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Shari Benites: A Champion of Change

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Shari Benites was named a White House Champion for Change this year

Shari Benites was named a White House Champion for Change this year

Lindsey Bowers

Lindsey Bowers

Shari Benites was named a White House Champion for Change this year

Jessie Moyer, Sentry Staff Reporter

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To Shari Benites, Minority Achievement Coordinator and Director for the Center for Leadership and Public Service, being a teacher goes far beyond the classroom. In these positions she works with students to help them succeed and become leaders around their community. Benites is the recent recipient of the Champions of Change award by the White House, which recognizes people who are making a difference around their community. Benites is an advisor to a plethora of clubs and organizations including the Success Opportunities And Results (SOAR) Cohort, the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN), Latinas Leading Tomorrow, Sister Circle, College Bound, Club Cafe, the Respect Others Community and Self (ROCS) Committee, Model General Assembly and National Honor Society. All of her work is centered around helping others, whether that be providing first generation college bound students the support they need, teaching kids how to step up and be leaders or encouraging minority students to excel in any way they can.

Benites was inspired to center her work around helping minority students when she saw the achievement gap that exists between some students of color and white students.

“It is not a lack of resources in Arlington, we have plenty of money, so what is it that is not connecting? What are we not doing to serve all of our children? I started reading books and got interested [in these questions],” Benites said.

To Benites, the results that she sees from students is the most rewarding part of her job.

“When you see success, when you see growth and when you see a student take advantage of an opportunity or become successful … I feel like I have a purpose in life,” Benites said.

Benites was nominated to be a White House Champion of Change by a coworker who serves on the board of The Dream Project with her. The Dream Project is an organization that focuses on helping immigrant students obtain a college education. Through her many efforts like this to give back to kids, she placed in the top ten.

“To be honored as a Champion of Change by the White House was really shocking … I really feel blessed to be surrounded by so many people who are doing such good work and it was really inspiring to be around the people who won because there was so much positive energy,” Benites said.

Although this honor was shocking to Benites, it did not come as a surprise to senior Diana Calderon, a student who works with Benites in many activities.

“I think she deserves [the honor] and so much more, not only because she supports many students, but because of her hard work, dedication, perseverance and passion. She is not only there for the job, but she is there because she loves what she does,” Calderon said.

Benites has encouraged Calderon and so many others to step outside of their comfort zones and become leaders, something that Calderon is very grateful for.

“She is not a person who just worries about herself, but rather she looks outside of the box, no matter your ethnicity or race. She wants to help everyone and I think her dedication towards us is indescribable. She pushes us to be leaders, and she makes such a difference in our lives,” Calderon said.

So many students have experienced Benites’ selflessness and her inspiring motivation to do good and make a difference in this world.

“Some advice I have is to find something that is important to you outside of yourself and do what you can to work on that issue. It is important to remember that life is not just about you, it is about making a difference,” Benites said.

The influence Benites has on so many student’s lives and her dedication to helping minority students is seen every day in the tireless work she does. The work and passion she continuously puts into the world make her a true champion of change who this this school is lucky to have.

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Shari Benites: A Champion of Change