Awards honor Henrico students
The Mills E. Godwin String Ensemble provided prelude music and the Highland Springs High School Choir/Ensemble provided choral music at the 45th Annual Brotherhood Sisterhood Youth Award Ceremony, held February 23 at The River Road Church, Baptist. Among the honorees were 20 Henrico County residents and students, including one recent immigrant to the United States from Myanmar (Burma).
Sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond, the awards annually honor students from local public, private and parochial schools who have schools who have been nominated by their school counselors, administrators and classmates for their efforts to improve human relations, enhance understanding among people of diverse backgrounds, and model empathy and caring for others.
At The Academy at Virginia Randolph, for instance, Elisabeth J. Hutson participates in the AVR Peer Mentoring Program, Jobs for America’s Graduates, and Skills USA. She is known for her ability to be a team player, relate to others from diverse populations, and act as a voice of reason when conflict arises.
Justin Bartlett of Varina High School, who aspires to a career in educational leadership and administration, belongs to Key Club, Beta Club, and National Honor Society and works a part-time job at Famous Footwear. As president of the senior class and a member of the student congress, he is known for interacting well with other students and helping them to have their voices heard.
A volunteer for Angel Food Ministries, Raven Sharrieff of the Hanover Center for Trades and Technology also serves as the manager for the boys basketball and soccer teams. Her coaches say that Raven models appropriate encouragement and confidence and that the boys reflect the respect she demonstrates toward them. In addition to helping to care for a grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease, she worked with a boy at summer basketball camp who has autism, helping him to build confidence and feel part of the team.
As chief reporter and lead anchor on the school news station at Hermitage Technical Center, Jordan Taylor has brought mentally, physically, and emotionally challenged children on air in the studio to have them assist with news broadcasts and to enhance their visibility in the community. He is also a teacher aide, a member of the Tech Ethics Society and Henrico County Division of Police Explorer Post #608, a mentor to physically and mentally handicapped
students, and a volunteer helper for students who are being bullied and harassed.
At The New Community School, John T. Whitty III is known for his kindness and polite ways, as well as his willingness to volunteer to help other students who need assistance or partners for projects. He is always ready to lend a hand when his peers need a big brother, friend, or classroom support person, and he knows how to intervene early in a situation and prevent confrontations.
A member of Project Diversity, a group that celebrates and showcases the diverse cultures and religions at Glen Allen High School, Soemi Nava-Ovalle is known as a calming influence during heated debates and for her ability to relate well to students from all backgrounds. After seeing some exceptional education students being bullied at school, Nava-Ovalle championed a campaign called Stand Up/Speak Out, which advocates for the rights of students with special needs.
Sarah Gaines Pearce founded the Campus Feminism Club at St. Catherine’s School and is also an avid crusader for the campus Gay/Straight Alliance. With the Feminism Club, she leads a regular lunchtime conversation group, and works to bring in outside speakers, including a recent expert who spoke about the traditions of Muslim women.
Founder of the Earth Service Corps at Deep Run High School, Liesa Collins also is a youth group leader at Gayton Kirk Presbyterian Church and a youth elder for session meeting at her church. In addition to working with the Key Club, Student Congress and SODA, she volunteers at the YMCA and provides swim lessons to children of diverse backgrounds.
As junior class president at Godwin High School, Carter LaBoue was asked what the class officers’ legacy should be, and responded that he wanted to be a member of the first senior class that would mentor freshmen rather than hazing him. In addition to leading the newly-created senior-freshman mentoring program, LaBoue made a point of walking around the cafeteria during the first week of school and starting up a conversation with anyone eating alone, then introducing students to each other and helping them establish connections.
Calyssa S. Baig of Highland Springs Technical Center has served in the Interact Club and as a class officer and Tech Center student ambassador. Known for her friendliness and her caring and giving spirit, she attended the Student Leadership Conference, served on the Homecoming Committee, volunteers at the food bank, and is a member of
the Technology Student Association.
At Northstar Academy, Chris McKenna has appointed himself the arbiter of birthdays. Whenever he knows of a student’s birthday, he leads the cafeteria in song and celebration. A volunteer at St. Peter’s Church homeless feeding program, McKenna helps welcome new and visiting students, assists middle school students who have behavior
difficulties at school, and encourages his peers to focus on their abilities rather than disabilities.
The captain of the lacrosse team at Freeman High School, Stephen Goddard is also a member of the National Honor Society and a volunteer for CARITAS. In addition to tutoring students at Maybeury Elementary School and at Freeman, he volunteers many hours coaching 10- to 12-year-olds at the Boys and Girls Club of Richmond, teaching youngsters not only how to be better athletes on the field but also how to apply lessons in off-the-field situations.
