Plainville High School seniors awarded by Petit Family Foundation

June 14, 2017 01:58PM

By Ashley Kus The Plainville Citizen

PLAINVILLE — Two Plainville high school seniors proved they were ‘the change’ at an award ceremony Tuesday night presented by the Petit Family Foundation.

Caterina LaBella and Alexa St. Jean each were awarded for their service to the community as part of the ‘Be the Change’ program.

“We thought community service was very important,” said state Rep. William Petit.

The program has been recognizing high school seniors for nearly a decade in honor of the Petit women, Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela, who were killed in a 2007 home invasion.

“We wanted to carry it on,” he said of his late wife and daughters’ activism.

Petit’s Plainville High School class of 1974 classmates helped launch the idea.

Jeanette Francini, a classmate, said the goal is to recognize students that go above and beyond in their service outside of school like Hayley and Michaela.

“It’s a great tribute to them,” Francini said.

This year, LaBella was chosen as one of the winners for her project ‘Fill-A-Race Car’ food drive.

“I’ve always been an active member in the community,” she said. “We really worked hard.”

With the help of her family, the teen organized a food drive out of her pink race car at the hot air balloon festival in Norton Park last year. Over 200 pounds of food was collected and donated to the Plainville food pantry along with a $100 monetary donation.

LaBella said she plans to continue the drive at this summer’s upcoming festival.

In the fall she will be attending the University of New Haven for forensic science and fire investigation.

The second winner, St. Jean, was awarded for a special fundraiser she held last year for her cousin who died only a few days later of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. After learning that her six month old cousin Elena Ribera would need a heart transplant, St. Jean got to work on a fundraiser to help out her family.

“The event was amazing,” she said.

St. Jean, a longtime dancer, organized Zumba instructors and helped choreograph several numbers. The event ended up raising $3,000. While the money was meant for the family, Ribera died two days after the event.

“That was really hard to deal with,” St. Jean said.

Some of the funds were donated to The Children’s Heart Foundation.

This past February, a year after her cousin’s death, the teen organized a similar fundraiser and raised $1,500 for the foundation as well as for It’s My Heart New England, a support organization for children with heart conditions.

“We hope to do it every year and continue to support other children in her memory,” St. Jean said.

The high schooler donated $500 from her award to The Children’s Heart Foundation.

St. Jean will be attending Central Connecticut State University in the fall for business management.

Both LaBella and St. Jean will be graduating Plainville High School, Thursday, June 15.

More information on the Petit Family Foundation program can be found at: