10News LEADership: Daniella Benitez

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - We often talk about the high cost of housing here in San Diego. But there are people in Tijuana waiting in line to get into a 500 square foot home for the first time in their lives with running water.

A San Diego teen is making sure they do, raising the $16,000 needed to build each home. She’s raised enough money to build three so far, and she’s only 14 years old. That's why she's out 10News Leadership Award Winner

Her name is Daniella Benitez and she’s a freshman at Cathedral Catholic High School. But she's not your average 14-year-old.

When Daniella heard about the nonprofit Build a Miracle, she started raising $16,000 needed to build a home for a family in need in Tijuana. She gathered a large group of volunteers, including her entire family, to go across the border and they started the hard work. They weren't required to take part in the construction, but it was something Daniella felt compelled to do.

"Well, it took me going down to Mexico and seeing how much people struggle there and how hard it is to live,” said Daniella.

What Daniella saw was a one-room shack with a dirt floor for an entire family.

"Seeing that really motivated me to keep going and keep helping because I couldn't just see all that and then go back to my house and go live my life the way I do," said Daniella.

Daniella did more than just raise the funds to build a home. She created a lasting bond with family's daughter. Little did Daniella know the kind of an impact she would have on the family, especially the young girl almost her own age, during the final reveal. When the little girl walked in her new home for the first time, she ran straight for Daniella, and was overcome with emotion.

"She slept on the floor so after seeing that, and then getting to see her walk into her new room and everything, it was so emotional,” said Daniella, recalling the moment. "It made me cry and it made her cry. I was so happy to get to see her life changed like that."

But Daniella didn't stop there. She raised another $16,000 to build a home for a second family, and eventually a third. And because of her philanthropic work, Daniella sits on the board for an online kid’s clothing company called KidBox. She got the company to donate $10,000 worth of clothes to children in Tijuana.

"I want to keep going because I know that I can keep changing people's lives,” said a determined Daniella. “And, why would I want to stop that If I have the ability to keep doing it?"

To nominate a leader, click here: http://bit.ly/1ChYc8v 

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