In April 1999, tragedy struck Columbine High School in Colorado when two students engaged in a school shooting that killed 12 students and one teacher. On the other side of the continent in Gainesville, Florida, Jessica Marrero, 15, and Shannon Marrero, 13, were deeply affected by this tragedy and decided to take action in their schools so this could never happen again.

Jessica & Shannon Marrero

Jessica wrote a grant and received $100,000 from the River Foundation, and the two girls set out to bring the community together to form Partners In Adolescent Lifestyle Support (PALS), a comprehensive suicide/violence prevention program. The program is now in every high school in Gainesville and has saved many lives. Jessica and Shannon were nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Sapphire Award

In 2007, PALS was the winner of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Sapphire Award, which included a $100,000 prize.

The mission of The Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida is to enhance access to quality health-related services for Floridians through strategic grantmaking to Florida’s nonprofits that serve the state’s uninsured and underserved. The Sapphire Award is the result of our desire to recognize programs that create a significant positive impact on health-related outcomes for the state’s at-risk people and communities.

The 2007 Sapphire Award honorees represent programs that demonstrate excellence and achievements through processes that can be replicated in other communities and programs. The characteristics that these honorees possess are many. In addition to a creative and passionate approach to serving unmet needs in their communities, these programs demonstrate continuous improvement. As learning organizations, they constantly seek expert advice, updated information on their clients’ needs and the latest developments in best practices. As a group they overcome obstacles to serve their clients, and they network with other service providers to ensure a complete continuum of care. Some programs depend on volunteers, but all of them share a passion to serve their communities. Their work is improving the health of thousands of Floridians who might otherwise go without care.