2022 Young Citizens of the Year spotlight passion and volunteerism in Washtenaw County

WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI — Five Washtenaw County high school students who use their passions to better their communities have been named Young Citizens of the Year for 2022.

The Young Citizen of the Year recognizes Washtenaw County high school students for their outstanding achievements in community service activities outside of school-based extracurricular activities. The Ann Arbor News started the initiative in 1998 to recognize high school students who give back, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Fund soon got involved in providing scholarships.

The scholarship competition is supported by the Robert Bruce Dunlap Memorial Fund, started by Connie Dunlap in memory of her late husband. Although Connie Dunlap recently passed away on April 23, the impact of the fund will continue in perpetuity as a permanent endowment. The fund, which to date has awarded $200,000 to more than 200 students, is managed by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

Get to know this year’s Young Citizens and their work in peer tutoring, erasing Michigan residents’ unpaid medical debt, promoting STEM education, and building a series of small libraries in outdoors.

Young Citizen of the Year Kianna Fraga Albuja poses at Burns Park in Ann Arbor on Monday, May 2, 2022.Jacob Hamilton | Ann Arbor News

Kianna Fraga Albuja

The school: Skyline High School

Grade: Senior

Nominator: Sydney Morgan-Green

Service experience: Tutor and administrative co-director for the A2tor association and support for students in their college dissertations via M2paths.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she and several other high school students involved with A2tor elevated the organization by leading virtual tutoring sessions with local elementary school students to support their academic growth,” Morgan-Green said. , who worked with her throughout the Girls Group College and Career Program for several years.

“In her reflection on this experience, she learned how collaboration builds community and the important role it plays in building that community,” Morgan-Green said.

In A2tor, Kianna spends 10 hours a week creating lesson plans for the students she works with as well as creating promotional material for the organization’s website.

In a similar tutoring role through M2paths, Fraga Albuja worked with high school students on the college process, particularly on college essays. Over the past two years as co-founder of the organization, she has connected more than 75 high school students with 12 college mentors for one-on-one writing assistance. She also hosts weekly information meetings that cover college applications and other elements of the college process.

“We had general briefings on college applications and specifics for each stage of the college essay program, and then we had the opportunity for (students) to meet one-on-one head, either via Zoom or via comments on Google docs for them to get feedback. on their trials,” said Fraga Albuja.

Young Citizens Award 2022

Young Citizen of the Year Harshini Anand poses at Burns Park in Ann Arbor on Monday, May 2, 2022.Jacob Hamilton | Ann Arbor News

Harshini Anand

The school: Washtenaw International High School

Grade: Senior

Nominator: Charlyn Vandeventer

Service Experience: Raised $15,000 to erase Michigan families’ medical debt through RIP Medical Debt. Volunteered with the Vaccine Ambassador Program with the Washtenaw County Health Department. Served as Chair of the Corner Health Center Youth Leadership Council; Corner Health Center Board Member; Partnership Co-Lead for the MiRcore Vaccine Advocacy Initiative and Mentor for RIP Medical Debt’s national “Students in Action” campaign.

Related: Ypsilanti Teen Raises $15,000 to Clear Michigan Families of Medical Debt

She received the US President’s Volunteer Service Award: Bronze Level in 2021 and is a recipient of the United Way’s Varsity Letter in Community Service for three consecutive years (2019, 2020, 2021) for volunteering more than 600 hours.

“We are truly impressed with his maturity, insight and drive to improve the lives of those around him and are grateful for his time and commitment to the health and well-being of our community,” said Vandeventer, COVID-19 Outreach Coordinator and Coordinator. for the Vaccine Ambassador Program.

Anand’s fundraising efforts to erase medical debt, which were primarily done by reaching out to people, businesses and organizations in his personal network, have helped eliminate more than $1.5 million from medical debt for Michigan families.

“I learned how important it is to go for it, no matter what it is,” Anand said. “It can be as simple as helping the person next to you or starting a fundraiser because you have no idea where it might end.”

Young Citizens Award 2022

Young Citizen of the Year Carter Harris poses at Burns Park in Ann Arbor on Monday, May 2, 2022.Jacob Hamilton | Ann Arbor News

Carter Harris

The school: Saline High School

Grade: Senior

Nominator: Anne Cummings

Service experience: student volunteer and student representative on the board of directors for social service in the Saline region. Promote FIRST Robotics and STEM in the Saline community through Saline STEAM Boosters.

