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 awarded to an altruistic young person who strives to serve his or her community. One runner-up will receive a $3,000 college scholarship. Three runner-ups will receive a $1,000 college scholarship. Five runner-ups will receive a $500 college scholarship.
Though our society recognizes young people for their accomplishments in sports and academics, this Award celebrates outstanding humanitarian service among youth. Promoting humanitarian service among youth is the reason behind this annual tribute, sponsored by the George S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation. Youthlinc has organized this annual statewide search since 2005.
This year we received a record number 123 applications from students across Utah! These applications have gone through two rounds of judging to get to the final interview round taking place this Saturday, April 23rd at the University of Utah. Wish them luck, and come see who receives the scholarships on Saturday, May 21st at our Annual Benefit at the Utah Cultural Celebrations Center. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Becca Huppi, Junior at Utah State University
In 2013, Becca taught English in China with the International Language Program and came home with a thirst for humanitarian work. Since her return home she began volunteering with Americorps and the Utah State University Val R. Christensen Service Center where she discovered her passion of alleviating homelessness in her community. Becca started the USU chapter of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. She led a successful community-wide donation drive for the Lantern House Homeless Shelter and Soup Kitchen. Becca serves on the Local Homeless Coordinating Council, where she raises awareness about the lack of resources in Cache Valley and collaborates with others to find sustainable solutions for homelessness. Becca writes, “I know that as I continue to raise awareness about homelessness in Cache Valley and encourage people to speak out against the current situation that great change will come.”
Carter Woolf, Junior at the University of Utah
Carter first became aware of the refugee community in Utah after participating as a volunteer with Youthlinc and Real Life in 2012. Real Life is an afterschool teen refugee-mentoring program that provides homework help and teaches critical life skills such as financial literacy and career exploration among others. For the past four years, Carter has continued to work with the program both as a volunteer and a Real Life Intern at the Hser Ner Moo Community Center in South Salt Lake. In addition, Carter helps run an after-school program for at-risk teens and refugees at Granite Park Junior High through Promise South Salt Lake. Through his experiences, Carter has developed an immense amount of respect and admiration for the refugee community in Utah. He writes, “All too often we take things for granted in the United States. Things such as knowing English, understanding the education system, having parents, or owning a car. Things that can make life easy but, if not present, make it frighteningly difficult. I help student volunteers plan lessons that help refugee teens better understand Utah society.”
Elizabeth Gamarra, Senior at the University of Utah
In 2011, Elizabeth became actively involved with the Peer Mentoring Program – Una Mano Amiga – a multigenerational program enhancing Hispanic/Latino(a) student success. Her leadership and ongoing participation as a volunteer and peer mentor inspired her to organize and facilitate a number of initiatives, highlighting the significance of values and culture, on campus and in the community at large. Elizabeth has tutored over 35 ESL students. She spearheaded the ESL Friday Conversation Lab at Salt Lake Community College to help non-traditional students gain a greater sense of confidence when speaking English. She launched the #startnow hashtag initiative to encourage high school students to pursue higher education. Elizabeth writes, “My culturally diverse background has filled me with pride to never forget where I come from and reach back to help those around me through the doors of opportunity.”
Elizabeth Morales, Junior at the University of Utah
As a first-generation student, Elizabeth has worked tirelessly to increase college access for marginalized populations. She started by volunteering with TRiO where she recruited and mentored minority high school students in their transition to college. Elizabeth later became a Diversity Scholar through the Center of Equity and Diversity where she mentored and tutored underrepresented students through the partnership of Adelante in Jackson Elementary. One of her greatest accomplishments while being a student at the University of Utah has been creating a program with Innovation Scholars and the Lassonde Institute to promote diversity into the Business School, Entrepreneur Institute, and STEM programs. Elizabeth writes, “The education system at times can be very hard to navigate around, especially when you do not fill the status quo of a good student. I encourage all my students to stand out and to be unique all while valuing their difference because I believe that is how positive change in our society will begin.”
Felix Vivanco, Senior at the University of Utah
Felix became interested in health disparities after volunteering as a Medical Interpreter at the University Hospital. During that same time he was exposed to the health and social inequalities many minorities experience in the Unities States as he volunteered with Comunidades Unidas (CU). Later, he participated in several service trips to the US-Mexican boarder where he learned more about immigration, poverty, and health disparities. Based on those experiences, Felix took action and played a key role in organizing a health fair for the Latino community in collaboration with CU and other community partners. His recommender writes, “Felix was instrumental in creating and executing the “Viva” Health Fair, which served well over 250 people. The project will continue to impact the community for years to come as it has become one of CU’s annual projects.” Felix continues to combine his passion for immigration rights and healthcare by volunteering as a Medical Interpreter and a Community Health Educator where he helps underserved populations receive better quality of care and access to treatment.
