Meet Some Watermark Kids
Justin made his first appearance to Tucson in April, 2021 where he shared his story of survival and legacy with Watermark’s Executive, Managing and National Directors.
CHRISTINA, Oklahoma City, OK
A ballerina is not born. She is made through hard work and dedication. Christina started dancing at Oklahoma City Ballet when she was just four years old. When it looked like ballet lessons would have to go, Watermark for Kids stepped in to keep Christina’s dream alive. Now seven, she earns straight A's and wants to continue to dance and show other kids they can do anything they set their mind and heart to.
CATHERINE, Tarboro, NC
When Catherine was born with Spina Bifada, doctors told her parents she would never walk. After eight surgeries, she proved them wrong. She walks today but requires a wheelchair for most activities, including competing in high school track. Watermark for Kids purchased a sports wheelchair so Catherine can compete, inspire others and hopefully attend college on a sports scholarship.
ADRIANA, Dana Point, CA
Adriana’s dream was to learn how to cook so she could help her mom in the kitchen. She attended Kids in the Kitchen cooking classes at her local Boys and Girls Club and she also received a behind-the-scenes tour and lesson at The Fountains at Sea Bluffs. Armed with baking pans, cookware, some standard ingredients, her very own chef jacket and a few great books, now she's ready to take on the world one cupcake at a time.
AHMED, Tucson, AZ
In Ahmed’s family, he is one of 10 mouths to feed. But he’s one in a million when it comes to soccer prowess. For this teenager, soccer is about more than making goals. It’s about setting goals. That’s why Watermark for Kids is helping him stay in the game. He’s come a long way from his Kenyan homeland to thrive in America and we know he’s going to go far with is passion and drive to succeed, in soccer and beyond.
JULIA, Tucson, AZ
Julia always dreamed of going to the World Series in softball. When her team qualified to compete, she thought this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was financially out of reach. Watermark for Kids made sure Julia joined her teammates on the trip. Now her sights are set on excelling on her high school team and earning a scholarship to play softball in college. Swing for the lights, kid!
ALEX, Tucson, AZ
Alex is a young teen who craves the skills to become a leader so she can inspire others to protect the fragile desert environment in which she lives. Watermark for Kids sent this straight-A student to Earth Camp at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, where she learned about our awe-inspiring planet and the interdependency of all living things
DAVAUGHN, Glendale, AZ
Ever since kindergarten, DaVaughn Cantley wanted to be a chef. Helping his mom prepare foods, inventing recipes and watching cooking shows on television are some of his favorite pastimes. After enrolling in a culinary arts class in high school, DaVaughn dreamed of gaining more formal training for a career in the food industry, but family resources were constrained by medical expenses for a recent surgery for his disability. Enter Watermark for Kids, which funded the 14-year old’s tuition at a culinary summer camp, including a chef uniform, pots, pans and a baking set. Plus, Chef Johnny Valencia at Thunderbird Retirement Community has taken DaVaughn under his wing and is mentoring him on the finer points of culinary arts.
SHYANNE, Seminole, FL
Sometimes big dreams start small. Take Shyanne Shirley who at age 9, loves to draw and only wishes to be a better artist. Shyanne loves to show people her work and encourage them to try their hand at creativity as well. In her own words, “Art lessons would help me show other people my art so they can take a chance on life to draw and see if they get better. That is what I do.” We love Shyanne’s drive and we’re thrilled to boost her self confidence by awarding her eight private art lessons at her local community center.
INDIA, Southfield, MI
At 10, when most kids her age are content playing make believe, India Burgess is busy believing in herself and taking bold steps to create her future. If she has her way, India’s path will lead her straight to Harvard and onto the Supreme Court bench. So, when the opportunity arose for India to attend the National Young Scholars Program at Northern Illinois University, the straight-A fifth grade student was determined to find a way to attend. Together with her Watermark for Kids Coach, she contacted Watermark for Kids, and we made it happen. Now she’s one step closer to living her dream.
