Carolina Forest Student honored

Mike Hagg, HTC CEO, presents the John Lucsko Trophy to Leah Kozoidek, a Carolina Forest High junior.

From a news release

On May 23, HTC honored 52 students representing all Horry County Schools during the 19th annual REEL Kids Awards held at the Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach. These 52 students have proven themselves through scholastic, athletic, and community achievements in the face of recent obstacles or extenuating circumstances and have been recognized by their schools as winners of the HTC REEL Kids (Recognizing Extraordinary Examples of Leadership) award.

Since 2001, HTC has confirmed a local connection to the community by hosting the HTC REEL Kids program to honor students who may otherwise go unnoticed. These students are worthy of recognition for their outstanding leadership qualities that have helped them through special circumstances. All schools in Horry County, primary through high school, were encouraged to participate by nominating an extraordinary student.

“When we receive the nominations from the schools and read about the hardships these young people have endured, we are humbled,” said Mike Hagg, HTC chief executive officer. “These REEL Kids have fought through the loss of loved ones, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, disease, emotional problems, abuse, neglect, abandonment, and so much more. The most remarkable fact is that the REEL Kids have overcome what some would have seen as stumbling blocks.”

As part of becoming an HTC REEL Kid, each child along with his/her teacher, principal or guidance counselor is interviewed for an HTC REEL Kids segment that airs weekly during the local talk show, RiverTalk. Each child’s inspiring story of overcoming adversity is shared during the interview.

“The REEL Kids program is one way HTC connects with the community and is always a high point of the year for us at HTC. We are amazed at the amount of zeal these children possess and can see how arduous times have made them stronger. During the interviews, the REEL Kids give advice to those who are going through difficult situations and urge others above all to never give up,” continued Hagg.

REEL Kids Success Story

HTC showcased a REEL Kids Success Story again during the awards ceremony. This year’s story was Benjamin Lay, who was honored in 2006 by the Academy for Arts, Science, & Technology. Given a 90 percent chance of dying, Ben’s extraordinary story of survival began with the fight and defeat of cancer as a high school junior. Even though cancer came back with a vengeance years later, Ben is now cancer-free and has courageously taken the reigns of his life to forge a path of hope and optimism.

Currently living in Nashville, Tennessee, he has carved out a very successful life in business working in the financial sector and corporate real estate industry. He gave an uplifting speech to the 2019 REEL Kids about the impact the REEL Kids program had on his life and encouraged the REEL Kids with inspirational words of support.

Prior to the special guest presentation by Benjamin Lay, HTC awarded medals to each winner for their accomplishments. The Meagan Conner Award, Taylor McKinney Award for Courage, and John Lucsko Trophy winners were also announced.

Meet Carolina Forest’s REEL Kids

Academy for the Arts, Science,

& Technology

Bryson Sarvis-12th grade

He was nominated by his teacher,

Robert Decerbo

Bryson Sarvis is a wonderful student in our web and digital communications major. He has dealt with sickle cell disease which often causes him to miss school for treatments. He has become a leader in the major and always has a positive attitude even in the midst of challenges.

Black Water Middle

William Pirozzi-6th grade

He was nominated by his teacher,

Becky Tighe

William Pirozzi is a student whose mother has been fighting cancer for the last three years. Despite his mother’s illness he is in honors classes and works very hard. William’s mother considers herself lucky because she was given only three months to live. William is very pleasant and well-mannered.

Forestbrook Middle

Margaret “Marlee” DellaVecchia-8th grade

She was nominated by her school counselor, Mallie Baker

Marlee DellaVecchia is an eighth grader at Forestbrook Middle School (FMS). I first met Marlee when I was her counselor in sixth grade. Upon meeting her, I knew she was a fighter and had a huge heart. In recent years, she has [withstood] a great deal, from her dad getting esophageal cancer to going through middle school with dyslexia. When Marlee’s father was diagnosed with cancer, it greatly affected their family. Everything they once knew had changed.

She has described to me the process of trying to find foods that her father could eat and how emotionally charged that situation was and still is. She and her father continue to bond over archery.