Graciela Botello, Junior at Utah State University
As a young mother and first-generation college student, Graciela has experienced the struggles of raising a child while pursing higher education. Graciela writes, “Sometimes the obstacles seem insurmountable. I decided that no one should be treated as ‘less than’ and made a determined decision to not only help myself, but to help others, as well.” Graciela partnered with a nearby technical school to create a scholarship called “My Young Mother” which provides tuition, supplies, and child care resources for a high school senior who is a young mother or pregnant. Her recommender writes, “This scholarship is one example of how Gracie truly lives a life of service and uses her own life trials and experiences to improve the lives of others.” Graciela also serves as an AmeriCorps Vista where she created the North Cache Girls program, a motivational program for adolescent girls considered ‘most at risk’ in North Cache Middle School. Graciela writes, “Providing educational opportunities opens new worlds and changes the future of generations to come.”
Jared Sagae, Senior at Corner Canyon High School
At a very young age, Jared was exposed to the needs of others as his family collected donations for the Utah Food Bank, Toys for Tots, homeless shelters, and other worthy causes. These experiences inspired Jared and his brother to start a non-profit called TrialSizeDonations.org with the goal of collecting hygiene items for individuals who are affected by unexpected unemployment and illness, homelessness, natural disaster, etc. Jared writes, “I believe that health can be maintained by simple acts of hygiene such as washing hands and brushing teeth to avoid negative outcomes such as illness and expensive medical and dental bills.” Jared has partnered with dental offices, grocery stores, and high school clubs to collect everything from soap to deodorant. Jared is also actively involved on the Draper City Youth Council where he recently helped collect 282 pounds of food for the Utah Food Bank. Jared writes, “There is no better feeling or reward than helping someone in need during a tough time.”
Johanna de Gennaro, Senior at the University of Utah
For the past 5 years Johanna has volunteered at UFit – an organization run by the Exercise and Sport Science Department at the University of Utah where, for eight Fridays each semester, volunteers become “buddies” with children who have mental disabilities. Johanna worked with the same buddy for eight semesters participating in activities such as swimming and dance to promote physical activity and social skills. Johanna writes, “When I first met my buddy she was shy and would not make eye contact. Eventually, she became more talkative, especially with me. By the end of the semester, her mom said she constantly talked about seeing me at UFit. Realizing I had formed such a connection with my buddy and that I had showed her parents she could form relationships with other people, made me realize my impact as a volunteer.” Her recommender writes, “Johanna has been incredibly reliable and enthusiastic. She is an amazing role model for our UFit participants and volunteers.” Johanna now serves as the Yellow Color Group Leader at UFit where she manages 20+ volunteers.
Michaela Kowalewski, Senior at Weber High School
As a high school sophomore, Michaela learned that 48% of the students in Weber School District were on free and reduced lunch and many children in her community were going home hungry on the weekends. Michaela took action and played an integral role in starting the Weekend Warrior Food Pack Program, which provides 89 elementary students with a pack of food to sustain them over the weekend every week. Her recommender writes, “The impact the Weekend Warrior Food Pack Program has had on our community is tremendous. Michaela’s leadership and collaboration with her peers and community members has allowed this program to continue long after she graduates.” Michaela continues to increase awareness about childhood hunger in her community. In addition, she trains others on how they can start a similar food assistance program. Michaela is also actively involved in the Ogden Nature Center’s Invasive Species Task Force where she helps restore natural habitats.
Peter Ahorukomeye, Junior at the University of Utah
Peter has made a deliberate effort to help others gain access to the healthcare system. As a refugee from Zambia, Peter is able to make a special connection with other refugees in Utah, educating them on their healthcare options and helping them navigate the health insurance application process through the Take Care Utah refugee enrollment taskforce. Peter writes, “I am frequently asked by people to ‘help my friend’s mom get insurance’ and am always on the lookout for people that might need help.” Peter volunteers at Primary Children’s Hospital where he has contributed 265+ hours of service providing developmentally appropriate play and one-on-one activities for children. Peter also volunteers at the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home where he provides support and entertainment to residents. Peter writes, “Access to healthcare and quality of healthcare are important things that I will strive to improve no matter where life takes me.”