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Amazing Kids honored for making communities better

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Former Trail Blazer Brian Grant tells students inspiring story at fourth annual Pamplin Media Group event

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The Pamplin Media Group hosted its annual Amazing Kids Event Monday, May 8, at OMSI in Portland. The Central Oregonian chose Crook County High School senior Bryan Dominguez Cruz as the 2017 Amazing Kid for Crook County. Pictured left to right, keynote speaker former Trail Blazer Brian Grant, Dominguez Cruz, and Pamplin Media Group President and Publisher Mark Garber.

What were you doing at 10 years old? Perhaps sitting in the classroom, counting the days until summer vacation, when homework and other obligations wouldn't be a drag on time for personal fun.

For some kids — those imbued with selflessness and a sense of purpose — the work never stops.

Certainly not for youth like Salsabel Al Asri, a 14-year-old Syrian refugee who came to Portland only a year ago, or Katie Frazer, an 8-year-old from Tigard who raised $24,000 for Ugandan orphans in 2016.

Or Crook County High School senior Bryan Dominguez Cruz, who is a dedicated community volunteer and will be the first in his family to go to college.

Nor is it the case for 27 of the other fine students chosen by Pamplin Media Group as "Amazing Kids," an annual special section honoring young folks who are doing spectacular work to improve their communities. The children were honored at the fourth-annual occasion at OMSI on Monday, May 8, where students, family and some educators mingled for a luncheon, inspiring speeches and presentations.

"Being able to represent Prineville as one of the Amazing Kids was an honor," Dominguez Cruz said. "Sharing this award with other kids across the state was incredible. Knowing that there are many other kids, like me, who give back to others brings happiness into my life."

Dominguez Cruz, 18, is a varsity athlete, helps out in Prineville community, and has a strict regimen within his NJROTC classes. He's very personable, and his classmates adore and respect him.

"I've been teaching for 15 years, and Bryan is probably one of the finest young men — I mean literally — that I've worked with over the years," says Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Commander Russ Robison.

Dominguez Cruz plans to start at Central Oregon Community College this fall and after two years transfer to Eastern Oregon University and become a registered nurse.

"I would say if he really wants to be a nurse, it's probably going to happen because he's just that determined of an individual," NJROTC Master Chief Donny Jackson says.

Amazing Kid event keynote speaker Brian Grant, a retired basketball player for the Portland Trail Blazers, gave an encouraging talk about the time and dedication it took to become an NBA athlete.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Retired Portland Trail Blazer basketball player Brian Grant told kids his inspiring backstory.Grant told kids the characteristics that helped him get there were his work ethic and ability to see opportunity. The father of eight children grew up in a small Ohio town and worked extremely hard to ultimately be drafted eighth in the 1994 NBA draft.

"The one thing I wanted to do for my town was change the perception of me, because the perception was 'he won't graduate, he's probably going to go to jail if he doesn't get killed,'" Grant said.

He now runs the Brian Grant Foundation, helping empower people who have Parkinson's disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2008 at 36 years old, only two years after retiring from the NBA. He told kids the importance of making connections in the community.

"What you kids have done in your community, you've been recognized as Amazing Kids. Remember that, because there's going to be more opportunities that come for you to be able to do things for other people, and there will be opportunities to walk through that door like I did all those years ago," he said.

"Brian Grant is an incredible man," Dominguez Cruz said. "He shared his life story to all and spoke about giving back to others. Hearing him say that motivated me to do more. Giving back to others is important to me, and I took that to heart."

Dominguez Cruz says his mother's work ethic has been his biggest influence on his young life, and he was glad that his mother, stepfather and two little sisters could attend the gala celebration with him.

"If there is a person in this world I love to see happy, it would be my mom," he said. "My mom was extremely happy. There was not a single time I saw her without a smile. She enjoyed every single moment of the event."

Community is important to Pamplin Media Group — the main reason it puts on the Amazing Kids event, an event organizers hope continues to grow.

"I think it's all about what we do best — community journalism," said J. Brian Monihan, vice president and publisher of Pamplin Media Group. "Telling these kids' stories is so inspiring. It's all about making a difference in the community, and there's no better way to make a difference than telling their stories."

Company President Mark Garber agreed. "Certainly this group of young people, they have made tremendous contributions to their community and will make even more in the future," he said.

Each Amazing Kid received a framed copy of their news story from the special section, two OMSI tickets, and $200 in gift cards to BiMart.

Dominguez Cruz called the event an incredible experience that he will always remember. He's thankful for everyone who has helped him in life, including his teachers, parents, and NJROTC instructors.

"They have all taught me to never give up and to keep pushing forward," he said. "I am very grateful to be part of a community that has supported me and has given back to many others. This year has been one to remember, and I wouldn't want to change it for anything. Once again, thank you for the support and for picking me as Prineville's Amazing Kid. It was an honor."

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kids from around Oregon who have made spectacular contributions to their community were honored at the fourth annual Amazing Kids event on Monday afternoon, May 8.