More than 300 young people from throughout Yakima County were honored Monday evening for making their communities better places.
The Yakima Youth Awards celebration took place in the Eisenhower High School Auditorium. The event featured instantaneous translation in Spanish and American Sign Language.
Nominees included individuals and groups, ranging from ages 5-19 as of Dec. 31. They were nominated by friends, neighbors, teachers, principals, group leaders and relatives, with a group of community leaders selecting the winners.
Winners receive a youth membership from the YMCA and group winners get a swimming party at the Y. Winners and their families will also be invited to a reception at the Vine Venue with roller skating at Skateland in Union Gap.
Here are the winners with information about their achievements, which was provided by event organizers:
Outstanding involvement in performing, visual or literary arts: Moira Sian McGregor, 18, Eisenhower High School.
McGregor’s achievements range from representing Eisenhower through performing and qualifying in the vocal category in the Washington State Solo and Ensemble competitions to being invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Along with these two significant honors, McGregor has worked to grow in her talents by performing in productions in the community and in school.
Developing career and/or business skills: Carmen Fernandez, 15, Davis High School.
Fernandez is a sophomore honors/IB student who also participates in sports both through and outside of school. While taking driver’s education, she knew that eventually she wanted a car, but she also knew that she had to pay for it.
So, in 2018, Fernandez started her own business: Carmen’s Cake Pops. She conducts her own market research, creates sales projections and handles marketing. She uses different social media apps for advertising and building her customer base.
Giving of one’s time and talent to improve the community: Kaitlin Falk, 18, Naches Valley High School.
Falk stands out among her peers because of her commitment and service to the Naches Valley High School Community. Specifically, she worked diligently for the Mr. Naches Pageant as the lead coordinator. The pageant is a philanthropic program that raises funds for Virginia Mason Memorial Neonatal Intensive Care unit, Children’s Village, and other children’s health care programs.
Through her dedicated time, effort and leadership skills, Falk helped nine senior boys raise more than $15,000 to donate to these programs and services.
Improving the lives of their families and those around them: Annabelle Betts, 11, Gilbert Elementary and Benson Betts, 12, Wilson Middle School.
Benson and Annabelle are siblings who have been brother and sister to more than 59 foster children in the past 10 years. Some of those children stayed with them for less than a day as they waited for a relative to pick them up; one stayed for three years. Two children have joined their family forever as adopted siblings.
Guiding others to a positive goal through education or example: Marco Antonio Perez, eighth-grader, Washington Middle School; Ellee Siebol, 18, East Valley High School; Chloe Yolo, 10, Nob Hill Elementary School.
• Perez has impressed the staff at Washington since his arrival in Yakima last spring. He participates in the school’s migrant program as his family works in agriculture, often having to move to follow the crops. Marco is the oldest of six children and often helps his mother take care of their family.
He also excels in his studies and hopes to attend Central Washington University and become a mechanical engineer. When the middle school staff approached the high-achieving migrant students, seeking mentors for the After School Migrant Program at Adams Elementary, he immediately volunteered.
• A senior at East Valley, Siebol is an outstanding academic student with a 4.0 GPA. She has been active in planning major events such as homecoming, and for two years she has been the principal student coordinator for the Mr. East Valley Pageant.
Siebol has volunteered more than 100 hours each year for the pageant. She provided outstanding accountability for the cash donations, led districtwide communications, organized events and fundraisers and worked with fellow students, staff, and parents. She also choreographed all of the student dance routines.
• Yolo is described as an insightful fifth-grader as well as a compassionate and empathetic classmate. She may be more sensitive to someone who is a little bit different because academically she has to work hard, daily conquering the challenges of classroom work. She rises to those challenges and is wise in other ways, also.
The stage is an area where Yolo shines, as she has participated in the Nob Hill talent shows and in two Melody Lane productions. She demonstrates wonderful stage presence, dancing and singing, and a natural ability to stay in character.
Getting through or beyond personal obstacles with courage, initiative and determination: Victor Garcia-Pinon, 14, Wilson Middle School; JuleAnna Jenson, 17, Davis High School.
• Garcia-Pinon’s nominator describes him as “the greatest student I have ever had the pleasure of teaching!” He is confident and assured, in a positive way. Garcia-Pinon is an excellent communicator and a superb leader who brings others together. He is not afraid to tackle any new challenge, taking as many honors classes as possible, serving as an ASB leader, and participating in many other activities, including TSA, Science Olympiad and school announcements.
• Jenson has faced and conquered daunting obstacles that could have emotionally or physically crippled some people. After experiencing a dysfunctional home environment that forced her to miss years of school, at a very young age she assumed control of her world by asking for help. She knew that she needed a new home and an education.
Since then Jenson has “sprinted for her educational goals while acting in an adult capacity at home,” where she works to help provide for all the family living expenses. She fits her homework and computer time into her Davis day before and after classes, and then works as a family contributor in order to continue forward to her personal dreams.
10 members and under: Jayleigh Ann & The Lost Boys — Jayleigh Ann Butler, Davis High School; Isaac Gambito; West Valley Freshman High School and Nico Gambito, West Valley Middle School.
During the past few years, these local band members have donated time playing and coordinating live music for nonprofit groups as well as helping organize music events. In May, they worked with the Capitol Theatre to produce a Youth Showcase that featured local talent. They reached out and booked other bands, promoted the event and helped sell tickets.
In August, they coordinated and performed at the Special Olympics of Yakima fundraiser at Franklin Park designed to celebrate and increase awareness of this philanthropic organization honoring athletes and their families. In December, the band volunteered to provide live music for the Department of Child, Youth and Families’ Annual Christmas Party for foster children and family members.
More than 10 members: Barge-Lincoln Baliki & Baligra Steel Drum Ensembles; Toppenish High School Freshman Academy.
• “Baliki” stands for Barge-Lincoln Kids and “Baligra” stands for Barge-Lincoln graduates. This group of third- through eighth-graders volunteer an hour every week, after school, to work with director Marie Webb to learn how to play steel drums.
As the practice and performance opportunities that these students have are minimal, the promotion of their program must be intentional. Because Baliki and Baligra are not part of Yakima School District music programs, the group does not receive district funding. Instead, these students are grateful for their local Kiwanis sponsorship.
They raise funds and travel within Yakima County, having performed at The Seasons Performance Hall, Yakima Rotary, Yakima Kiwanis and local Yakima School District functions.
• Members of the Toppenish High School Freshman Academy class have an outstanding commitment to the community as well as a focus on individual growth and learning. They are committed to honor, celebrate and employ the unique characteristics of Freshman Academy students.
Students learn and apply lessons in character education in multiple forms. They have completed hundreds of hours of community service and their widespread range of servant leadership is extensive.