Spotlight Award

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Spotlight Award Winners

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Daisy Policarpo


Nomination written by Daisy's mentor, Maria Ruelas

I have now known Daisy Policarpo for two years after she was assigned as my mentee through USC’s First Generation Mentor Program. When discussing her academic and career goals, Daisy shared with me her desire to become a teacher and eventually an elementary school principal. Her passion for education was contagious and after sharing with her my position as a School Social Worker at Lawndale Elementary School District (LESD), Daisy offered to volunteer at the school district. Her willingness to donate her time speaks volumes of her dedication towards ensuring all students receive a quality public school education. Not only does she volunteer at Lawndale, but she also manages to balance her course load along with three jobs at USC Jumpstart, Teach for America, and West Los Angeles College and most recently, at the Lawndale Elementary School District. Daisy’s academic and personal success has inspired her to promote and advocate for all students.

Through her interactions with a variety of students identified as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act, foster youth and those with behavioral concerns, Daisy identified external factors impairing students from focusing on their academics. Once she identified the socio-emotional needs of these students, Daisy placed her efforts in linking them to accessible mental health services to eliminate barriers to their academic success.

After she informed me of this, I was inspired by her attentiveness and investment to provide students with access to educational services. Soon after, the Student Support Services department at Lawndale and I began to collaborate on creating an intern program that would bring graduate students from USC to provide counseling and support services to our student population.

Out of this collaboration, the iHeart (i Heal Evolve Advocate Respond Transform) Intern Program was created. Since its inception, its mission has been to service all students in our district who do not have access to mental health services. Our graduate level interns from USC provide our students and staff with innovative strategies, evidence-based practices, and approaches to other means of correction that enable our students to take charge of their emotions and behaviors. Daisy has been the leading force in the implementation of the iHeart Intern Program. She currently works with a wide range of students with behavioral needs and has succeeded in expanding our program to neighboring universities such as Loyola Marymount University and Cal State Dominguez Hills. I am proud to say that we are now recognized as a Teaching Institute and have expanded the number of interns from eight to twenty two. Daisy’s contributions have increased service delivery and have enhanced student’s learning experiences.

Her students can attest to the impact she has had on their education. Joel, a third grade student, states “I look forward to Mondays, because that’s when Ms. Daisy comes and helps me!” Daisy is valued not only by the students she serves but also by the district for her efforts to address the needs of all LESD students.

The next project Daisy embarked on involved identifying the factors that prevent students who have been referred to the Student Attendance Review Board (SARB) from attending school regularly. During the summer she was able to incorporate a parent-student-teacher component and we have seen the number of students who were referred to SARB from 8 to 15! I have no doubt she will leave a lasting impact on our school district and our students as she was recently hired to work under the Student Support Services department.

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