14 youths in Orleans County recognized for outstanding service to community, families
Press Release, Orleans County Youth Bureau
The Orleans County Youth Board typically holds a Youth Recognition Banquet annually to recognize those youth who continuously go above and beyond for our community.
The Youth Recognition Awards are presented to youth who are positive role models, have performed outstanding service for their community, and/or have assumed extraordinary roles within their families.
Even though we are unable to hold the banquet due to the pandemic, the Youth Board wanted to share and celebrate these individuals. We would like to recognize the 14 youths who would have had a night to celebrate their contributions with their nominators, family and friends by sharing a brief bio about each of them and why they were selected by the board to receive the awards in 2021.
They are all in receipt of their awards at this time, which include commendations from the Orleans County Legislature, U.S. Congressman Chris Jacobs, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, and Senator Robert Ortt. They also received a yard sign in their honor, a t-shirt, a gift card, and a certificate from the Youth Board.
This year’s recipients of the Youth Recognition Awards are as follows:
James Michael Beach, 16, of Albion High School is an extraordinary young man who exemplifies the characteristics of this award. He is passionate about giving of himself and sharing his talents with others. James completed his service learning requirements for school and then just kept seeking ways to give back to the community. To date, James has logged over 90 hours of community service in a variety of ways. He has been involved in grounds and maintenance projects, serving and cleanup for the Barre Center Presbyterian Church’s Chicken BBQs, and providing special music for church services.
Following a youth group Christmas caroling activity at Clover Hill, James took it upon himself to go back on numerous Saturday mornings to play piano and call BINGO for the residents. James also volunteered at the Hoag Library organizing and helping with children’s crafts. He has also helped and prepared dinners at the Community Kitchen. James is very involved in many activities at school and holds down a part-time job, but does not let his busy schedule keep him from giving back to the community. James is an excellent role model for the younger members of his church and is always willing to assist his elders in any way he can.
Nominator: Nancy Good, Church Member (Barre Center Presbyterian Church)
Parents/Guardians: Mike & Jaime Beach
Aedan Bunch, 18, of Norman Howard School has exhibited a strong commitment to community service through his church. During the bitter cold and heavy snow that February brought, Aedan volunteered to clear the sidewalks and steps of the church, which provided safe access to the building. Although the church was not holding services at the time, the church’s neighbor, The Medicine Shoppe, was using the building to administer Covid-19 vaccines. Because the sidewalks and entrance ways were cleared by Aedan, along with improved weather conditions, hundreds of local residents were able to receive the vaccine with safe and easy footing.
Aedan is also an active member of a Demolay chapter separate from his church, where he actively participates in several fundraisers and service projects, including food and clothing drives. He has decorated and cleaned graves on Veterans Day and Memorial Day and also volunteered at the Iroquois National Wildlife Reserve. Aedan takes pride in giving back to his community and he understands the need to lend a hand when help is needed.
Nominator: Cynthia Kiebala, Church Member (St. John’s Episcopal Church)
Parents/Guardians: Ann & Steve Bunch
Andrew Drechsel, 18, of Holley Central School is a shining example of a student who truly believes in giving back to others and helping to make his community a better place. Andrew is a member of the Holley Interact Club and is always willing to participate in any opportunity that comes his way. He has done it all: Day of Shopping, Day of Caring, working at Open Door Mission, and helping out Sample Soap.
Andrew has also been a member of 4-H and is in the final stages of receiving his Eagle Scout award. He worked an unpaid position at the Holley Summer Recreation Program and is also a member of his church’s youth group. Andrew worked at almost all of the food distribution sites during the pandemic, loading boxes of food into the vehicles. He also volunteered for the Sports Boosters to help prepare the soccer field for the upcoming season. He worked tirelessly alongside Penny cleaning and digging out the garden that welcomes fans to the field. Andrew’s community is so grateful for all that he does. He is truly an amazing young man!
Nominator: Penny Cole, Counseling Secretary
Parents/Guardians: Trina Lorentz Lang & Scott Lang
Ianah Drisdom, 17, of Medina High School is an outstanding asset to the school and community. She has participated in numerous volunteer activities throughout her time in high school. She shows superior time management skills while balancing responsibilities as a National Honor Society member, working a part-time job, and maintaining good grades.
