A recognition banquet was the first of what is planned to be an annual event.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Fifty-one teens from the Mahoning Valley were honored Friday for their individual volunteer efforts, but in many cases volunteering proved to be more of a family affair.
The young people, ranging in age from 12 to 18, were honored at a banquet at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in recognition of the first National Youth Service Day Celebration. Each honoree received a plaque from the city.
The celebration is expected to become an annual event, organizers said.
Honoree Chandra Roberson, a 15-year-old student at The Rayen School, sat at a table with her sisters Dayona Hill, 14, Angelique Roberson, 13, and LaVicia Hill, 15. All four were being honored for various acts of volunteerism.
The sisters' list of volunteer acts varies, but all agree that helping others and making a difference in the life of another is what keeps them going.
"I like to help people and be blessed by sending my gift of help to other people, because I know that is a blessing to them," said Angelique Roberson.
Looking to the future
LaVicia Hill, who often spends volunteer time working with younger kids, said her work offers a small glimpse at the career she would like to pursue in the future as a child psychologist.
Across the room sat Karisma Turner, 13, Youngstown, who also works with younger children and also has dreams of becoming a child psychologist. Turner, too, spends time volunteering alongside her siblings Kelvin Turner Jr., 17, and Kandace Turner, 15.
Among their activities, the three tutor elementary school children from Martin Luther King Jr. school at an after school program at Tabernacle Baptist Church. Karisma Turner said knowing the kids being tutored benefit from her help is a daily reward.
The list of volunteers included several more groups of siblings, but even those who were not honored alongside a brother or sister said family played a major role in their decision to get involved.
James Kramer, 17, said he started helping in various ways in the community at an early age because his family is deeply involved in volunteer acts through its church. The Ursuline High School senior said he just "fell into" volunteer acts of his own as he got older.
"This is a way of life for us," he said. "We are always running, but it's fun -- fun for us and a good way to give back to the community."
Brett Rovnyak of Lowellville High School said her family, by way of example, taught her it was all right not to "go with the crowd" but instead to think for herself and help others in ways that she feels are most beneficial.
"I like the feeling and benefits of giving," she said. "I was very lucky to have the family I have. They taught me to go out and help everyone I can."
Speaker for the event was Dorothy O. Jackson, deputy mayor of Akron. She reminded the young honorees that "each accomplishment is a rung in the ladder of life that they must climb." The plaque received Friday, she said, is an early step to be applied to the ladder.
Jackson also relayed some personal details of her own life and some of what she called the events that helped to build her personal ladder.
Representatives from city council, Youngstown Board of Education, Mahoning County commissioners and state representatives also attended.
Tamika Green, Federal Plaza director, said the event was a success and a definite for next year.
Event sponsors included The Vindicator, Home Savings, Youngstown/Mahoning Valley United Way and Time Warner Cable.