ICGR honors Henrico students

Back row, left to right: Matthew Walker – The New Community School, Taylor James Freeman – Henrico High School, Jacob Salomon – Collegiate School, Adam Spiers – Northstar Academy, Connor Fad – Douglas S. Freeman High School, Ryan McGuire – Glen Allen High School, Michelle Napper – The Steward School; middle row, left to right: Jaunariss Everson – The Academy at Virginia Randolph, Michael Englehart – Highland Springs Technical Center, Nicholas Vega – Hermitage High School, Frida Clark – St. Catherine’s School, DeMarqcuis Henderson – Mills E. Godwin High School; front row, left to right: Allyson McCune – Saint Gertrude High School, Zhane Evins – Varina High School, Erica Mawyer – Hermitage Technical Center, Kayla Brice – Highland Springs High School. (Not pictured, Anna Wong – John Randolph Tucker High School)

On Feb. 28, the Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond (ICGR) recognized 53 Richmond metropolitan area high school students at the 46th Annual Brotherhood Sisterhood Youth Awards. Held at River Road Baptist Church, the event featured keynote speaker Daniel C. Smith of Virginia Commonwealth University and honored 18 Henrico students for their efforts to improve human relations and inter-group understanding and demonstrate caring for others.

J. R. Tucker High School honoree Anna Wong placed second among the finalists in an optional essay contest regarding the topic of the Golden Rule and won $400. Wong was nominated for the Youth Award for her efforts to bring awareness to those who struggle with poverty and homelessness. She participates in outreach programs such as the Daily Planet and Crossover clinic and created an arts showcase called "Movements" that invited faculty and students to share their passions and their efforts to make a difference in the world.

Among other recipients of the Youth Award were Jacob Salomon of Collegiate School and Jessica Renehan of Deep Run H.S. A co-leader of the school's Open Gym program, which pairs Collegiate students with autistic children for the school year for exercise and peer fellowship, Salomon has also served on the school's honor council since his freshman year. He was a senior delegate in the International Emerging Leaders conference held at Collegiate, and captain of varsity football and basketball teams, and a peer leader of TEACH, which helps middle school students make healthy decisions. Renehan was honored for her empathetic, supportive nature and her service in more than 20 activities and groups, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, church youth group, ROC Christmas Outreach and the Best Buddies Club; she also spends her lunches with special needs students and participates in cross country and indoor track.

Ryan McGuire of Glen Allen H.S. was praised for his habit of approaching life with a contagious smile, and his ability to relate to peers with an accepting, non-judgmental attitude. A member of his church choir, he also manages the varsity basketball team, teaches every summer at Vacation Bible School, and is a member of Circle of Friends and Buddy Ball.

At Douglas Freeman High School, Connor Fad visits the Intellectually Disabled (ID) classroom during his study block time each day to spend time with special needs students, and danced with each of the ID students at the prom last year. Other volunteer efforts include repairing and maintaining homes of low income and elderly people, serving as a peer helper, participating in Catholic Heart Work Camp, and coaching second grade football players.

A dancer since she was two, Michelle Napper of The Steward School is also class historian, a varsity cheerleader, president of the Diversity Club and president and co-founder of Operation Smile. She has completed more than 400 hours of community service and participated in last year's highly selective Summer Institute on Leadership and Public Service.

Taylor James Freeman of Henrico H.S. stands out, say his admirers, for his open-mindedness talent for relating to fellow high school students and community members from diverse religions, ethnic backgrounds and philosophical beliefs. He draws people together, mediating conflicts as captain of the track team and mentoring younger students. Other activities include participating in the Distinguished Gentlemen, men’s choir, praise choir at church and serving as a student counselor aide.

Nicholas A. Vega is described as someone who can be depended on to do what is right "even when no one is watching." He assists the mentally and physically challenged at Hermitage H.S., volunteers at the Children's Museum of Richmond and on the Autism Awareness Walk, and is devoted to his brother, who has educational challenges. After a special-needs student that he didn't know grabbed Vega in the hall one day and asked him to read to him, Vega followed him to class -- and has read to him every day for two years since.

Erica Mawyer of Hermitage Technical Center is someone who "easily befriends and willingly helps anyone she meets," said her nominator. "She is usually the one the kids will listen to and respect." Among her activities are membership in the Tech Ethics Society, National Beta Society, Teens Opposing Poverty, Young Life, and The Giving Heart Thanksgiving Food Drive. Allyson Pearce McCune of Saint Gertrude H.S. is known for her caring nature, willingness to help others and sense of humor. She participates in Red Cross and Respect Life, volunteers for A Grace Place and Freedom House, and captains the basketball and softball teams.

Kayla Maayan Brice is co-founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Highland Springs H.S., serves on the Senior Student Council, and excels at resolving conflicts and defusing tense situations. Among other interests and activities are Beta Club, the Tri-M Music Honor Society, the marching and concert bands, Environmental Club, debate team and volunteer work as a HSHS Freshman Transition Mentor.

Michael Englehart of Highland Springs Technical Center has a reputation for springing into action to help at tasks without ever needing to be asked; he is said to personify the expression of “leading by example.” He volunteers at Laurel Hill UMC and as a Henrico Law Enforcement Explorer has assisted Henrico County police with events such as holiday patrol and NASCAR.

According to his nominator, De’Marqcuis Keonte Henderson of Godwin H.S. "personifies the belief that we in this world are all 'one.'" He is a founding member of the school's “Circle of Friends,” a group of students who reach out and befriend special needs students. He also is a youth minister at his church and helps organize Challenge Day visits to nursing homes, homeless shelters, and foster care facilities.

At Northstar Academy, Adam Spier is known as a strong yet quiet leader who encourages others to take personal responsibility and be their best; because he struggled with reading, he shares his challenges with other students and serves as a role model to them. He volunteers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Diversity Thrift, and as a student aide in elementary physical education classes; he also beautified a cemetery for his Eagle Scout project and went on a faith-based medical mission trip to Honduras in 2010.

Born in Mexico, Frida Clark of St. Catherine’s School moved to the U.S. in sixth grade. Since her freshman year, Frida has participated in RAMPS, an organization that builds access ramps for mobility-impaired citizens. In her sophomore year, She served as delegate to the People of Color conference, is president of the Political Awareness Club, participates in Fellowship of College & University Students (FoCUS) and theater activities, and volunteers for the independent radio station WRIR.

In September, Jaunariss N. Everson came to The Academy at Virginia Randolph High School as a new student with no real connections to others. His counselor watched him zero in immediately on students who were struggling due to emotional and physical disabilities, providing them with tutoring assistance, a friendly high five, and a kind word. A church usher and peer helper, Everson is also involved in the Pennies for Patients campaign and is often found congregating with students of the English as a Second Language program from all races and continents.

Matthew D. Walker of The New Community School gets along with everyone, said his nominator; his closest friends are students whose backgrounds differ from his. In group study activities, he will often forego pairing up with his friends in order to pair up with students who are being left out of other groups. He is also active in varsity soccer, vice-president of his National Honor Society chapter, and moderates the Student Advisory Board.

A trained peer mediator, Zhane Evins of Varina H.S. is said to have "a natural way of making others feel comfortable and happy in her presence." She also is active as a student aide in the counseling office and at her church's children's center, and is a member of SODA, Peer Helpers Club and Spanish Honor Society.
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