Ianah started volunteering in 9th grade where she worked feeding and helping the homeless, which was a humbling experience for her. It provided her an opportunity of self-reflection and appreciation for things in life. She has also volunteered at a family business and during football games where she worked the concession stand and helped clean up afterward. This was a tremendous help to the high school. Ianah has had a positive impact on the Medina community.
Nominator: Nicholas Michalak, School Counselor
Parent/Guardian: Karen Boston
Tatum Gagne, 16, of Holley High School has made it her purpose to try and spread cheer and happiness throughout the school. For the second year in a row, Tatum created and addressed holiday cards to every single student and faculty member and delivered them. What seemed like a small gesture meant a lot to others, especially to some students who felt isolated or lonely.
Tatum also took initiative when she saw a 7th grader sitting alone at lunch and became a big sister to this young lady. She eats with her weekly and checks in on her inside and outside of school. Tatum has truly gone above and beyond and has made a huge difference for this young lady. As a member of the Holley Rotary Interact Club, Tatum has worked hard doing behind the scenes tasks, which are especially necessary in this pandemic year. Tatum is the classic example of making the school, community, and world a better place, one small act at a time.
Nominator: Samantha Zelent, School Social Worker
Parents/Guardians: David & Becky Gagne
Amanda Garza, 16, of Lyndonville High School plays an extraordinary role inside and outside of the school community. Amanda demonstrates an amazing work ethic that is an inspiration for her peers. Amanda serves as president of the school’s Diversity Club, where she provides a strong sense of leadership and her work around the building has helped to raise awareness of cultural diversity. She has never been heard to speak negatively about another person and is never drawn into conflict. Instead, she displays a level of kindness and maturity that is a model for other students.
As president of the Spanish Club, Amanda took charge of calling and running meetings, fundraising, encouraging members, and participating in all club activities. She enjoys sharing her Hispanic culture and is proud of both her Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage. Amanda proposed, organized and carried out a cultural cooking lesson with her mother so her class was able to learn about Mexican cooking traditions and culture. Amanda is described as dedicated, helpful, smart, kind, and mature. The faculty at Lyndonville is proud to recognize Amanda for her many contributions to the school.
Nominator: Aaron Slack, Principal
Parents/Guardians: Luis & Marlene Garza
Megan Harrington, 18, of Holley High School has been a key member of the Holley Interact Club since her freshman year. Megan has always gone above and beyond in planning and organizing community activities. She was integral in making the first Annual Day of Caring a successful event that helped out a local nursing home, PAWS Animal Shelter, the Holley Community Center, and many community members who received gift cards on their cars.
Megan has volunteered at the Day of Shopping for several years, Open Door Mission, and Sample Soap. She is one of the first students to sign up and help with anything needed. Megan will be missed by the Interact Club following graduation. Megan is kind, organized, and empathetic towards others.
Nominator: Samantha Zelent, School Social Worker
Parents/Guardians: Scott and Dione Harrington
Collin Longer, 18, of Albion High School is an active member of various extracurricular activities. Collin has been a member of FFA, Recycling Club, and Student Government. As a member of these clubs, Collin has been a natural leader for his peers and is willing to take on responsibility for projects within these clubs.
Collin has shown leadership skills by volunteering to complete the school’s morning announcements. More importantly, Collin’s independence and desire to better himself is admirable. Collin has overcome many obstacles placed before him. He is not afraid to ask questions and he knows how to advocate for himself when needed. Collin is doing his best to balance his academics, trying to cope with living in a pandemic, and the passing of his father earlier this year. Collin is a courageous young man who has certainly taken on an extraordinary role in his family.
Nominator: Valerie Pettit, School Counselor
Parents/Guardians: Wendy Preston
Kohl Morgan, 17, of Holley High School is a natural born leader. He is kind, empathetic, and a hard worker. He has made a huge difference in both his school and his community. As a valued member of the Holley Interact Club, Kohl is always willing to help with any activity. He has helped with the Annual Day of Shopping for several years and was an integral part of the first Annual Day of Caring.
