250 hours of her time, working at camps and events and with students on soccer, poetry and service-learning. On the field, Grieve is a four-year starter in goal, and she also plays softball and ultimate frisbee at Washington Latin Public Charter School.
Christian Melendez, March 16
Christian Melendez first joined DC Scores in third grade at Tubman Elementary School in Columbia Heights. Even as he pursues his degree from Montgomery College, Melendez continues to mentor DC Scores’ poet-athletes each year as a summer camp counselor at Leckie Education Campus. Last year he stepped into a coaching role with the Bruce Monroe Chargers.
A’dora Willis, March 3
A'dora Willis is a standout alumna of DC Scores. Though a full-time student at Bowie State University, Willis still finds time to help her mother run a home daycare, volunteer at a kids' martial arts studio, and perform with DC Scores' all-star poetry group, Our Words Our City. She also recently became a published author with her first children's book, "He and Me."
Seeking Nominations for the Next Star
Is someone you know making a difference in the Washington Metro community? The Community Star is open to any individuals or groups of young people between the ages of 10-22 who reside in D.C., Maryland or Virginia.
Perfect Sense and Inspire Confidence
Perfect Sense was founded with giving back to its community core to its mission. Through ongoing, concrete actions, our mission aims to get our employees off the sidelines to join hand-in-hand in bringing joy to the lives of others, while gaining a greater understanding of our community.
In the spirit of giving back, we created Inspire Confidence, a site powered by Brightspot and published by Perfect Sense. By putting a spotlight on individuals courageously making a difference in their communities, boldly taking chances where others don’t, pushing boundaries in innovation, advocating for the environment, and persevering in the face of adversity, we hope our readers will be inspired to make a difference, as well.