A Greenlawn middle school student whose efforts embraced the differences between people received a top award from a local organization as an "upstander" -- one who stands up for others and does not allow social cruelty.
Julia DeVita, a seventh-grader at Oldfield Middle School in the Harborfields district, was given the Friedlander Upstander Award from the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Society of Nassau County.
She was the only middle school student to win the award, which also was given to two local seniors: Ayla Gioia of Herricks High School and Rachel Goodman of Sachem High School East. Each of the three won a $2,500 scholarship.
"Everyone has a purpose on this earth, and I believe that my purpose is not only being the change in my life, but in the lives of others," said DeVita, 13.
DeVita was nominated by Oldfield choral director Jessica Lowenhar for her work with an autistic classmate named Samantha. The two meet weekly for lunch and also sang a duet of Enrique Iglesias' "Hero" at a recent talent show and anti-bullying assembly.
DeVita is a member of her school's Pal for PALS Club, Drama Club and National Junior Honor Society. She volunteers with the Junior Welfare League of Huntington.