Sterling Heights, Warren
Jefferson community bands together
May 4 concert to benefit first-grader with leukemia
By Maria Allard
Posted April 23, 2014
STERLING HEIGHTS — Jefferson Elementary School first-grader Aleena Hermiz is the type of student who always has a smile on her face, likes to give hugs and has a reputation for being an all-around sweetheart.
So when students and staff learned the 7-year-old was stricken with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, they wanted to do something to help.
On May 4, the Jefferson community will host a Teen Nation Tour (TNT) concert in honor of Hermiz. The show will feature live performances from several up-and-coming teenage recording artists. The poster advertising the show lists the following singers who will perform: J Ryan, Tristan Blaine, Faith Marie, Collin Kozola, Nic Neufeld, Kaity Floyd and Katie Akin.
Jefferson Principal Jennifer Davis said all of the show’s proceeds will benefit the Hermiz family, which includes Hermiz’s mom, dad and younger brother. Because Hermiz needs 24-hour care, her mom left her full-time job.
The TNT show will be held at the Warren Consolidated Schools Performing Arts Center, 12901 15 Mile Road. Tickets are $5 each. Doors open at 2:30 p.m., and the show begins at 3 p.m. A meet-and-greet with the performers follows at 4:30 p.m. Tickets went on sale the morning of April 16 with 250 tickets sold right away. The venue holds 780 people.
Hermiz was diagnosed with A.L.L. in December 2013. She was having stomach aches for a while and always felt tired.
“Her mom just knew something was wrong,” Davis said.
The first-grader ended up in the emergency room, where blood work was done and eventually a diagnosis was given. The news left teacher Keli Sowell “a mess,” but the prognosis is good for Hermiz, who is responding to treatment.
“As of the last bone marrow treatment, she is cancer-free,” Sowell said. She said treatments, will continue for the next two years.
Because Hermiz needs to keep her immune system strong, she cannot attend school. So the young student doesn’t fall behind with her school work, Sowell visits her at home two days a week after school for tutoring sessions. Hermiz is excelling so much that Sowell sometimes gives her second-grade level work.
“She is so bright. She misses school a lot,” Sowell said. “She has good days and bad days. The days she has chemo, those days tend to be a little hard on her.”
But she’s still the same girl who loves makeup, reading, playing memory games, getting her nails done, the color pink and anything that sparkles.
Sowell said Hermiz’s classmates ask about her. They know she is ill and can’t come to school. When news of Hermiz’s illness traveled throughout the district, students and staff from other schools wanted to help. The Carter Middle School Student Council, for example, is selling candy bars after school to raise money for Hermiz.
Sowell said the Hermiz family is grateful for all the support.
“They’re a very humble, quiet, grateful and spiritual family,” the teacher said.
TNT is a nonprofit, peer-to-peer community service program that uses music to educate students about bullying. The tour features up-and-coming recording artists who perform country, pop and rock ‘n’ roll Top 40 hits.
“They’re very talented teenagers,” Davis said. “They’re just ready to make it big.”
During concerts, artists also share personal experience about bullying, discuss the varying degrees of bullying and how to prevent it.
For more information on Teen Nation Tour, visit www.teennationtour.com.
Anyone who would like to make a donation for Aleena Hermiz or purchase tickets for the concert can contact Keli Sowell at firstname.lastname@example.org, Jennifer Davis at email@example.com or the Jefferson main office at (586) 825-2680.
About the author
Staff Writer Maria Allard covers the school districts of Center Line, Fitzgerald, Van Dyke, Warren Consolidated and Warren Woods, and Macomb Community College for the Warren Weekly newspaper. She also covers the City of Grosse Pointe Woods and the Grosse Pointe Public Schools System for the Grosse Pointe Times newspaper. Allard has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University, and she is in love with the Rolling Stones.
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