2016 Utah Young Humanitarian – $5,000 Winner
Carter Woolf, Senior 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 a peer-to-peer mentoring program for refugee teens that provides homework help and teaches critical life skills such as financial literacy and communication strategies. 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 assist volunteers in planning lessons that help refugee teens better navigate society.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.