By Jim Newell
Some may seem routine, others monumental, but each act of caring, whether a stone or a boulder, helps build a mountain of good will in the community.
The Orion Area Youth Assistance (OAYA) hosted its 2018 Youth Recognition Awards April 26, recognizing the selfless acts of 40 area students who have made a difference in their world through volunteering.
The awards pay special tribute to outstanding youth in the community who have volunteered their time in the past year and could include personal acts of heroism, hospital/nursing home service, ecology/beautification activities, Special Olympics, mentoring/tutoring, assisting senior citizens and drug/alcohol prevention.
A key component of the awards is that the students couldn’t be paid for their efforts, nor fulfill high school community service requirements.
But it was the good deeds and the proud smiles from the kids that were the real testament of the awards ceremony, as each student walked across the stage in the LOHS Performing Arts Center, shaking hands with the adults who were there to recognize their achievements.
Orion Oaks Elementary Principal Drew Towlerton is an OAYA board member and gave the keynote address.
“You may not know it but you have impacted an incredible amount of people with what you’ve done,” Towlerton said. “And you’ve done it not because you’re receiving an award or because you’re receiving a certificate; you’ve done it because of who you are, the people you are and who you’ve been ingrained to be.”
Some students, like Ashley McCloud, Drew Tyrrell and Maddie Lowry, traveled to Guatemala to work on building a community center. Others, like Dylan Ball, selflessly provided support and guidance every day to his brother, Braedon, who is on the autism spectrum.
Layla Thompson is in choir at Scripps Middle School. During the holiday recital, the sixth-grader instinctively stepped up to help a special needs classmate with positioning and transitioning, keeping a low-profile in doing so, so that her friend could fully participate in the performance.
“She needed help, so I helped her where she was supposed to stand and how she was supposed to sing so then she could sing with us,” Layla said. “I think it’s important because when you’re volunteering you’re helping your community. And it’s good to help because it can help everyone live better lives.”
Mia Merrell is a freshman at Lake Orion High School and volunteers at the Orion Township Public Library, helping with special events, library programs and keeping materials organized.
“I think it’s doing something bigger than myself. And also, I find it a little bit of fun because it’s nice to go and do things with all the people there. The staff’s really helpful and nice,’ she said. “There’s also a lot of bad in the world as well, so I think volunteering brings a lot of good.”
“I think you’ll agree, that when you give to others and put yourself second you truly are the one who wins,” said Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett.
The Youth Assistance, a volunteer-based organization created to help families and young people, received applications from people all across Orion nominating students for their volunteerism and good deeds.
The OAYA is an organization of volunteers in the Lake Orion area, working with the Oakland County Probate Court, local schools, police, parents, youth and other community resources to help families and young people find solutions to their individual and collective problems.
The mission of the OAYA is to strengthen youth and families and reduce the incidence of delinquency, abuse and neglect through community involvement. They provide caseworker/counseling services for youth and families.
Programs include Mentors Plus, providing adult mentors to boys and girls needing the presence of a caring adult; X-Tend, an after-school program fostering mentoring relationships between high school and middle school students; and summer camp programs through Adopt-A-Camper.
OAYA sponsors include Orion Township, the Village of Lake Orion, Lake Orion Community Schools and the Oakland County Circuit Court – Family Division.
The Youth Assistance program has been around since 1953 after it was created in Hazel Park by citizens and court officials. It’s now a unit within the Oakland County Circuit Court’s Family Division and has 26 offices in Oakland County.
For more information on OAYA programs and support, call 248-693-6878 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the web: lakeorionyouthassistance.com.
2018 OAYA Youth Award recipients:
Julia Ames, Olivia Ames, Kylie Anderson, Victoria Azarovite, Dylan Ball, Navaeh Beeson, Emily Carrier, Olivia Hammond, Lauren Hough, Emily Inch, Noah Johnson, Will Junkin, Kyle Juzysta, Stephanie Knitter, Maddie Lowry, Matthew Mayernik, Mia Merrell, Ashley McCloud, Angela Misovski, Kaiden Ogle, McKenzie Ogle, Giselle Pacheco, Morgan Patterson, Tess Pero, Mia Pestano, Oscar Richie, Anja Rodenbeck, Alex Russell, Shelby Shinavier, Cody Summerfield, Emily Summerfield, Layla Thompson, Drew Tyrrell, Caitlin Wagner, Elaine Wagner, Megan Walch, Cheyenne Watters, Micah Williams, Sophie Wyborski, Fiona Zimmerman.