2019 College Utah Young Humanitarian $5,000 Winner Matthew Spurrier, Junior at the University of…
The Youthlinc Utah Young Humanitarian Award is a $5,000 college scholarship rewarded to an altruistic young person who strives to serve the local and global community each year. One runner-up will receive a $3,000 college scholarship. Three runner-ups will receive a $1,000 college scholarship.
Though our society recognizes young people for their accomplishments in sports and academics, this is an award that celebrates outstanding humanitarian service among youth. Promoting humanitarian service among youth is the reason behind this annual tribute, sponsored in its tenth year by the George S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation.
There were 98 applications statewide this year. These applications have gone through two rounds of judging to get to the finals! The next round is the interview round. Wish them luck, and come see who receives the scholarships on Saturday May 16 at our Annual Benefit at the Utah Cultural Celebrations Center. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Alejandra Hernandez, Senior at the University of Utah
As an America Reads tutor, Alejandra sought to help Title-One elementary-aged children become better readers in a community surrounded by low socioeconomic status and homelessness among other social justice issues. As a first generation college student, Alejandra knows firsthand the difficulties many of these children face and wanted to give back and motivate these students to pursue a higher education. Her passion to educate and raise awareness of community needs led her to become an America Reads Site Team Leader where she oversees volunteers. Alejandra writes, “Through this position I have gained valuable leadership skills, volunteer management skills, and interpersonal skills that have led me to become a civically engaged person.”
Emilee Hamilton, Senior at Mountain Crest High School
As an 8th grader, Emilee started volunteering at a local assisted living center where she realized the loneliness many residents face each day. Emily states, “It became clear to me that by simply involving my peers in enjoyable activities with the elderly, I could help a ‘forgotten generation’ feel needed and loved.” Recognizing this need to connect the generations and build the community, Emilee started Utah YOUth Connect. In the past three years Utah YOUth Connect has paired Utah youth with 640 elderly residents, living in Cache Valley, through fun inter-generational activities. Youth volunteers have contributed over 6,100 hours of service to the elderly recipients. Emilee’s recommender writes, “Emilee saw a need in our community and has been able to rally hundreds of youth in our valley to connect with our senior residents which has brought great joy to all involved.”
Israel Santana, Sophomore at Salt Lake Community College
For the past six years Israel has been highly involved with Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective (MAA), a program that aims to empower high school students, living in the West side communities of Salt Lake City, to develop community-based leadership skills and undertake community-based research projects. Israel writes, “My leadership in Salt Lake City has focused on empowering young people of color to pursue a higher education, become politically aware, and maintain a sense of pride in their cultures, all while pursuing positive social change.” His recommender writes, “Israel is dedicated to changing the odds for underrepresented students to help them achieve a higher education and build a future that is better than that of their predecessors.”
Jade Bomono, Freshman at the University of Utah
Jade started her service journey when she was in fifth grade, working with the elderly at a local assisted living center. Her service expanded as she learned about marginalized groups in her Rose Park community which led her to organize Sub for Santa, food drives, and recycling projects. As a freshman in college, Jade became an adviser for the Social Action Association (SAA) at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education where she introduces students to global and local issues associated with marginalized populations. Jade oversees the students’ planning process as they carry out yearlong service projects. Jade writes, “I see myself as a humanitarian because I instill a passion for service in young people, they then feel empowered about what they want to change in the world, and it generates a ripple effect.”