As a peer advisor and a coordinator of the MADE Mentoring program, Marshall Mayhew of St. Christopher’s School shows his ninth-grade group that it is ‘cool’ to be open to ideas and opinions different from one’s own. The faculty advisor of the peer mentoring group comments, “Reaching out to others is a natural part of who Marshall is. He selflessly and enthusiastically engages the younger guys in activities and discussions that help boost their self-confidence and self-awareness.”
Jason Bass of Benedictine College Preparatory School has logged well over 100 hours of community service with organizations such as the Special Olympics, Police Athletic League, and The Salvation Army. Over the past three years, he has organized and spearheaded the Cheer for Gear campaign, which has collected more than $4,000 worth of sports equipment and athletic gear for low-income children who would otherwise be unable to participate in sports.
At J.R. Tucker High School, Valentina Vega founded and serves as president of the Latino Association for Personal Success (LAPS) club, which empowers Latino students and promotes their education. Valentina also tutors elementary through high school Arabic-speaking students in English, tutors French to other Tucker students, serves
as a bingo volunteer for senior citizens and is active in the Key Club and PTSA.
As co-chair of the student government at The Collegiate School, Jordan Lee is known as a skillful consensus-builder and unifier who excels at conflict resolution and works to include many voices while striving to represent them fairly and equally. He is also a member of the Mosaic Diversity Club, and serves as an ambassador and guest speaker at the Collegiate Emerging Leaders International Conference, welcoming and hosting students from 12 schools around the world.
Ellie Iverson of The Steward School is a member of the Stewardship Club and volunteers at the Skills Development Center, Patrick Henry’s Promise and Northstar Academy.
“Ellie,” said her nominators, “is the ideal role model for others on how to be an inclusive, caring friend to all. She encourages others to be giving and she herself has a low tolerance of self-centeredness.”
When Jennifer Titus of Hermitage High School was offered a study hall due to a scheduling conflict, she refused it -- despite a rigorous course of studies and activites such as captaining the cheerleading squad and volunteering for Triangle II Community Service -- and asked to tutor exceptional students instead. “What separates Jennifer from
other students,” said her nominator, “is her ability to see the person and not the disability. . . When the students see her in the classroom, they are very eager to work with her on various lessons or tasks.”
After only three years in this country, Samuel Uk Ceu Lian of Henrico High School has become an inspiration to all the students in his ESL class. Active in the school’s Spirit Club, he has become an interpreter for the Chin Community, a youth leader in his church, a varsity soccer player and a member of the robotics team. His peers know -- despite his struggles to learn not only content but also the language used both in and out of the classroom -- that he can be
counted on to try and defuse any situation and handle classroom disturbances with tact.
A student at Highland Springs High School, Andrew L. Compton uses his musical talents to brighten the lives of visitors to the homeless shelter at which he volunteers, as well as to lead youth worship at his church. He has traveled to Atlanta, Philadelphia and East Asia on mission trips, volunteers at the LAMB’s Basket food bank, is president of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society, and is known among nursing home patients and students alike for his compassionate listening ear.
“Perhaps Andrew’s most impressive quality,” wrote a nominator, “is the humility that he displays in all things, knowing that he has much more to learn in his life, that he is not a perfect individual, and that every moment is a learning opportunity for the future.”
Dr. Even Alexander, a New York Times best-selling author who has been featured on Oprah and Dr. Oz, was in town last week to promote his June 27 talk, "Proof of Heaven," at Glen Allen High School.
Alexander (pictured, at right, while Unity of Bon Air church member Harry Simmons interviews him) has written about what he considers to be his journey through the afterlife.
Tickets to this month's event are $25 and will support the new Bon Secours Hospice House being built later this year. > Read more.
The Innsbrook Rotary Club, which is celebrating its 25th year in 2015, has completed a number of volunteer projects this year and raised thousands of dollars for various organizations through three events.
The club's annual rose sale, benefit for youth live auction and Virginia Fire Games competition, combined with individual and corporate donations, have raised nearly $70,000 – money that the club contributes back to the community.
FeedMore is the beneficiary of the club's 25th anniversary project, which provides refrigerated trailers to be used for the distribution of food throughout Central Virginia. > Read more.
Chef Bryan Voltaggio will host a special three-course dinner event July 21-22 at his Willow Lawn Family Meal restaurant. The menu will consist of his favorite dishes and offer diners the chance to purchase a signed copy of his newly released book, HOME.
Voltaggio will attend and cook at each dinner, as well as share stories that inspired recipes for the book. > Read more.
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