2018 Amazing Kids show 28 ways of giving back to community
Monday mornings are not usually known for their inspirational qualities, but those in attendance at the 2018 Amazing Kids celebration at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry April 30 watched as Pamplin Media Group honored 28 of the most inspiring kids in our communities.
The event featured guest speaker Brian Grant, a former Trail Blazer and now motivational speaker. The OMSI event was emceed by news radio hosts Terry Boyd of KGON and Rebecca Marshall of KXL News.
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."
As 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 hundreds of nominations for the child that would represent their community.
Pamplin Media Group Vice President Brian Monihan said the 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?'"
The youth displayed their love for community in a lot of different ways, from Natalee Lichfield's organizing Molalla High School to get rid of Styrofoam next school year to The Times honoree Jessica Yu's life-saving inventions and volunteerism in Beaverton.
But despite the different ways they make a difference, there were common characteristics that the Amazing Kids seem to share: stepping forward to become the change they wanted to see in the world and the time-bending ability to participate in a dazzling array of activities.
"I feel very ecstatic," said Déja Fitzwater about being the Clackamas Review's Clackamas County 2018 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.'"
Déja has 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," Fabienne Fitzwater 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 2018 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. A Lincoln High School senior, Semeredin has many interests and abilities but a major focus is on improving relations between black youth and police. This is complicated work, without an easy solution. Semeredin has organized numerous community conversations and educational events to try to bridge the gap between people of color and law enforcement.
But Semeredin 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. 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.
This promises not to be the last time Semeredin ends up in a newspaper, either. After attending the University of Oregon, he plans to continue into a career in law and politics.
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 developmental delays. Nevertheless, she told her mom: " 'It only takes one person to change the world, and I'm that person.' "
The event was made possible through the sponsorship of many area businesses, including: Kids Hero Sponsors Coastal Farm and Home Supply, OMSI, Bi-Mart; and Partner Sponsors Clackamas Community College, The Portland Clinic, Mattress World, Pacific West Roofing, and Marylhurst University; as well as several community partners.