She is on the archery team at FMS and qualified for regional competitions numerous times in the past few years. Marlee’s father frequently attends practice and loves the bonding time that it gives the two of them.

In addition to all the things going on at home, Marlee has also been diagnosed with dyslexia. She says that this changes the way she processes and understands information. Despite having to overcome this learning disability, Marlee maintained As and Bs throughout her middle school career.

She is a truly remarkable kid! She always has a sunny attitude and makes people smile wherever she goes. Despite all of the hardships that she has endured, she pushes through and makes the best of every situation.

She is a strong leader, a true empathetic, and an all-around amazing person.

Ten Oaks Middle

Raine Mollett-7th grade

He was nominated by his teacher,

Tacy Bennett

Raine Mollett has overcome many obstacles in his life. In first grade, it was determined he had a severe eyesight stigmatism. He felt like he had no friends while struggling academically, socially, and emotionally.

Raine worked very hard in sixth grade.

He connected with Ms. Bennett, one of his sixth-grade teachers.

She helped teach him that problems can be worked through, and she listened to him.

She reinforced skills that taught him patience, empathy, and friendship.

He began to improve academically. Today he has good grades and friends.

Palmetto Bays Elementary

Sachin Sharma-4th grade

He was nominated by his teacher,

Annie Collins

Sachin Sharma was very quiet, shy, and unsure of himself and his new surroundings. His language was very low to the point he could not make himself understood to his friends. Now, he is one of the most respectful students that I know. He is very aware of his surroundings. Students look to him when in doubt of what to do.

In archery, he was having trouble in the beginning. Through practice and determination, he made the team. Sachin is a student that all teachers dream of having in their class. He works thoroughly to do his best and never complains. He went from special education classes to gifted classes.

Carolina Forest Elementary

William “Will” Green-5th grade

He was nominated by his teacher,

Kimberly Rothberg

Carolina Forest Elementary is proud to nominate Will Green, a fifth grader, as our 2018-2019 HTC REEL Kid.

Will comes from a very loving family who provides endless support as he continues to face the many obstacles associated with his diagnosis of nephrotic syndrome. At the age of 3, Will began fighting against the many life-threatening symptoms of the kidney disorder. In April 2018, Will unfortunately faced a rapid decline in his health due to more complications as he continued to fight against the syndrome.

By June 2018, Will’s kidneys were functioning at a level of less than 20 percent, resulting in many medications and dialysis to keep him alive. By October 2018, Will’s kidneys had completely stopped functioning, and they had to be removed.

Through all the medication changes, constant doctor visits, and endless days of uncertainty, Will continued to remain in good spirits and was able to smile on many occasions. On November 28, 2018, Will was given the true gift of life when he received the lifesaving kidney transplant he so desperately needed. Will’s perseverance and strength is evidenced by his continued desire to do well academically and socially, and he maintains complete enthusiasm for life despite all the required medical treatments he has to undergo. He continues to require weekly and daily medical attention to continue on his path toward recovery. His condition has not slowed him down as he continues to thrive in sports and simply live to his fullest.

In the future, Will hopes to become an engineer, but for now, he will continue to give his all to his education and love for basketball.

Carolina Forest High

Leah Kozoidek-11th grade

She was nominated by her teacher, Tom Pasco

Leah Kozoidek was born with cerebral palsy (CP) and has faced innumerable challenges in her life. In addition to the CP, she has struggled with other disabilities that challenge her ability to learn in the same manner as her peers.

Despite these challenges, Leah continues to come to school every day, smiling and positive, and pushes forward through her difficulties.

Last school year, Leah challenged herself to improve her reading abilities. She worked diligently every day, even over the holiday break, to improve her reading.

When she was tested later in the school year, she had jumped four grades in her reading level. Leah’s most recent challenge involved a procedure to help strengthen her legs, which were weak due to the CP. She had to wear casts on both legs from the knees down for several months. Despite this obstacle, she still participated in school actively, always positive and always the “voice of reason” when her classmates became off-track.

She even designed and helped to create a T-shirt as a birthday present for one of her peers, creating it in the school’s career lab. Leah is a joy to have in class and is an inspiration to her peers.


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