2019 Youth Service Awards
2019 Youth Service Awards Honorees
The Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism hosted its inaugural Youth Service Awards ceremony with featured speaker Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford. Among more than 100 applicants, 10 individuals, and 3 groups were honored for their significant community service in Maryland.
The awardees were selected through a competitive review process by a panel of distinguished community leaders and state representatives in charge of volunteer programs across Maryland. Families and mentors of the selected youth were invited to celebrate their contribution to communities.
The following youth and youth groups were recipients of the Youth Service Awards:
Youth Individual Recipients
- Shreeya Khurana, Montgomery Blair High School
- Makenzie Greenwood, Shiloh Middle School
- Michaela West, St. Joseph’s Regional Catholic School
- Ryan Freeman, Saints Peter & Paul High School
- Brian Thompson, The John Carroll School
- Ashley Williams, Chopticon High School
- Celina Davis, Francis Scott Key High School
- Lea Joy Peck, Kent Island High School
- Noah Gainsburg, Friends School of Baltimore
- Natalie Summers, homeschool
Youth Group Recipients
- Our Minds Matter (Anne Arundel County)
- Baltimore City College Writing Center (Baltimore City)
- Sho’men Youth Swim Team Volunteer Club (Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties)
Empowering girls to pursue careers in the STEM field has become a lifelong passion for Shreeya Khurana. She first started the MATHgirls and the Code Girls programs as a way to earn Student Service Learning (SSL) hours in 2017, but she quickly learned of the social change she was spurring while earning over 550 SSL hours. Spending over 164 hours organizing and teaching through the MATHgirls program, Shreeya has helped over twenty middle school girls improve their math skills. She has also taught over twenty high school girls through the Code Girls program, an after-school program with a mission to spur interest in computer science. Shreeya’s work has not only impacted her students but also girls outside of the programs as many of her students have begun to mentor other girls. Shreeya is now working on expanding this model to other schools and is confident that this could help reduce the gender gap in the STEM field.
If you ask Makenzie Greenwood what motivates her to volunteer, she really doesn’t know how to answer this question. She just does it because it’s her thing. Makenzie loves people and has a strong desire to help those who are less fortunate than her. When she was 9 years old, she saw friends doing a community service project and wanted to do one of her own. She decided to open Hampstead’s Little Free Pantry. Her favorite part of operating the pantry is the monthly perishables event, which is a partnership with the Westminster Rescue Mission to provide perishable foods, because she gets to interact with the people she serves. She knows their names, learns about their stories, and hears their good news and bad. From 2018 through 2019, Hampstead’s Little Free Pantry has provided over 23,000 pounds of food to over 1,500 people. Through Hampstead’s Little Pantry, Makenzie has also provided $200 grants to other kids to start a Little Free Pantry of their own, which has resulted in new Little Free Pantries in Manchester, MD, Clarksburg, MD, Orlando, FL, and Austin, TX. In 2019, Makenzie and the pantry started a new partnership with MCQE Mobile Pet Food Pantry providing food for approximately 337 pets. This summer, Makenzie will provide $1,000 in veggie vouchers to clients that come to the perishables event to purchase produce at Hampstead’s Farmers Market.
Through service, Michaela West has taken her spirit of compassion and overwhelming generosity to touch the lives of homeless individuals in Baltimore. Since she was five years old, Michaela has been donating to homeless shelters and has encouraged her classmates to join her in her efforts. Michaela founded the organization Bundles of Love in order to expand efforts to supply the homeless population of Baltimore with supplies and blankets. Blankets of Love also reaches the homeless populations of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Prince George’s Counties. In 2018, Michaela’s chapter of Bundles of Love delivered 184 bundles, 84 survival kits, 158 blankets and sleeping bags, and over $1300 in cash and gift cards. Michaela has witnessed first hand how one small item can mean so much to a homeless individual. “We may not be able to focus on every issue, but we can focus on people’s mindset,” Michaela said, “If we change the mindset of how people relate to and treat each other- then we can change the world.”
After his sister tragically passed away at just 10 months old, Ryan and his parents began volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in her memory. As Ryan got older, he helped prepare dinners and would eat with families and hear their stories. For the past four years, he has provided a special Mother’s Day gift for the moms at RMH. Ryan partnered with a Thirty-One representative to fill bags with comfort items, including tissues, hand sanitizer, snacks, activity books, crayons, etc. In 2019, he delivered 36 bags on Mother’s Day and is now working on 55 Thirty-One Bags as Mother’s Day gifts for 2020. Ryan’s commitment to service also extends to working with the Special Olympics as a Unified Sports Partner. He partnered with youth with Down Syndrome to represent Special Olympics MD at the National Invitational Golf Tournament for S0 in Seattle, WA. He currently volunteers with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and was awarded the Citizenship Spirit Award by its Maryland chapter.
