2015 Utah Young Humanitarian – $5,000 Winner

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.”

Israel 1

$3,000  Runner-Up

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.”

Emilee Hamilton

$1,000 Finalists 

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.”

Alejandra Hernandez
Jade Bonomo,  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.”

Jade Bonomo
 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.”

Jessica Ramirez