A 10-year-old student from the North Allegheny School District is the youngest recipient of the Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania’s inaugural 18 Under Eighteen Awards for 2022.
Makayla Alaquiva is a fourth-grade student at Hosack Elementary and has made it her mission to care for those in need, spread kindness, and welcome new friends.
Makayla helped lead her school’s No Place for Hate initiative, working with other students to promote inclusion and diversity.
“I feel like when someone new comes to school, no one is comfortable talking to them. We have to direct them to the right place, answer their questions. One of the new kids is my best friend now,” she said.
She helped raise money twice a year for the Community Food Bank of Greater Pittsburgh by filming children’s cooking segments and commercials for the organization’s telethons and fundraisers, made in partnership with television. KDKA, said his mother, Beth Burrell.
Burrell, who does marketing and public relations for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, said Makayla was so used to working for the organization, visiting the food bank with her mother and seeing the value in helping others. , that helping with fundraisers was a “natural fit” for her.
“She really hung on to the idea,” Burrell said.
The 18 Under Eighteen Awards from Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania and presented with NexTier Bank honor 18 notable young people from the Pittsburgh area, western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. Makayla was one of more than 100 nominees, said Kim Sterling, communications and marketing manager for Junior Achievement.
“Makayla is an awesome example of how you’re never too young to be a leader and make a difference,” said Patrice Matamoros, president of Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania. “Makayla’s desire to help others in her community and beyond is inspiring, and we are proud to count her among our 18 honorees.”
Makayla studied American Sign Language for several years through Lend An Ear Consulting in Pittsburgh with founder Michelle Walker.
Makayla said it was important for others to take the time to learn to speak with their hands, which is just another language.
“People really need to spread kindness instead of what it is right now,” she said. “I want to continue to encourage people to express their kindness more.”
It was during the social unrest of 2020 that Makayla realized that people who are deaf or hard of hearing had something to say too. This helped inspire the creation of the Emmy-winning video “Unspeakable,” produced by her father, Emmai Alaquiva, who is a videographer. Makayla and her father were featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last year to discuss the importance of the video.
Her mother said Makayla was always naturally empathetic towards others, but those around her really helped shape her, such as the people she would meet at the food bank, as well as the values she learned from her father. and his family and helping the less fortunate. And she took the time to learn about black history when she visited the Whitney Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana, last fall.
Makayla is a gymnast, who has two dogs, two cats and a fish. Besides playing with her little sister at her McCandless home, she enjoys basketball, cheerleading, and playing in the snow.
Sterling said the 18 Under Eighteen have distinguished themselves as leaders and role models who use their abilities to fundraise, volunteer, advocate in the community and/or engage in entrepreneurial activities.
The 18 winners will be recognized this month at an event at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.
Makayla would like to focus more on the homeless and the less fortunate. She already has ideas, including setting up outdoor food carts for those looking for a good meal.
And she said writing a note of encouragement to someone in difficult situations can go a long way.
“Even a map helps a lot, the map can just say, ‘You can do it,'” she said.
She developed her own signature phrase and thought-provoking question: “What’s your ‘and’?” It aims to encourage people to think about what more they can do to help others and make the world a better place.
To her, she said, “It means that I cannot be described as one word but many.”
Natalie Beneviat is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.