RODNEY, Waterbury, CT
Shortly after entering kindergarten two years ago, Rodney was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was hospitalized and remained home until he rejoined his peers in the middle of his second grade year. Rodney’s homebound struggle with his illness caused him to be depressed. He missed a critical year of socialization, problem solving and communication. Plus, every time he got out of his bunk bed at night, he disrupted the sleep of his five-year old brother. Watermark for Kids helped Rodney make up for some of what he missed by awarding him his dream birthday party at Jump Zone, books and games on his passion – race car driving, and a brand new bed of his very own.
BRIDGETTE, Tucson, AZ
Along with her drama partner, Bridgette wrote and performed a play about the Birth of Jazz for an Innovations in History event. The performance piece advanced at both the state and regional competitions and qualified for a national competition. Despite her best efforts at fundraising, Bridgette raised only $400 which was short of the $1000 cost for the trip to Washington DC. Watermark for Kids gladly awarded her the remaining funds needed to express her passions for drama and to expand her horizons with this meaningful, memorable trip and competition.
COREY, Feeding Hills, MA
Corey is an active young man despite the fact that he uses a wheelchair due to Spina Bifida. He’s an avid hockey fan and has a passion for playing Sled Hockey. Over the years the equipment that was donated to him has worn out and he has outgrown it. Through Watermark for Kids he now has new equipment that allows him to play to his full potential. He’s excited to teach younger players and with his advanced equipment he can take on the role of helping younger players adjust and grow as well. We’re especially proud to present his award, as Corey is our very first Watermark Kid to be Coached by a former Watermark Kid, Dan Hesser!
DONALD, New Milford, CT
Donald is pictured here with his grandma and Boy Scouts Troop Leader Jim Bain, Executive Chef at The Watermark at East Hill. Donald is a wonderful young man who has always excelled in the Boy Scout program. Jim knew that the opportunity to go to the 2010 Boy Scout jamboree would open Donald’s world and enhance his citizenship, character development and self reliance as well as give him the experience to see Philadelphia and Washington DC and be a part of this national event attended by up to 40,000 Scouts. Donald loved making new friends, seeing the monuments in DC and says “Every Scout should have the opportunity to go to Jamboree!”
ABBY, Tucson, AZ
At the tender age of 8, Abby has been through more than some people will in a lifetime. This determined child is bright and caring and rose to the top of her class despite every obstacle. Abby felt her dreams to ride a horse and become a veterinarian were unattainable. As a Watermark Kid, she not only built her confidence (and had great fun) in horseback riding lessons, but also shadowed a vet for a day and got to experience the job behind the scenes as well as learned what it takes to become a vet. Abby is a wonderful girl and all of us at Watermark for Kids will be following her future success.
JASMINE, Tucson, AZ
Jasmine has always been a dedicated student. She works hard in school and her favorite things are helping others learn how to read and making friends. Attending Circus Camp as a Watermark Kid, Jasmine loved learning all the different skills including globe walking, aerial silks, poi spinning, drumming and stilt walking. She says the best thing she learned in camp was that when something looks hard it is really just a challenge to practice and have confidence in yourself because you can probably learn to do it and have a lot of fun!
TREVAUGHN, Springfield, MA
Music is something that Trevaughn has loved his entire life. For as long as he can remember he has wanted to learn to play the guitar. In his own words in his application, “Learning to play guitar would help me be open minded, learn new things, express myself and boost my self confidence.” Trevaughn is looking forward to playing the guitar and helping other people learn and he also wants to someday tell another youth about the Watermark for Kids program so that they’ll have the same opportunity to express themselves, learn, grow and thrive. Watermark for Kids was happy to award Trevaughn a guitar and lessons to get him on his feet as a budding young player. After a few lessons, Trevaughn will make his first public performance debut for the residents and associates at East Village Place, a Watermark retirement community! Bravo!
