Henrico students honored by Interfaith Council

Pictured, left to right, front row – Amanda Billips, Houda (Lena) Saqui, Kayla Hatcher and Louisa K. Quaynor; middle row – Emily Carr, Lauren deGroot, Reid Andrew Barden, Karen Henry and Trisha Cao; back row – Ashe Allende, Fonkou Djoendia, Wanya McGee, Hilton Epps and Casey Wilkerson.

On Feb. 27, the Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond (ICGR) recognized more than 50 Richmond metropolitan area high school students at the 47th Annual Brotherhood Sisterhood Youth Awards.

Held at River Road Baptist Church, the event featured keynote speaker Dr. Jamelle S. Wilson, superintendent of Hanover County Schools, and honored 18 Henrico students for their efforts to improve human relations and inter-group understanding and demonstrate caring for others.

Among the stand-out teens honored at the ceremony was Trisha T. Cao of Tucker H.S., who was praised for her participation in the Challenge Day program and the extraordinary support she provided fellow students who are emotionally challenged. A member of the Rock Climbing Club and the Youth Development Committee at the YMCA, she also manages and participates on the indoor and outdoor track teams and serves as senior class president.

“The term ‘people person’ truly describes Trisha Cao,” said a nominator. “In her own words, ‘I get full satisfaction when I can makes someone’s day a little brighter.’”

While participating in basketball, lacrosse and cross country/track at Benedictine H.S., Brendan Vita still found time to volunteer extensively at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and as a coach and referee for the middle school basketball league. Having earned the rank of first sergeant in the JROTC program and served in the Students Against Drunk Driving club, he excels at considering all points of view and at encouraging and inspiring teamwork and good sportsmanship among his fellow students.

Kayla Hatcher of Varina H.S. is a peer helper who serves as a student ambassador. She helps middle school students learn ways to handle peer pressure, make mature decisions, and develop a positive self-image. She volunteered at an autism camp and has also been a mentor at the Oliver Hill/Samuel Tucker Pre-Law Institute.

After moving to Henrico from Ghana just four years ago, Louisa K. Quaynor of Godwin H.S. has established herself as a hard worker who gets along with students from diverse backgrounds. She volunteers for CARITAS, the YMCA and as an aide in the school counseling department; she is also involved in BETA Club and works to help ease the adjustment of other students who have moved here from foreign countries like herself.

Emily Nicholson of Deep Run H.S. is known for her ability to create an environment of mutual respect and encouragement where every student is valued, and her knack of moderating meetings to keep everyone involved while defusing potential conflicts. As a volunteer at the Deep Run Challenge table at freshman orientation, she seeks out and befriends shy freshmen and helps them through the year. She is a member of the chorus and drama clubs and recently was the lead in the school play.

The younger students at Northstar Academy look to Casey Wilkerson as a role model, especially in the school chorus. Known for his empathy and maturity and his ability to defuse difficult situations, Wilkerson also volunteers with Powhatan Animal Rescue and at St. Peter’s Church and serves as manager of the Northstar Lunch Program.

Active in the Girl Scouts, Lauren de Groot of Freeman H.S. is a recipient of the Gold Award and a member of the varsity tennis team. She has been a mentor to students with special needs, both academic and social, and accompanied a homecoming princess with special needs to the event to ensure that her experience was memorable. She also tutored a fellow student during her lunch period and helped design, furnish and decorate a student lounge area for middle and high school students at The Faison School for Autism.

Even as a shy freshman at Glen Allen H.S., Wanya McGee always was willing to participate in group activities and to help mentor fellow students who were struggling. Today he leads the school’s marching band and is praised for his engaging and interesting personality as well as his “tremendous character and integrity.”

In his role as FBLA regional vice president and Student Congress representative at Henrico H.S., Hilton Epps interacts with diverse students and faculty and has displayed leadership and teamwork skills in student government. As a teller at the campus branch of the Henrico Credit Union, he goes out of his way to help students, parents or school personnel who come to the counter for assistance.

Amanda Billips of Highland Springs H.S. is comfortable with herself and others and fits in “just about anywhere,” said a nominator. Whether on stage with the Drama Club, drilling with the JROTC or on the softball field, she is “a ray of sunshine” and a “ball of energy.” When asked to volunteer, her answer is always an enthusiastic “Yes!”

At Collegiate School, Ashe Allende is an acknowledged leader both within the school and in service to his community. In addition to serving as president of the Freedom House Junior Board, he organized a yard clean-up for a teacher with serious health problems, chaired several school and local projects to support the needy, led the Interact Service Club as its president and volunteered with the Surfriders Service Club.

Reid Andrew Barden of Trinity Episcopal School is known for consistently acting with respect towards others and making all feel welcomed and valued for their place in the greater community. He was selected as a student representative at a national conference on safe schools and anti-bullying efforts, and participated in Battle of the Brains, the jazz, concert and pep bands, Governor’s Spanish Academy, Greater Richmond Pipe and Drums and cross country and track.

