From ‘Terrific Kid’ to Kiwanian, Riverview grad lives to serve
By LINDA CHION KENNEY
From Terrific Kid to charter president of the Key Club at Riverview High School and beyond, college student Karisya “Ysa” Moran-Adames is looking ahead to a myriad of ways she can give back to her community as a newly named Kiwanian.
She views the Kiwanis Terrific Kid award she received in 2007, as a second-grader at Mintz Elementary School, as “the single most important factor in my life trajectory.” The mobile food pantry she launched recently through the Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon furthers her mission to lead a life of service.
“My grandmother would take me [to do] volunteer work with her when I was young, and I fell in love with helping people,” Moran-Adames said. “I like to know something I’m doing is helping somebody else.”
With drive, determination and a caring heart for others, 21-year-old Moran-Adames is a junior at the University of Florida. She’s working on two majors (finance and family, youth and community sciences) and one minor (nonprofit organizational leadership). She also volunteers as the marketing and social media director for the Brandon Kiwanis Club, which has a satellite club in Riverview.
Her resume is further enriched with some pretty compelling highlights, including being named the G. Harold Martin Outstanding Key Club President two years in a row, before graduating as a Riverview Shark in 2018.
In December 2017, Moran-Adames was recognized as the Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow, which carried a $50,000 award, including $25,000 for her college studies. The remaining money she earmarked for her organization of choice, which is how Project SonrYsa became a Brandon Kiwanian outreach effort, aimed to reduce food insecurity in the community.
“There’s so many people in the world who need help and assistance, and there’s not enough organizations and support to help them,” Moran-Adames said. “If I can play a part doing something to help someone’s life get better, I will.”
Named for the word “smile” in Spanish (which includes Moran-Adames’ “Ysa” nickname), the mobile food pantry, known as Project SonrYsa, contracts with Feeding Tampa Bay for items distributed beyond the confines of Gibsonton Elementary School. There, the Brandon Kiwanis club for almost a decade has been running the Project Smile and Friday food pantry effort to ensure kids and their families living in tough times have enough to eat seven days a week.
Kiwanian Mike Daigle worked to launch the program and finds in Moran-Adames a young woman with “a great deal of passion and drive.” He added that “She’s very diversified in how she helps,” from showing up in person to working behind the scenes to build and promote club’s initiatives.
Kiwanis youth programs include Key Club at high schools and the Terrific Kids student-recognition initiative in elementary schools, which is designed to promote character development, self-esteem and perseverance.
As a self-described “shy” student at Riverview High, Moran-Adames said she was delighted to see more than 100 students turn out for the Key Club’s first meeting in its charter year, with its motto, “Caring — Our Way of Life.”
“At the age of 15, the Kiwanians saw something in me that I wouldn’t recognize in myself for years, a leader,” said Moran-Adames, in a piece set to be published in a Kiwanian magazine.
The next chapter is underway, with Moran-Adames becoming a full-fledged member of the Brandon Kiwanis Club in September.
Kiwanis “truly embodies the mission of improving the world one child and one community at a time and has inspired me to help serve the children of the world,” Moran-Adames said. “As a new Kiwanian, I can only hope that I can give back to the [club] as much as they have given to me.”