Selecting students for the McLean Rotary Club's annual Youth Service Awards program turned out to be a fairly easy job for Rotary Club member Michael DeRose. When he called the four local high schools to ask for candidate suggestions, each school provided DeRose with one name.
"You four are ringers," said DeRose at last week's Youth Service Awards luncheon at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean. "They didn't want anybody else but you."
At the luncheon, the four high school seniors were honored for their exemplary contributions to the community. The winners, who each received a plaque and a check for $250, came from Thomas Jefferson High School, McLean High School, Langley High School and The Potomac School.
"These are individuals who are not Rotarians, but who exhibit our basic premise which is service above self," said Todd Dempsey, President of the McLean Rotary Club. "They are the young people that will be our future and who will better our community."
KANE KANAGAWA a senior at the Potomac School, was chosen for his extensive volunteer work. A volunteer coach for McLean Youth Basketball, Kanagawa also coordinated and led a Katrina relief effort from the Potomac School to the Salvation Army in McComb, Mississippi. He has also worked with underprivileged children as a counselor at Grandma Rita's Kitchen in Washington D.C., and with disabled children as a summer counselor at Camp Sunshine in MaComb, Miss.
"I've known Kane since he was a sophomore," said David Grant, Director of Community Service at The Potomac School. "So in the three years that I have known him, I have come to realize that there is something different about him. I don't know if it's his huge smile, his disarming smile, or his affinity for wearing pastel-colored shirts, but after a few minutes with Kane you can't help but feel good."
In 2005 Kane was a Teen Character Award winner for his long-term mentoring of a 12-year-old boy, and in 2003 and 2004 he was a Special Olympics volunteer. In 2004, Kane also volunteered for the International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap, where he worked in the technology tent teaching children about computers.
"He's got a true spirit of giving and he's a role model to many people," said Grant.
CRYSTAL ZHENG, THE WINNER FROM Thomas Jefferson High School, was commended by her guidance counselor Sandra Connelly as a student who "has an extraordinary passion for what she learns."
"She has shown an eagerness to learn that goes beyond grades and the standard curriculum," said Connelly. "There are few that can match her discipline and self-motivation. She has a broad range of academic interests and is a constant learner."
Zheng has been a 3-year volunteer at the Alternative House, a local crisis shelter for teenagers affected by abuse, homelessness and delinquency. As such, she organized fundraisers and publicity events, and she was asked to serve as a youth representative on the Board of Directors. Zheng is also the community outreach coordinator for Tomorrow's Women in Science & Technology (TWIST), an organization that encourages female participation in the sciences. In addition, she began TWIST Jr., a program in which high school girls mentor Holmes Middle School students by visiting them monthly with science and enrichment activities.
"Success is when I have accomplished or exceeded my personal goals," said Zheng. "It is when I have completed something and I can say that I am a better person coming out than going in."
ELENA HALL LEFT A LASTING IMPRESSION on Isobel Rahn, the college and career counselor at McLean High School, when she "literally came bouncing" into Rahn's office last year.
"I knew there was something really special there," said Rahn.
Hall participated in two biathlons to raise funds for both the Red Cross and the Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation. She also helped to organize a "Have A Heart" dance to raise nearly $6,000 to help provide clean water to victims of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. In addition, Hall organized a community block party to benefit victims of hurricane Katrina.
Barbara Hershey, Advanced Placement History teacher to Hall, described Hall as "Rosie the Riveter of McLean High School."
"She is the student who rolls up her sleeves and tells people 'we can get this done,'" said Hershey.
Hall, who will be attending the College of William & Mary next fall, is a member of the McLean High School McLeadership Program, and as such mentors students who are at risk, and who are struggling to adjust to high school. She is also vounteer swim instructor and a volunteer teacher's assistant at Franklin Sherman Elementary School.
LANGLEY HIGH SCHOOL WINNER JULIA LANZARA, is a volunteer at the So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.) soup kitchen, as well as at Access Ministries at McLean Bible Church where she baby-sits children with autisim. Her work at McLean Bible Church resulted in her receiving the Girl Scout Gold Award.
"She is a woman whose academic accomplishments know no bounds," said Gale Bigio, a guidance counselor at Langley High School. "She is a mature young woman who works hard at achieving her goals, and she is the best student, daughter and friend you could ask for."
Lanzara is also a member of the Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program, and was one of two students selected for a year-long program in local government. In addition, she has worked as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and is Chairman of the Principal's Advisory Council at Langley.
"Her dedication to service spans many levels," said Bigio.