Harris began volunteering at SASS at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing daily staff assistance and customer services, sometimes volunteering more than nine hours a day, said Cummings, executive director of the Saline. Area Social Service.

Her efforts included helping set up tents for grocery delivery, stocking shelves, cleaning, taking grocery orders and collecting food orders from customers, tracking donations, collecting food orders from local grocery stores and helping with mailings to donors and organizing the database.

“Without a doubt, he is the most trusted student volunteer SASS has ever had and he is adored by all of our staff and Board of Directors,” Cummings said. “He is a true star and supports our SASS and the Saline community in countless ways.”

Harris’ work with Saline STEAM Boosters connects him with community members, STEAM club leaders, and Saline area school administration advocating for increased support and recognition of STEAM groups in Saline.

“Being so involved in robotics, I hope to get into engineering in the future, so it’s been great preparation for that,” Harris said. “It’s less about robotics and more about how we give back and really how we can use STEM as a platform to change other things.”

Kayden Hawkins.

Kayden Hawkins.Photo provided | Celeste Hawkins

Kayden Hawkins

The school: Washtenaw International High School

Grade: Senior

Nominators: Dacia Price and Leslie Evans

Service Experience: Teaching Assistant with the University of Michigan Mathematics Corps. Serves on the Washtenaw County Youth Commission. Member of the Youth Division ministry at Bethel AME. Z Generator Grant Evaluator. Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Youth Council Member. Coordinator Adopt a Park in Washtenaw County.

With no shortage of service opportunities to draw from experiences, Price, a clinical assistant professor at UM’s School of Social Work, said Hawkins’ work with the school had a big impact on medically underserved communities.

For the past three years, Hawkins has used his knowledge of math, engineering and science to create and implement training modules for healthcare students.

“His ability to be a leader among his peers and with adults at the graduate level is commendable,” Price said. “Kayden intended to integrate the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion to improve the experience of patients receiving behavioral health care. When COVID-19 started, Kayden quickly adapted training materials to engage learners using virtual technology. »

The most valuable part of every service initiative she participated in was her ability to connect not just with people, but also with the area or community in which she served, Hawkins said.

“Navigating a pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, and we’ve all had to adjust our understanding of what it means to connect with others in meaningful and creative ways,” Hawkins said. “As we shifted our understanding of self amid our own challenges, remembering the need to serve in the community was even more important during our crisis.”

Young Citizens Award 2022

Young Citizen of the Year Cassandra Kennedy poses at Burns Park in Ann Arbor on Monday, May 2, 2022.Jacob Hamilton | Ann Arbor News

Cassandra Kennedy

The school: First College Alliance

Grade: Senior

Nominator: Kimbrea Squirewell

Service Experience: Kennedy executed plans to build a small outdoor library as part of her American Heritage Girls Stars & Stripes project for residents of the St. Louis Center in Chelsea.

Kennedy has also been involved in several other service efforts with American Heritage Girls, Chelsea District Library, Big Creek Missions, Faith Baptist Church and USA Swimming.

Last summer, Kennedy spent more than 100 hours planning, fundraising, speaking to groups, sorting books, supervising other volunteers, building, painting and installing three small outdoor libraries at the St. Louis Center. She also promoted a book drive for the center which raised $1,200 to buy new books for the libraries.

“It was a huge undertaking, especially being in college classes, swimming on a high school team, doing regular troop leadership activities, and being very active in her church,” nominator Kimbrea Squirewell said. about his work with the St. Louis Center.

Kennedy said her volunteer efforts with American Heritage Girls, her Scouting organization, encourage service, which has encouraged her to get involved in a wide range of community projects.

“Just working through each of them really helped me understand the community better and it really helped me develop a love for service and helping people,” Kennedy said.

Other Young Citizen 2022 nominees:

Zeinab Agbaria

Katherine Bajcz

Claire DeVoogd

Dukes of Londa

Percy Fowler IV

Tevone Grantham

Nyla’s Hood

Andre Jenkins

Anum Latif

isaac mac

Sophie Nepiuk

Port Hannah

madison powell

Amelie Rohim

Nishita Shah

Emilio Uribe-Botero

Adit Vuppala

Leyla Williams