Students honored at Amazing Kids gala
Oregon has no shortage of kids challenging themselves to make a difference in the world. On Monday, April 29, a total of 28 of them were honored during Pamplin Media Group's annual Amazing Kids banquet, held at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry.
Dr. Robert Pamplin, founder and owner of Pamplin Media Group, opened the event by urging students to realize their potential and to continue on their path of giving back to society.
"There's no problem that can't be solved, it just hasn't been solved yet," Pamplin told the more than two dozen teens sitting before him, many with their families.
Many of this year's Amazing Kids, like Beaverton's Rishab Jain, already are manifesting that.
Jain, a Stoller Middle School eighth-grader, has made national headlines for his scientific work developing tools for the medical field. Last year, he landed on Time Magazine's list of 25 most influential teens. He also earned $25,000 in the Discovery Education and 3M Young Scientist Challenge for his work using artificial intelligence and physiology that could provide hope for better pancreatic cancer screening and treatment.
While some of the students were honored for their efforts to pioneer the future, others were noted for showing resiliency in the face of extreme adversity and trauma, or for giving back to their peers and community through volunteer service.
Teens like Hikmat Bittar have endured more than most may ever encounter in their lifetime.
Bittar, a student in Gresham, is a Syrian war refugee whose family escaped an armed militia before seeking freedom in the United States.
After their home was ruined by a battering ram, Bittar and his family were locked in a room for three days, stuck in the middle of wartime activity before being let go and fleeing by taxi.
When he got to Gresham, he had to deal with prejudice for being Middle Eastern, Bittar told a reporter. Now, the student works a part-time job to support his family, maintains a high grade-point average, and coaches at his school's math club.
Mikaela Bjorn also knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles and trauma. Last year, the Colton girl lost her younger sister in a tragic drowning accident. The avid 4-H volunteer organized a daddy-daughter dance to raise funds for community swim lessons for local preschool children.
The Central Oregonian's Amazing Kid, Crook County High School senior Olivia Cooper, was honored for her leadership in helping raise awareness of the dangers of youth tobacco use.
She attended the Monday event with her grandparents.
"I loved meeting all the other Amazing Kids there, and I was absolutely blown away by how much they had each accomplished," she said. "The keynote speaker had some great jokes and just reminded us that we were there for a reason."
She was honored to be selected as the Central Oregonian's Amazing Kid.
"It's so incredible, and I'm proud to represent the region and be part of it."
Madras High School senior Allison Turek was honored as the Madras Pioneer Amazing Kid for volunteering with multiple organizations and service clubs.
Other students honored included Leah Kemeny, who as student-body secretary/treasurer has helped implement positive changes for high school students in Oregon City; Paige Martin of La Salle Prep, who impacts those in need by volunteering for the Happy Valley Youth Council, her local public library and the National Charity League; Raeleigh Burris of Clackamas High School, who volunteers for her community through her Skills USA team and in speaking out publicly in support of her school district's equity policy; and Kraxberger eighth-grader Kylie Totten, who developed her leadership skills in Gladstone at a young age, leading her own toy drive for children receiving care at Doernbecher Hospital.
"Believe in yourself, contribute to society, and most important, never, ever quit," Pamplin told the youths. "Keep trying, keep pushing."
The Amazing Kids event was emceed by Rebecca Marshall of KXL Radio and Dan Tilkin of KOIN 6 News.
"The reason you're changing the world is you're doing things differently than we did them," Tilkin said before helping introduce each student.
Amazing Kids is made possible through sponsorships and partnerships with businesses and organizations like Coastal Farm and Ranch, Bi-Mart, OMSI, Central Oregon Community College and others.
The Amazing Kids received gift certificates from Bi-Mart as well as gifts from OMSI.