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Rustic Spirit Spotlights: Daniela, Gabriel and Lavin
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Rustic Spirit Spotlights: Daniela, Gabriel and Lavin

Rustic Spirit Spotlights highlight young leaders who are making a positive impact. These teens are taking creative action to solve problems in their communities and inspiring others along the way. At Rustic Pathways we’re honored to recognize them!

Daniela Toribio
Age 17
Manhattan Bridges High School
New York, New York

As a peer-to-peer mentor assigned to a student in need of academic assistance, Daniela took it a step further to make the mentoring more enjoyable with presentations, themes for meetings and fun activities.

After noticing students become less social and distant after quarantine, Daniela has also been working with school staff to make her peers more engaged and have fun through different activities. Her goal is to influence the student body to stay on task while also enjoying themselves.

Daniela plans to major in financial engineering and also education. In the future she’d love to make an impact in the education system. Daniela loves to play softball and especially enjoys the sensation of the ball making contact with the bat and the adrenaline she feels when running to catch a ball. Daniela’s idea of fun also includes the peacefulness she feels when painting or reading a book.

When wanting to make a positive impact, one should want and love to do it. Daniela says not everyone will recognize the effort, but that shouldn’t halt intentions to do the right thing. She gives thanks to all trying to make this world a better place through big or small actions.

Gabriel Cortez
Age 17
Clearfield High School

As Student Body President, Gabriel gives leadership lessons to youth in local elementary and junior high schools. He plans and participates in numerous service projects including visits at senior citizen homes and assisting at local food pantries.

For the last five years Gabriel has been a Student Body Officer and is on his school’s National Honor Society Presidency which allows him to coordinate service projects. He’s also a part of the Attorney General’s Youth Advisory Committee for the State of Utah. This role allows him to tackle issues in the local community with other students from around the state to draft legislation and involve others.

Gabriel hopes to major in Political Science and go to law school. He aspires to become a lawyer, getting experience both in defense and prosecution, and then go into public service and get involved with politics. In his free time Gabriel loves to hang out with his friends, play pickleball, attend school sporting events, and paddle board when the weather is warm.

To better oneself and one’s community, Gabriel encourages others who see an issue, challenge, or anything that needs to change to be the person to act on it. Also, get others involved to create a community network where people can feel more connected and included. And be sure to remember these three words: action, inclusion, and compassion.


Lavin Maddox
Age 16
Sioux Falls Christian High School
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Lavin has been awarded the National Community Service Award the last two years for her volunteer work in local churches, retirement homes, hospitals, schools, and nonprofits. Just two of these efforts include mentoring an elementary school student and supporting the Backpack Program that sends bags of prepared food home with children who may not have access to food over the weekend.

This year she started a chapter of the SALSA (Serve And Learn Student Association) club at her school, which seeks to serve the community, but also recruits fellow students to serve. Lavin is also on the Mayor’s Youth Council and her school’s student council where she communicates with the student body to make adjustments that are beneficial to the school’s culture.

Lavin feels fulfilled when creating relationships with those around her and desires to enter a field that’ll provide her opportunities to utilize her passion of serving, leading and connecting with others. Outside of class, Lavin is a member of the varsity volleyball and swim team. In her free time she loves to read, bake, spend time outside, do yoga and sing.

Lavin advises others to get outside their comfort zone and try as many different activities as possible. Personally, she didn’t volunteer a lot until her second year of high school, but daring to step out of what she knew led her to find her passion of serving others. To make an impact, start small and ask someone new if they need help with anything.

Nominate a Student

Do you know a student doing valuable work that deserves to be recognized? Nominate them here! Are you making an impact? Tell us about your work here.

Make Change

Interested in creating change in your community? Check out our guide and learn how to make an impact as a student.

At Rustic Pathways, our goal is to make positive contributions to the communities we visit through responsible travel operations and community service projects that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone