Honoring the memory of a local girl lost too soon, the Natasha Love Foundation last week hosted its fifth annual Inspiration of Love Youth Artist & Leadership Awards event, dubbed “The Carnival of Love,” at the Shriners Imperial Room in Cranston.
The evening featured the presentation of a number of awards and the recognition of young people for their creative pursuits.
The foundation is named for Natasha Love Gonsalves, who was killed in 2008 at just 18 years of age. Created by Natasha’s mother, Rebecca Flores, the foundation is committed to making a difference in the lives of at-risk young people through the arts.
“The foundation is her legacy, borne out of the love for what she believed in, her talents and what she stood for,” Flores told those in attendance for the event. “I deeply searched my heart and my soul and I came to understand that the only way to cope with such a devastating loss was to carry on Natasha’s mission, which was reaching out and helping others.”
She added: “At the Natasha Love Foundation, we believe that nobody should have to live with violence, or the threat of violence, in their lives … We can change these kids’ lives by acknowledging their worth and their value in our society. Every human being needs to know that they have value.”
The foundation’s award recipients this year include Aaron Holloway, an 11th-grade student at Blackstone Academy Charter School in Pawtucket, who received the Love Visual Artist Award; Joshua Ortiz, also a junior at Blackstone Academy, who received the Awareness Music Award; Ilyza Albeno, a senior at Cranston High School East, who received the Inspiration of Love Award; Quincy Smith, also a junior at Blackstone Academy, who received the Love Visual Artist Award; and Paige Robinson, a senior at The Met High School in Providence, received the Peace Poetry/Theater/Song Award.
Each of the students shared their creativity – through poetry recitations, musical or dance performances, or showcasing visual art – during the event. All of the recipients received a monetary award and other prizes.
The night’s other honorees included Natasha Cohen, a Middletown High School graduate who received the Respect Award; Jerome P. Morgan, a longtime basketball and football coach at Hope High School who received the Thomas McGovern Humanitarian Recognition Award; and Grace Gonzalez, membership outreach manager for Neighborhood Health Plan of RI, who received the Natasha Love Visionary Award.
To learn more, visit thenatashalovefoundation.com.