As he scrolled through the College and Career Center’s Google Classroom, senior Luka Gabitsinashvili noticed the 2019 Fairfax County Student Peace Award and decided to apply.

On March 10, he accepted both the award and the 100 dollar donation to a non-profit organization of his choice for his work as president of Key Club, through which he volunteered and wrote holiday cards for hospice children.

“[The] donation on my behalf [was to] the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center,” Gabitsinashvili said. “Everyone is very welcoming; [they] love what they’re doing and they’re doing it for the children. Children are the future of our world.”

Local politicians, including school board member Ryan McElveen and representative Gerry Connolly, attended the ceremony at Stacy C. Sherwood Community Center.

“I was very grateful and […] happy that I won the award because I love planning service projects and giving back to my community,” Gabitsinashvili said. “[The award] was a motivator to keep working harder and planning more events in the future.”

Gabitsinashvili said he would dedicate the award to anyone in his life who encouraged him to be who he is today, especially Key Club sponsor Mary Cobb-Wittrock for her support and Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center fundraising director Renee Boyle.

“[Boyle] was a big influencer in my life because of her passion for sticking with an organization that has a very clear [purpose] for helping others and putting other’s needs first,” Gabitsinashvili said.

Gabitsinashvili said his motto is “be the change you want to see in the world” because it shows, how with many passionate people, great change can occur.

“My biggest passion in life is environmental activism and humanitarian relief,” Gabitsinashvili said. “[The] quote of being the change you want to see in the world really highlights how every individual has the potential to make a large impact if they want to.”

Gabitsinashvili said he encourages other student leaders to apply for the Student Peace Award, but to not use the award as an incentive for doing charity work.

“The award is not there to justify what you did, it’s […] to motivate you,” Gabitsinashvili said. “Even if I didn’t get the award, I would still love what I’m doing and still have that passion for volunteering and helping others.”