Wilton High School senior Sophia Ramirez was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2020 Congressional Awards ceremony on Sept. 26. Ramirez was one of eight Connecticut teens who received this distinction at the event.
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ award for young Americans. It recognizes their efforts in four program areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration.
Ramirez started setting her goals three years ago at age 13 and discovered not only that she could set herself in new adventures but also how gratifying it was to help others–and more so, to combine both. To share her love of reading, Ramirez volunteered with Bookshare, an ebook library that makes reading easier for people with reading disabilities, where, scanning numerous books to add to Bookshare’s library for more people to enjoy.
Then, as part of her primary exploration trip, she traveled to Colombia to help SoyDoy, a Colombian charity that works to ensure the wellbeing and nutrition of boys and girls in difficult situations. There, she volunteered with the children and taught them impromptu English lessons.
From that experience, she created and funded SynYouth, a youth-led nonprofit that matches English-speaking high schoolers with kids in Latin America for weekly online one-on-one English classes. She began recruiting her peers from the Wilton High School Spanish Honor Society as tutors. The program has grown to include high school and college students from 31 states within the U.S. who tutor kids in 12 countries in Latin America. SynYouth has made a real difference for tutors and students alike during the current Covid-19 pandemic, by not only opening new doors and broadening the horizon for the children being tutored but also providing tutors with a wider view of the global community, sensitizing them to the needs of others, showing them different cultures and allowing them to share their knowledge and make a difference while also sharpening their Spanish language skills. “In a world in such need of equality, what better way than to help close the gap from our own homes, sharing what we have and learning about each other,” Ramirez said, adding, “The Congressional Award was not only a challenge but an inspiration that showed me the way to start a legacy that, with the help of my close friends who are in charge of different management areas for SynYouth, will continue to grow and truly make a difference.”