Dartmouth pageant winner teaches kids about empathy, inclusivity

Aug 26, 2022

The soon-to-be kindergarteners at the Kiddie Kampus daycare on Old Westport Road were recently treated to a royal visit before the start of their upcoming school year.

The guest in question? Dartmouth High Class of 2021 graduate and current Miss Norfolk County Mya Leonardo, who stopped by to teach the kids about empathy and kindness as part of her educational program called “EMPOWER.”

Leonardo began the program in 2020 after she and her mother were hospitalized following a car accident she said greatly altered her life.

“Ever since then, I’ve wanted to leave my mark on this Earth,” she said. “You never know when your last day is, so why not be nice to everyone and just help people out?” 

Along with classroom appearances, the program includes hosting workshops and creating “boxes of sunshine” for kids in need of some joy.

All of this work, she said, is done in addition to working on her biology degree at Northeastern University.

“I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world,” she said with a smile. 

The best way to spread that positivity is at an early age, she said, which is why she was more than happy to do a reading of Cori Bussolari’s book “Empathy Is Your Superpower” to a cohort of kids on Aug. 26.

“It’s good to get those minds moving and those ideas flowing,” Leonardo said.

In the book are two superheroes who use their powers of empathy to help others by knowing what to say and by being inclusive.

“If you show others that you understand and care about how they feel, they do the same for someone else,” Leonardo read to the kids. “So you set a good example for everyone when you use your everyday superpower.”

She also asked the kids the ways they would use their “superpowers.”

One of the soon-to-be kindergarteners said she was going to get her friend “her favorite toy.”

Along with the reading, Leonardo conducted a hands-on project the kids could take part in: seeing how color combines with shaving cream. She said the idea started around two years ago as a way to let kids express themselves, while also learning the basics of science (her favorite subject).

“It’s like an experiment —  they’re putting things together and following each step,” Leonardo said. “And then the fun part is the end where they get all messy and love it.”

Another part of the visit the kids loved was seeing Leonardo’s Miss Norfolk County crown, as many of them told her that they too would like to wear the majestic tiara.

The Dartmouth resident in turn told the kids that even without a physical crown like hers, they were “all princesses and princes.”

To learn more about Leonardo’s program, visit empowerwithinclusion.weebly.com/.