SGA leader at Boca Raton campus wins statewide award
Maria Heather Moya, outgoing Student Government Association president at Palm Beach State College’s Boca Raton campus, has won a statewide award for her outstanding leadership and service during the 2020-2021 school year.
Moya received the Bob Graham Distinguished Service Award in the Community College Student category from the Florida College System Student Government Association. The award is named in recognition of the former Florida state senator, governor and U.S. senator.
“It’s an amazing honor,” said Moya, an aspiring lawyer who will graduate in May with an Associate in Arts degree. “I’m really happy to have this recognition of serving Palm Beach State College to the best of my ability and giving back a piece of what the College has given me being a student here.”
The award was presented during FCSSGA’s virtual conference in early April. The organization presents the award annually in the Community Supporter, Community College Employee, Community College Student and SGA Advisor categories. The student category is open to all students, regardless of their SGA involvement.
Manuel Lopez Ramirez, president of the Belle Glade campus SGA, nominated Moya for the award and described her as “a relentless and dedicated leader who always takes initiative.”
“If ever there is a task that needs completing, Heather is the first one to offer guidance and deliver exceptional results,” he wrote in his nomination letter.
During her year as president of the SGA, Moya developed and hosted a virtual forum with Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer, who shared insights on COVID-19 and his tenure and policies. She developed a Criminal Justice Forum featuring Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren. She also pursued an opportunity by Florida State Rep. Joe Casello to submit ideas for bills that could be drafted and filed. Of the submissions by SGA leaders across PBSC’s five campuses, Moya’s bill proposal, “The Florida Fair Chance Act,” or otherwise known as “Ban the Box,” was chosen. Her aim was to eliminate the felony and misdemeanor box on job applications to reduce recidivism, increase reintegration into the workforce and decrease unemployment. It led to the filing of House Bill 1331 and its companion legislation Senate Bill 1646.
“When a student takes the time to recognize all of the amazing things that a peer does, it is often more impactful than when an advisor or faculty member makes the nomination,” Kerry Roth, FCSSGA state advisor said, noting that anyone in the Florida College System can nominate a student. “It appears that the judges who selected Heather as the award recipient agreed that she has done some amazing things this year. Heather and Palm Beach State College should be proud of all that she has accomplished.”
Having been raised in the Tri-state area, Moya relocated to Florida only a couple of years ago. At PBSC, she quickly got active with the SGA, and despite the pandemic, seized the opportunity to lead the organization. In addition to her statewide award, she received a Leader of the Year Award from the Boca Raton campus. She plans to transfer to a university to get a bachelor’s degree in political science or public policy before pursuing law school.
“To go back to school and in your first year to not only excel academically, but also become president of the Boca Student Government, win multiple awards, and be active in the community— it’s been a whirlwind year. For me, being recognized in any shape or form is humbling and something I never expected,’’ Moya said.