Brian Thompson is the “go-to veteran service student” at the John Carroll School. He has brought the importance of servicing veterans to other’s attention in many different ways. He has felt that too few young people volunteer to help veterans who clearly need and deserve the help that these kids can give. He volunteers year-round to serve veterans who have served their country for so long. Brian educates incoming students about the purpose of serving veterans and where Perry Point Veterans Affairs Medical Center is located, earning nearly 400 service hours in high school. His service also includes Wreaths Across America, bowling, wheeling veterans to the gym for trivia games and movies, and delivering Christmas packages at the medical center. Most of his service is repeated each year, it’s not a once and done activity. He was inducted into the Archbishop John Carroll Service Honor Society, as a freshman, the only student in his class to do so. Brian reflects “there is a need for my service, it seems that over time people tend to forget all the important lives that have come before us, and how they don’t get the respect that they deserve. I am helping to take care of those that fought to protect the freedom that we so joyously live under today, and make sure to show that their actions didn’t go unnoticed.”
Since her early childhood, Ashley Williams has wanted to share with others and make sick children smile. She began by creating unique cards with words of hope and encouragement and delivering them to local hospitals. She then recruited “smile makers” to help decorate the postcards for sick children. Today, Ashley leads “Sending Smiles,” a non-profit organization that sends postcards to sick children across Maryland. In 2018, Ashley sent 11,560 Sending Smiles postcards to children. She and her outreach team dress up as Disney Princesses and Superheroes to visit sick children and their families. In addition, Ashley has also started an annual drive to collect supplies including books, toys, and toiletries for family members of children being treated at area hospitals. Over the last few years, she has collected and delivered nearly $3,500 worth of supplies.
When she was just four years old, Celina Davis accidentally spilled hot soup on herself and received first- and second-degree burns on 15% of her body. Thankfully, Celina made a remarkable recovery at Johns Hopkins Hospital and as a result of her experience, she wanted to create a foundation that would provide other children with happiness while they recover from illnesses or accidents. In 2014, Celina established the Sweetpea Foundation with the assistance of the Community Foundation of Carroll County to make hospital stays enjoyable for children and help children experiencing an emotional crisis. To fund the foundation, Celina has held a wide variety of fundraisers, including a 5K run which raised $700 in 2018, and a bowling fundraiser that raised nearly $400. She also participated in the Baltimore Boogie Dance Marathon hosted by Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, which raised over $19,000. In addition, Celina has collected funds and items to donate to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and has identified children with mental health needs or recovering from physical injuries. During her senior year, Celina dedicated 132 service-learning hours.
Lea Joy Peck
The Kent Island native first started volunteering as a way to spend more time with her father, but it quickly evolved into a desire to better her community through continuous support. Lea has been volunteering at the food pantry since December 2017. Her dedication shows through her willingness to take on the non-glamorous job of unpacking up to 1,200 lbs frozen and bloody meat each month. After this, she makes sure to spend time with the people with disabilities and older shoppers by helping them pick out what items they want.
Noah is dedicated to helping those in Baltimore City through various events he helps to organize. Some of the various events are a backpack and school supply giveaway, a thanksgiving turkey basket giveaway, and coat and bike drives in the winter around the holiday season. What drives him is a simple goal Noah just likes to see people smile. He finds time to do this despite being a full-time high school student, and he is dedicated to finding time to help out even at times when he has been sick or has lots of school work. He has greatly benefited the Ruth M Kirk Learning Center and Baltimore City.
Despite only being in 7th grade Natalie has already helped create an abundance of change in her community through her over 400 hours of service. She is an integral part of telling Maryland’s history at Historic Saint Mary’s City. She volunteers in full costume demonstrating and educating over a dozen classes each day and is always willing to go above and beyond what is asked of her.
Our Minds Matter
This group of high schoolers has challenged the current quality of mental health services provided and is causing state and county educators to re-evaluate how they address mental health concerns and needs in our schools. Their over 2,000 hours of volunteerism in the past four months comes from responding to a direct need the founding members have experienced within our school systems–the current system failed them and they took action to not only change policies, but also public perception. Their work is assisting to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Baltimore City College Writing Center
Safe space and brave space are the two principles that motivate tutors to volunteer at the Baltimore City College Writing Center. In a judgment-free environment and where the perceptions and stereotypes of writing are perceived, tutors at Baltimore City Writing Center advocate for the implementation of diverse peer tutoring centers in urban spaces. In the 2018-2019 school year, over 3,200 clients were served in schools, local libraries, and volunteer organizations. A total of 2,200 tutoring sessions were completed and collectively, volunteers served over 1,000 hours. By creating and providing free tutoring centers, the Baltimore City College Writing Center recognizes that all students, regardless of their backgrounds and identities, can be afforded the same opportunity to excel.
Sho’men Youth Swim Team Volunteer Club
Volunteers at the Sho’men Youth Swim Team Volunteer Club not only live their lives but give their lives to others. This idea is what motivates these volunteers to create new ways to communicate and stay connected with athletes of any age that have developmental disabilities. By doing so, the lives of the athletes’ physical, cognitive and emotional health improve. For the last two years, 14 youth athletes were served for the 12 weeks of swim season by 50 volunteers who served over 650 hours. More important than the number of hours given or numbers achieved, the Sho’men Youth Swim Team Volunteer Club recognizes that athletes inspire each other to learn new things and receive the love and respect from everyone around.