As president of the Student Government Association at The Academy at Virginia Randolph, Mercedes Fitzgerald communicates with every student in her school; she often is consulted by fellow students who are considering violence as a means of resolving issues and encourages them to seek communication instead. “She has an uncanny ability to say things in a way that is understandable but non-threatening,” said a nominator. Fitzgerald also tutors students who are placed in the Alternative Learning Center and serves as the Social Awareness Coordinator for Jobs for America’s Graduates.

When Fonkou Djoendia of Hermitage H.S. arrived in the U.S. from his home country of Cameroon, he encountered bullying and other difficulties with adjustment. His response? To produce an anti-bullying video that went viral – and so impressed Henrico County school leaders that it is being shown in all schools. Djoendia has also organized an event, rescheduled for March 12, about making people feel loved.

At the Hermitage Technical Center, Houda Saqui is known for helping other students and sharing her Islamic culture. Whether she is hosting the Giving Heart Thanksgiving Feast or participating in a classroom discussion on sensitive topics, she keeps a cool head and remains gracious, smiling and courteous. A Henrico County Law Enforcement Explorer and a member of the Hermitage Technical Center Tech Ethics Society, she also is president of the Spanish Club and volunteers at an animal shelter

Emily Carr of Saint Gertrude H.S. is known as a peacemaker who is able to defuse difficult situations and calm troubled people. With her sister, she created a game club at a school for students with learning disabilities and social challenges, which helps them improve their social and behavioral skills. In addition to tutoring at Blackwell E.S. and participating in field hockey and swimming, she is president of Students against Destructive Decisions and wrote the SADD constitution that is now a now a model used by all St. Gertrude clubs.

Karen Henry of Highland Springs Technical Center “has an amazing demeanor and rapport with diverse people,” said her nominator, modeling her faith, justice, modesty, and fairness as she serves in a variety of leadership and volunteer positions. A mentor at the Delmont Learning Center and a nursery caretaker at Calvary Chapel of Richmond, she also volunteers at the Westminister Canterbury Gift Shop and traveled to Panama on a mission trip.

At The Steward School, Mary-Kate Kelleher was the founder and chair of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” a program providing Christmas gifts to low-income families. Kelleher also played soccer, managed the boys basketball team, volunteered at Chimborazo Elementary School and Meals on Wheels, and earned a reputation for tolerance of fellow students who have different opinions and religious beliefs. “While discussing contentious issues such as atheism, sexual identity, and the rights of women in her classes,” said a nominator, “Mary-Kate has been an avid participant who searched for common ground rather than being confrontational.”
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Crime Stoppers’ Crime of the Week: Oct. 16, 2017


This week, Metro Richmond Crime Stoppers is asking for the public to assist the Richmond Police Department in the identification of wayward artists that were using buildings as their canvas.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 14, four people were recorded on security cameras vandalizing multiple properties in the area of the 2500 blocks of West Main Street and Floyd Avenue. The suspects (pictured) were walking north on Robinson Street and spray painting the properties as they meandered along. > Read more.

Slipping through


Hermitage quarterback Jay Carney escapes defenders during the Panthers' 33-0 win against Godwin Friday night. Hermitage is 8-0 and has won its past four games by a combined score of 172-28. > Read more.

Challenger Day will get students with disabilities onto the field


Students from 22 Henrico County elementary schools will take to the baseball field Oct. 18 and learn how to field, hit and run the bases. The students will take part in Challenger Day, an annual event at the Tuckahoe Park Baseball Complex that introduces students with significant disabilities to the fundamentals of baseball. The students will also enjoy games, an art project, roaming mascots and a picnic lunch. > Read more.

Business in brief


Eisenman & Associates, Inc. employee Tracie Grady recently was named the 2017 Virginia Business Meeting Planner of the Year. Grady was chosen by a committee of industry leaders among 19 nominees. The award is a partnership between Virginia Business magazine and the Virginia Society of Association Executives. Its goal is to recognize the unsung hero of the association, non-profit, and business world, the professional meeting planner. Grady works with clients in a number of areas, including membership management, publication design, membership directories and convention/tradeshow programs. She has worked in the association industry, primarily focused on meeting planning, for more than 20 years. She is a graduate of VCU. Eisenman & Associates, Inc. is an association management and meetings consulting company. > Read more.

Lakewood to break ground on $64M expansion


A senior community in Henrico's Far West End is planning a massive expansion project.

Lakewood, located on Lauderdale Drive, will break ground on the project Oct. 19 during a celebration that also will commemorate the community's 40th anniversary. > Read more.

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River Road Church, Baptist, 8000 River Rd., will host Trunk or Treat from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the back parking lot. There will be food, games and trick or treating for children. Bring a non-perishable food donation for the River City Faith Network Baptist Centers. The event is free. For details, visit http://www.rrcb.org/trunk-or-treat-2017. Full text

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