They say that “A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart.” However, Ms. Daconto is no ordinary teacher. She is an activist, a humanitarian, a hard worker, and a source of inspiration. She pours her heart and soul in everything she does. I met Ms. Daconto in 8th grade when I had her as an art teacher. Little did I know at the time that she would become my advisor and my biggest supporter. Back then, I was a timid little Hijabi Muslim girl who mostly kept to herself. I never fit into the crowd and my opinions were always different from the kids in my grade. It was really hard for me to find someone who understood the challenges I faced as a Hijabi Muslim. I didn’t have a teacher who I could confide in until I got to know Ms.Daconto.
I grew to know Ms.Daconto as an amazing art teacher during class who would spend time helping every student with their drawings and giving feedback. Every year she lets her students in the art classes pick a charity that they would like to donate to. She then sells candy to her kids and all the money goes to that particular charity. I didn’t get to know her personally until I joined the clubs she advised- Art Palettes and Saving Our Society. Art Palettes is a club that is dedicated to beautifying Carey. Over the years, we have painted garbage cans, cabinets, walls and doors.
Saving Our Society is a club that Ms. Daconto founded a few years ago and its purpose is to help others in need, locally and globally. The club is devoted to raising awareness about social justice issues. Under Ms. Daconto’s supervision, the club has donated money to Alex’s Lemonade Stand which is an American pediatric cancer charity. She has spent hours staying after school so we could sell water bottles and has encouraged the entire school to walk for the cause. The club has held paint nights so we could fund raise for cancer research and we have made shoes out of jeans for kids in Uganda. We have made sandwiches for people at the homeless shelters with encouraging notes. We wrap Christmas presents for children who do not receive any gifts during the winter holidays. Ms. Daconto has taken us to the Ronald McDonald House where we have made food for families in the community. We have created toiletries bags for the homeless in Baltimore. She is always running to stores to buy any items that we might need for our fundraisers. She teaches all day and stays after school for three hours sometimes so the club can organize its events. Ms. Daconto has an enormous heart and she never gets tired of giving. I have never met a more selfless person in my life. She has taught me the importance of charity and has opened my eyes to the broken world that needs help. She has shown me that kindness is the best gift you can give to anyone and one person can make a huge difference.
Ms. Daconto is also an event organizer for a club called 21st Century Scholars. We attend events where we are educated on issues like women’s rights, hunger banquets, mass incarceration, the wrongfully convicted, global warming, and immigration. We later meet to discuss the issues, what we have learned and the possible solutions. Last year, we went to an event about Kenya, where we were introduced to an African Chief where he explained in detail the education system in Kenya. The next day the club discussed the unbalanced distribution of equity among the boys as opposed to the girls and how the girls were not getting an education but being sold as “girl” brides. Digging deeper we realized that the only way to save these girls was to help them. I remember Ms. Daconto telling us that we could build a shelter for the girls if we raised $6000. We all jumped from excitement when we heard her suggestion and under her guidance we just reached our goal in January.
On the weekends, you can find Ms. Daconto volunteering at the homeless shelter, rallying at a women’s march, protesting outside an airport or helping in any way she can. Besides all the work that she does in the high school and on the weekends, Ms. Daconto is also a part time professor at Adelphi University. She teaches classes called “Healing Racism and Social Injustices”, “Strategies for Activism and Social Justice”, and “Race in American Media”. She was especially asked to teach at Adelphi because of her activism and she has created these courses by herself. She is the type of teacher who uses various tools to educate her students. One time, she asked me and my friend to be guest speakers in her class. She wanted them to gain primary information from people that were Muslim immigrants. Her students had multiple questions about our lives and how we viewed some ongoing social issues in America. Ms. Daconto is truly a teacher who leaves a mark on every student and goes out of her way to give them the resources they need to learn and be successful.
Ms. Daconto exemplifies a compassionate human being who has made a difference in the lives of so many. As I go off to college, I will never forget the lessons that she has taught me about kindness. I am an activist today because of her. She has inspired me to speak on issues that people are uncomfortable talking about. That timid little girl has changed into a confident young woman, who is an advocate for issues like women’s rights, world hunger, immigration and much more. She does so much for the better of humanity and expects nothing in return. I am nominating her to be an Honoree because she deserves to be recognized and can serve as an inspiration for many others.