'Amazing Kids' give back in 28 unique ways
Monday mornings are not usually known for their inspirational qualities, but those in attendance at the 2018 Amazing Kids celebration at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry watched this week as Pamplin Media Group honored 28 of the most inspiring kids in our communities.
The April 30 event featured guest speaker Brian Grant, a former Portland Trail Blazer and now motivational speaker. News radio hosts Terry Boyd of KGON and Rebecca Marshall of KXL News were emcees.
Boyd joked that watching the 28 stories of how involved and passionate these young people were made him realize "how I wasted my misspent youth." At his third year emceeing the event, Boyd said, "These kids, every year just continue to raise the bar."
Now in its fifth year, Amazing Kids is an award unlike any other. Honorees are chosen not necessarily for their academic or athletic prowess but for their commitment to service and the positive impacts they have made on the Oregon communities around them. Each Pamplin Media Group newspaper chose from among hundreds of nominations for the young person who would represent their community.
In Lake Oswego, The Review chose LOHS student Margo Sidline, who has become a consistent voice for tolerance in her community and at her school. Through a series of events — including a documentary screening she organized in January that drew more than 500 people — and in her elequent, moving articles for the school newspaper, she has become a consistent voice for equity, diversity and inclusion.
"I just figure someone has to be the person to care," Margo said. "I'm glad to be that person. I do care a lot. It doesn't bother me to fill that role."
Pamplin Media Group Vice President Brian Monihan said Monday's event was a natural outgrowth of the newspaper group's mission.
"I think what I love about this event is it's a perfect match with what we try to do with our newspapers," Monihan said, "which is to inform, inspire and motivate our readers to do good work in our communities with great journalism. We hope people see these stories and become inspired to ask themselves: 'What can I do in my community?' "
This year's Amazing Kids displayed their love for community in a lot of different ways, from Natalee Lichfield organizing a program at Molalla High School to get rid of Styrofoam to Jessica Yu's life-saving inventions and volunteerism in Beaverton.
Despite the different ways they make a difference, though, there were common characteristics among all of the honorees. Each one has stepped forward to become the change they wanted to see in the world, and all have the time-bending ability to participate in a dazzling array of activities.
"I feel very ecstatic," said Deja Fitzwater about being the Clackamas Review's Amazing Kid. "When I saw my face in the newspaper, I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' I usually give back to my community, so I'm not used to this. I have this feeling like, 'Oh my gosh, this isn't real.'"
Deja has participated in numerous volunteer projects, including Arts for the Ages, a program she started to bring art supplies to kids in the hospital. Fabienne Fitzwater, her mom, said the award was a surprise, but her daughter is worthy of it.
"She works really hard to help others," she said of the Gaarde Christian Middle School seventh-grader. "As a parent, you can't ask for anything more than that."
Semeredin Kundin, the Portland Tribune's Amazing Kid, said he's helped people his whole life. It was just part of growing up in a big family.
"It was just kind of ingrained," Semeredin said. The Lincoln High School senior has many interests and abilities, but a major focus is on improving relations between black youth and police. Semeredin has organized numerous community conversations and educational events to try to bridge the gap between people of color and law enforcement.
He was quick to turn the focus to others.
"I think it's cool that this event brings together a variety of youth from across the region," he said. "I've never met any of these people before, but I'm hoping by the time I leave here I'll have made more connections."
Lincoln High School guidance counselor James McGee said Semeredin sets a high bar and keeps pushing himself to rise.
"This year, I think he found the confidence to be a city leader, as opposed to just a Lincoln leader," said McGee, who nominated Semeredin for the award.
Teryl Figgins was very proud that her daughter, Estacada High School freshman Bryten Figgins, was recognized for her contributions to others. Bryten, 15, collected 250 boxes of what she calls "kid-friendly" cereal for Camp Attitude, a camp that serves children with disabilities and their families. This year, she's going for 500 boxes.
"It's pretty amazing ... to be recognized for what she's doing for other people," Teryl Figgins said. "I love that she's showing everyone that just because you have a diagnosis and a disability doesn't mean you can't make a difference."
Bryten Figgins has osteogenesis imperfecta — brittle bones disease. She's broken nearly every bone in her body, and has developmental delays. Nevertheless, she told her mom, "It only takes one person to change the world, and I'm that person."
Monday's event was made possible through the sponsorship of many area businesses, including Coastal Farm and Home Supply; OMSI; Bi-Mart, Clackamas Community College, The Portland Clinic, Mattress World, Pacific West Roofing and Marylhurst University.