Fort Myers student receives national recognition for outstanding service

Leila Tucker, a seventh grader at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, has been named as one of 12 nationwide recipients of the NCEA 2023-2024 Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). This award is for Catholic school students who embody selfless service, determination, innovation, and ideals that are changing the world while bearing witness to their Catholic Faith.

Leila received her award on Feb. 14, 2024, following the Ash Wednesday Mass, during a presentation before the entire school. Her parents were present for the ceremony. She was one of 12 recipients nationwide, chosen from more than 1.6 million Catholic school students across the country. Laila was presented with a Chromebook tablet from Archangel Education + Technology, sponsor of National Catholic Schools Week (CSW), Jan. 28 – Feb. 3.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School Principal John Gulley said Leila is an example for other students in the community to follow through her leadership and kindness.

According to the award announcement, Leila understands that a servant leader knows that leadership is serving others and meeting the needs of others and not being “the boss.” Leila has been a part of American Heritage Girls since Kindergarten; she has grown from being a “junior” member to being a leader among the troop members.

American Heritage Girls has given Leila two terrific opportunities to be a servant leader in her community. Her first opportunity was to organize a stuffed animal collection to be used by the family courts in Lee County. The second experience was in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in September 2022. Several troop members’ homes were severely damaged by the storm. Leila showed true leadership and kindness by going to their homes and helping them clean up and begin the recovery process. For Leila, this experience reinforced the knowledge that leadership is doing for others, not telling others what to do.

Leila said she was honored to be recognized and takes joy in helping others.

NCEA President/CEO Lincoln Snyder said, “Teaching the whole child is not just about what the student learns in isolation; it’s about how they relate to their community. The students who have won the NCEA Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Awards articulate the goal of Catholic education to educate and nourish the whole person, to understand that Jesus loves us so much he asks us to do something great for others. These young people have answered that call in light of our Faith and are examples to us all.”

For more information about St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, please visit For more information about NCEA, visit