Anne Arundel Public Schools awards five students the Mo Gaba Positivity and Perseverance Award

Winners (from left to right) Ming Miller, Yeraldy Tejada Hernandez, Maizy Barbour, Connor Barton-Mullan, and Kate Rimel pose with Lynn Leitch, Sonsy Gaba, and Superintendent Mark Bedell after receiving the Mo Gaba Positivity and Perseverance Award.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools honored five students across the county with the Mo Gaba Award for their outstanding positivity and perseverance.

The students were recognized as part of the class of 2023 Mo Gaba awards, named in honor of Mossila “Mo” Kingsley Gaba, a former Lindale Middle School student and Baltimore sports superfan who died in July 2020 at age 14 after a lifelong battle with cancer. This year’s winners are: Yeraldy Tejada Hernandez of Waugh Chapel Elementary School; Maizy Barbour of Windsor Farm Elementary School; Kate Rimel of Magothy River Middle School; Ming Miller of South River High School; and Connor Barton-Mullan of Monarch Academy.


The award ceremony took place at the Board of Education headquarters in Annapolis Wednesday afternoon after the winners were announced via video Jan. 26 on what would have been Mo’s 17th birthday.

“Mo would be proud of what these kids are doing in their own special way,” Mo’s mother, Sonsy Gaba, said.


Gaba was diagnosed with cancer at 9 months old and subsequently lost his vision. Though he would continue to battle the disease on and off for most of his life, it never diminished his passion for sports, especially for the Ravens and Orioles.

Hours before his death, Mo was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame as the second recipient of The Wild Bill Hagy Award. The Orioles later dedicated July 28 as “Mo Gaba Day” to acknowledge his impact on the team, the city and the community.

In December 2020, the Anne Arundel Board of Education created the Mo Gaba Positivity and Perseverance Award to recognize students that emulate the former Lindale Middle School student’s perseverance and positivity.

Barton-Mullan, a seventh grader at Monarch, received the Mo Gaba Legacy Award for embracing inclusion by supporting, encouraging and advocating for his peers.

At the beginning of the current school year, Barton-Mullan approached his principal, Kim Jakovics, wanting to get involved in something that would help the school.

Jakovics paired him with a first-grade student who expressed his uneasiness about the transition from kindergarten to first grade. Barton-Mullan’s school arrival schedule matched that of his “bus buddy” so he started walking him to class and getting him unpacked for the day.


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Seeing the impact Barton-Mullan’s eagerness to help had on this student, Jakovics created a schoolwide initiative that correlates to one of Monarch’s core pillars, service and compassion, and established the Middle Morning Role Models, extending Barton-Mullan’s kindness as an opportunity for the whole school.

“They were usually feeling down because they missed their parents,” Barton-Mullan said of the younger students. “[When] their older friends such as me and other kids who are in middle school [got involved, they started to be] motivated to go to school.”

The 20 students involved have the choice of being matched with an individual student, helping out teachers in lower grades, or simply being present in the morning to greet the young students with a smile.

“It mainly starts in the morning, but the relationships the middle schoolers have made with the younger students really have extended throughout the day in different ways,” Jakovics said. “It has started a movement among the middle school students to create and launch other service initiatives. It makes me so happy [to see].”

As a result, Jakovics added what she called “service block” for all 225 Monarch middle school students on Wednesdays during the second marking period. Service block is a time in the students’ schedules specifically dedicated to service in lower-grade classrooms, focusing on what students can contribute to the world around them.

“We’ve seen that [these students] have talents that would not have been seen in a traditional classroom setting,” she said. “And it’s not just the younger kids that benefit. This initiative builds efficacy and confidence [in our middle schoolers], which is also a game changer for them to be recognized as role models by their peers.”


Barton-Mullan and Jakovics are confident that this program will continue next year and hope for it to continue in years to come.