Kohl has also helped make lunches at the Open Door Mission and has collected and distributed hygiene supplies for Sample Soap. He has participated in Clean Sweeps and other activities in the elementary school. Kohl is the first one to dive in and get work done. He also engages other students to help and the students truly look up to him. Wherever Kohl goes, others follow. Kohl is the first student thought of when in need of a loving and caring hand to help another student. He is always ready to help even when others are not. He is an amazing young man and the Holley community is truly blessed to have him.
Nominator: Samantha Zelent, School Social Worker & Penny Cole, Counseling Secretary
Parents/Guardians: Jennifer & Steven Morgan
Waylon Peet, 18, of Kendall Central School is committed to making the Kendall community a better place. Waylon is very involved with the Kendall Fire Department where he is an active firefighter. Prior to being accepted into the Fire Department, he was a “junior” firefighter.
Waylon has volunteered to work the Annual Carnival for several years. Many members took notice of his hard work and dedication to helping the organization. Since joining, he has attended training sessions, meetings and state classes. He is also an important member of his family. Due to extenuating circumstances, Waylon is required to take on extra responsibilities at home. He helps to keep order in the house and is a mentor to his younger siblings.
Nominator: Carol D’Agostino, Principal
Parents/Guardians: Melinda Roberts & Stephen Peet
Colburn Spierdowis, 17, of Albion High School has completed an outstanding amount of community service at several area organizations. Colburn has given many hours to the Boy Scouts of America where he helped with various projects and activities.
He has demonstrated a gift for working with youth. He has volunteered as an assistant with the Cub Scouts and has volunteered at the Sportsmen’s Club Kid’s Fishing Derby as a supervisor. Colburn has also served as an assistant at local soccer camps, helping to teach skills and fundamentals. Colburn is praised as helpful and respectful. He is always dependable and a great role model for youth to look up to.
Nominator: Eric Christiansen, Counseling Department Chairperson
Parent/Guardian: Karen Spierdowis
Allison Trowbridge, 17, of Holley Central School is one of the first ones to step up and volunteer to do anything that is needed. Allison volunteers through her involvement with Interact Club and her Cheer Squad. She has been a part of Interact Club since 7th grade where she has assisted with cleaning up at animal shelters, making care packages for the homeless, and working on numerous other activities.
As part of her Cheer Squad, Allison participates in volunteer projects such as visiting nursing homes during the holidays and helping athletes at the Special Olympics. The number of hours Allison commits to these above-mentioned projects is too numerous to count. Outside of school, Allison holds down a part-time job while also helping to take care of her Nana who suffers from Alzheimer’s. She also assists her Papa with household chores. Allison is the type of young lady who steps up whenever she is needed by anyone!
Nominator: Sarah Trowbridge, Mother
Parents/Guardians: Ken & Sarah Trowbridge
Charles Turpyn (“Chuck”), 17, of Holley High School is an amazing and caring young man. He has faced many challenges this past year and he rose to the occasion for all. He has been a member of the Interact Club for 3 years and has participated in all activities, including the Day of Caring and the Fall into Reading event.
Chuck can always be counted on to participate in activities and does a lot of the hard behind-the-scenes work. This year, he went above and beyond taking care of family members experiencing medical issues. Chuck is extremely modest about his contributions, but he can always be counted on to do what is best for his school, community and family.
Nominator: Samantha Zelent, School Social Worker
Parents/Guardians: Katie Niederhofer and Charles Turpyn
Evan Thomas Valentine, 18, of Holley High School was such a wonderful young man who was caring and loving to everyone and everything. Evan was full of faith, kindness, and generosity. Evan battled Leukemia for 2 and half years before passing away on February 21st of this year. He still continued to help others while being sick and receiving treatments. In January 2020, there was a horrific house fire in the community and, despite being worn down from treatment, Evan was at the Social Center of St. Mary’s in Holley, sorting through clothes and household items.
Evan served as Alter Server as well as Sacristan at St. Mary’s where he won Alter Server of the Year in 2018. Throughout his battles, he always had a smile, never complained about his circumstances and always had a positive, infectious energy about him. Evan was a life-time member of the Boy Scouts of America, where he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. His project was completed at the Veteran’s Memorial at the American Legion Post in Holley, in honor of him, by friends and family. Once you met Evan, you were never the same. He left his handprint on everyone that he touched.
Nominator: Penny Cole, Counseling Secretary
Parents/Guardians: Neil & Diane Valentine