Jason Chen, Senior at the University of Utah
Jason’s passion for service stems from his experiences utilizing his language skills to improve his community. His passion for language motivates him to pursue a career in medicine, where he hopes to serve underprivileged populations, especially those facing communication barriers. Since 2011, Jason has served as a Spanish and Mandarin interpreter at the Maliheh Free Clinic, which provides medical services for uninsured individuals in Utah below the poverty line. His recommender writes, “Through Jason’s performance, it is evident he has a true desire to provide the best possible care. Jason is cheerful, compassionate, and a great advocate for the patients.” Jason received a FLAS scholarship in China, a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Mexico, and will be starting medical training at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
Jessica Ramirez, Sophomore at the University of Utah
In 2012, Jessica participated in the Youthlinc Service Year trip to Peru and came home inspired to improve her own community. Jessica writes, “Towards the end of the trip when we were saying goodbye, a woman from the village approached me and in tears thanked me for what we had done. She was so happy that she could now go out and start her own business by selling soap. That inspired me to go back home and provide others with the resources they need to succeed.” Jessica came home and began volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, The First Lego League, the ASUU community service board, and became the Program Director for Girl Scouts outreach at the University of Utah’s Bennion Center. Her recommender writes, “Jessica’s consistency, flexibility, and hard work have given this Girl Scouts location an incredible opportunity to build needed resources for the community.”
Madeline Townsend, Senior at Parowan High School
Madeline has been a tutor at Parowan High School for the past 5 years. Through consistent service she has developed meaningful relationships and made a significant impact. Her recommender writes, “Numerous times, when a student is struggling with comprehension or apprehension, she is the one who is quickly by his or her side offering much needed and welcome help or encouragement.” Madeline has been influential in the Cool 2 Care program, which is a anti-bullying and positive school environment campaign. In addition, Madeline has organized service projects through the Lion’s Club, FBLA Club, and National Honor Society. Madeline writes, “If you have a deep love for other people, and act on those feelings to make the lives of others better, you are a humanitarian.”
Marina McNeill, Senior at Riverton High School
Marina began volunteering for the American Red Cross the winter of 2012 and has since become: Co-Chair for the Preparedness Committee, Red Cross Club President (2014-2015), Red Cross Club Vice President (2013-2014), State Club Member of the Year (2014), and was selected as a student staff member at Leadership Development Camp (2014). She is an active volunteer with Rotary and has served as the Social Media Chair for the state “End Polio Now” Polio Awareness Campaign. Marina is a Wish Apprentice for Make-A-Wish Foundation and has helped grant over 30 wishes in Utah and assist with wishes from California. Marina created a Facebook group called “Service Opportunities 101” to provide service projects to youth in her community looking to serve others in need. Her recommender writes, “In Rotary, our motto is ‘Service Above Self’ and I can think of no one else who better exemplifies these principles than Marina.”
Moroni Vlad Alvarez, Junior at Freedom Preparatory Academy
In 2014, Vlad learned about one hundred children living in an orphanage in Tahiti, the island his father came from. He wanted to help them in some way. He organized a drive, collected and packed 300 lbs. of toys and clothing, and personally delivered them to the orphans as Christmas gifts. Most recently, Vlad is organizing the “Wallets for Water” project to raise money to build a fresh-water well in India. Vlad looks for opportunities to serve in his day-to-day activities. His recommender writes, “It is the little things that he does every day that distinctly set him apart as a selfless leader. He never sits with the same group of students at lunch. He once organized the entire boys basketball team to befriend a young student who had been a victim of bullying.” Vlad writes, “Every time I do a service project I’m rewriting who I am, every time I do a little service, I’m changing myself.”
Wesley Orton, Senior at Innovations Early College High School
In 2011, Wesley Orton helped his older brother start an all-teen-run summer STEM academic enrichment camp—on Utah’s Navajo reservation, the state’s most impoverished and least literate community. After two years of planning and fundraising, Wesley also founded Camp Shakespeare, a literacy camp aimed at teaching young Navajo students the joys of reading for fun and expressing their thoughts, feelings and ideas through writing. Wesley collected 400 books to start a Summer Reading Library on the reservation, where there are no libraries or bookstores that allow students to buy or borrow books to read over the summer. Wesley’s recommender writes, “Camp Einstein and Camp Shakespeare are both integral parts of our student’s summer vacations and loved by both parents and students.”