CHANA, Los Angeles, CA
Chana believes that karate helps her get moving and boosts her creativity. She also feels that she needs more confidence and karate gives her a greater sense of control and self-assuredness. Thanks to Watermark for Kids she can pursue her passions in karate classes twice per week for an entire year.
ELLIOT, Tampa, FL
Elliot is a gifted gymnast who is going places. Her first stop is International Gymnastics Camp in Pennsylvania. Already an Olympic hopeful at the age of 8, Elliot worked hard to raise her own funds to attend the weeklong camp, which helps build gymnasts’ self-confidence on and off the mat. Watermark for Kids helped her close the gap.
DANCERS, Springfield, MA
This inspired group of kids at The MacDuffie School shared a common goal – for their entire group to attend the National High School Dance Festival in Philadelphia despite their financial concerns. They had not been able to participate in a learning experience outside the school as a group, and they wanted to experience the conference together. And that they did. They attended as Watermark Kids and afterwards, shared their passion for dance at The Watermark at Logan Square and East Village Place – a Watermark community. As you can see, their words are as passionate as their dance moves.
“Because of the opportunity to learn dance and different styles outside of the class room I grew personally and can now teach others, facilitating their growth as well.”
“When we learn to connect through art, we can share our ideas with a wider range of people. Thanks for recognizing the passion we kids have for dance and how much this trip meant to all of us.”
“This experience helped me to gain knowledge about technique, artistry and choreography and prepared me for my future.”
“Participating in this festival meant so much to me because I never thought I could dance, but now I have self-confidence and I know that if I believe in myself I’m able to do anything. I’m not the greatest dancer of all, but going to the Festival inspired me to work even harder and try my best in performing.”
“This experience broadened our understanding of dance, but this won’t just be useful for us, we will pass on what we learn to others here at MacDuffie and beyond.”
STEPHANIE, Indio, CA
After seven years as a musician, Stephanie was offered a rare opportunity to perform at the Chicago Symphony Hall with her La Quinta High School Wind Symphony Orchestra, the only high school invited. As a Watermark Kid, she not only got to perform, she also got to see the Chicago Symphony and the view from the top of the Sears Tower. Now she has her sights set on attending college for a music degree.
DAVION, Oklahoma City, OK
Adopted with his twin at a young age by grandparents who are on a fixed income, Davion knows there’s little room in the budget for extracurricular activities. So when we learned about Davion’s passion for acting, we made sure he’d be able to enroll in his next semester of advanced acting classes at the Lyric Theatre, as a Watermark Kid.
RYLEE, Crystal Lake, IL
Rylee is a high school freshman who volunteers at The Fountains at Crystal Lake. She enjoys pom line, photography, babysitting and is considering a career in nursing. With three brothers and a single mom, the family budget is limited. So when we learned she wanted to attend summer camp, we paved the way.
JORDAN, Springfield, MA
Jordan proclaims, “I am an artist that strives to change the world with my sound, my heart and melodies.” To hear him play is to believe he will succeed. To help nurture the musical gifts of this inner city teen, Watermark for Kids furnished him a new Yamaha keyboard. It will be by his side when he commences at Berklee College of Music this fall.
ALEXIS, Denver, CO
To excel as an artist in the digital age requires access to technology. However, in Alexis’ household of nine, putting food on the table and a roof overhead leaves nothing to invest in such tools. As a Watermark Kid, Alexis received a new laptop and graphics tablet. Now she’s polishing her skills to compete for a bright future in graphic design.
KIERSTEN, Poughkeepsie, NY
Volunteering at a rescue barn, Kiersten cares for the horses and leads them during classes for disabled riders. This 16-year-old dreams of becoming an Equine Therapist. The oldest in a family of seven, she could never expect her parents to pay for riding lessons, much less the boots, helmet and gas to get there. Watermark for Kids made it happen.
