By Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers
Generous. Respectful. Humble. Driven. Dedicated. These are just a few of the many words of praise used to describe the 29 recipients of the 2017 Caring Youth Awards honored March 9 during a special recognition ceremony at Minnetonka City Hall.
“This is one of my favorite evenings of the year,” said Molly Cummings, the mayor of Hopkins and the master of ceremonies for the event. “In today’s world of divisiveness and tension, my hope is once again renewed by the selflessness here.”
The event is a collaboration between the cities of Hopkins, Minnetonka and Golden Valley, the Glen Lake Optimists Club and Hopkins and Minnetonka Public Schools to honor young volunteers in grades 7-12 for their hard work, giving back to the community with hours of service and no expectation of reward. Recipients are nominated by leaders of the civic, service or faith organizations they serve, and awards are presented with a brief description of each student’s contributions and qualities.
Hopkins student Korinna Bakey was recognized for her service through Gethsemane Lutheran Church. Giovanna Garrido-Blanco, a Minnetonka High School student from Chanhassen, is a role model and volunteer at Excelsior United Methodist Church. Eden Prairie resident Erik Eskra, also a Minnetonka student, serves at All Saints Lutheran Church, as does Sami Tomczak, also from Minnetonka. Haimanot Tadesse, of Minnetonka, volunteers at Grace Lutheran Church in Deephaven.
La’Dajia Davis, a Hopkins student who lives in Minnetonka, volunteers with PRISM, at a thrift store that serves communities throughout the northwest suburbs.
Members of the Minnetonka High School Youth Development Council — Savannah Bhojwani, Rob Dow, Elise Johnson, Isa Larus, Max Musselman, Fiona O’Connell, Jeffrey Week and Ben Wiley — were recognized.
Brigitte Montminy of Minnetonka High School serves through ICA Foodshelf.
Julia Brazeua, a Minnetonka student who lives in Excelsior, volunteers with Minnetonka Aquatics to share her love of swimming.
Another Minnetonka student, Lauren Dean, earned the award for her mentoring and service projects through Girls Scouts. Jessica Melnik, Hopkins student and Minnetonka resident, is a leader for Girls United, a group which meets monthly to discuss issues of interest to young girls.
Hopkins student Dante Reminick, of Golden Valley, was recognized for Give a Goat, the nonprofit he founded to provide goats as a source of income to children in Uganda.
Jane Kyllo, a Hopkins student and resident, was honored for her work as a student intern for the Hopkins Education Foundation. Hopkins West Junior High School student Alex Quintero was honored for his service to the Minnesota Youth Community, working as a mentor for the organization in which he previously attended as a participant.
Although many of the recipients are from Hopkins or Minnetonka, other schools and cities were included in the honors.
Felicia Peterson, a Golden Valley resident and Armstrong High School student was recognized for her work with the Golden Valley library, as was Emma Buttress, a Golden Valley resident who attends Hopkins High School.
Minneapolis resident Yusuf Yusuf, another Hopkins High student, assists patients at Fairview Hospital with transportation and emotional support. Brothers Andrew and Evan Pelerine, Hopkins High School students and Minneapolis residents, both volunteer for Mobile Loaves and Fishes, preparing meals on the go for those in need.
Asiya Gelle, of Eden Prairie, attends Eagle Ridge Academy in Minnetonka and serves as a volunteer at Mother’s Tutoring Academy.
One recipient came from as far away as Lonsdale to accept his award. Adam Pankow, a volunteer with Helping Paws in Hopkins, helps train therapy dogs, and brought his furry friend to join him in receiving the honor. Danielle Dillahunt, of Plymouth, was also honored for her work with Helping Paws.
Brad Wiersum, Minnetonka City Council member, expressed his admiration for the responsibility and leadership of the students to whom he presented awards.
“I’m impressed with every one I’ve seen tonight. We all need to care more and it’s inspirational to see youth demonstrating this in our own cities,” he said.
Shirley Buehler, specials events project coordinator for ICA Food Shelf, said in her keynote speech that by volunteering in their communities, award winners were making a commendable approach to help improve the lives of everyone in their community.
“Volunteering teaches every one of us not to judge a person based on their circumstances. It improves teamwork, reduces stereotypes, and promotes cultural understanding,” Buehler said. “Being a volunteer means you provide services for no financial gain, but to promote goodness and the quality of human life.”
The Hopkins mayor added that the parents, families and teachers should take pride in the award winners’ accomplishments, following in the footsteps of their mentors but also serving as role models for the next generation of caring youth.
“You are the face of tomorrow, and we are in good hands,” Cummings told the award winners.
Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]