JONATHAN, Springfield, MA
From the tender age of ten, Jonathan’s dream was to live in Brazil and become fluent in Portuguese. Jonathan was presented with the opportunity to study abroad in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil but the costs were not affordable to Jonathan or his Grandma who raises him. He applied to Watermark for Kids and the rest is history. In Jonathan’s words, “It was an amazing trip and I know that I will never forget it. I almost thought that I was dreaming because I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil ever since I was about 10 years old. It was unbelievable. My host family was amazing, I learned the language as well as many authentic dances. Being around local people that had no homes or food made me appreciate everything that I have. My trip changed my life – it inspired me to go to college and study Afro-Brazilian culture. Thank you Watermark for Kids! I will remember this for the rest of my life and I will help others around the world!”
DIANA, Bellevue, WA
A young lady with huge ambitions, Diana loves school, singing and playing the viola. Since her single mom works two jobs to pay for everyday expenses for Diana and her two siblings, she doesn’t ask for extras like a laptop. So Watermark for Kids saw to it that she received one through Laptops for Learners. Now she’ll have the same access to technology as her peers.
HANNAH, Dana Point, CA
Singing has always been part of Hannah’s life and she hopes it will be a big part of her future, too. A member of Dana Hills High School choir, she has twice performed the national anthem at Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley’s Youth of the Year Awards. Watermark for Kids helped Hannah take her training to the next level with eight weeks of private vocal lessons.
MUNAI, Tucson, AZ
At nine, Munai loves rock climbing and dreams of becoming a gymnast. To give her a leg up, Watermark for Kids sent her to Tucson Circus Arts Summer Camp, where she developed confidence and skills walking on stilts, globe walking, set creation, aerial arts and more.
SAMSARA, Tucson, AZ
An aspiring young percussionist, Samsara is sweet, smart and shy. Learning a skill like drumming has given her a challenge she enjoys and boosted her self-confidence. Currently she’s working hard to reach the “white stick” level. But lessons are beyond her family’s means. Now with a whole year’s worth of weekly lessons paid for and continued perseverance, this Watermark Kid won’t miss a beat.
DAN, East Longmeadow, MA
Dan Hesser never let the fact that he was born with Spina Bifida get him down. After undergoing twenty corrective surgeries, Dan can walk with the use of crutches. He dreamed of getting behind the wheel but the cost of special hand control equipment plus six hours of Adaptive Driving School was financially out of reach. That’s where Watermark for Kids stepped in. Dan enrolled in driving school, passed with flying colors and saved some money to fix up a car his grandpa gave him. Now that he can drive himself, Dan increased his college course load, can work more hours to pay for the cost of books and expenses AND he can head to ballgames, the gym and to his Sled Hockey League practices, where he met a great friend, Corey. Now Dan is Corey’s Watermark Coach and Corey is a Watermark Kid!
KADEESH, Springfield, MA
Kadeesh has always had a passion for gymnastics. In her own words, “I remember staring at the television during the Olympics and dreaming I was the one up there on the balance beam or swinging from the uneven bars. I imagined my hands covered in chalk and the feeling of soaring over the vault. I know in my heart that if I get the chance to accomplish my dream I will be good at it and maybe one day it will be me that other young girls are watching and being inspired by.” Already her dreams are coming true. After a few gymnastics lessons, Kadeesh visited her local Boys and Girls Club and talked to the kids about believing in themselves, learning everything they can and being the best they can be. We’re proud of Kadeesh and we thank her for being the inspiration she knew she could be.
PENELOPE, Great Falls, VA
Since Penelope picked up a viola in fourth grade, her talent and hard work have taken her as far as Italy and Carnegie Hall, now she has her sights set on college. To help her get there, Watermark for Kids covered Penelope’s travel expenses to audition at the University of Michigan, along with new viola strings, hair for her bow and sheet music for her audition.
SYDNEY, Trinity, FL
Sydney is a go-getter. She works part-time while going to school, volunteers and serves as historian of her school’s Interact Club. To help her become the first in her family to attend college, Watermark for Kids awarded her two new pairs of prescription eyeglasses, a $300 Target gift card, car insurance for six months and books she’ll need this fall.