The McLean Citizens Association is awarding teens a Teen Character Award in the 16th annual award ceremony at McLean Day on Saturday, May 18. The award ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. at Lewinsville Park on Chain Bridge Road in McLean. A staff member from the office of Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust; Janie Strauss, Dranesville District school board member; and Sally Horn, McLean Citizens Association president, will present the awards.
The award is to honor teens who demonstrate outstanding character. Teens who have, on their own and without compensation, helped out in their neighborhood or community, are being recognized not only for themselves but as an example to others.
This year's awardees are:
- Jade Davis—freshman at McLean High School
For volunteering with Lift Me Up! and for serving on the Unified Prevention Coalition Youth Council. Lift Me Up! Is a therapeutic riding program for handicapped and disabled children and adults. The volunteer coordinator wrote she is always on time for her three-hour Saturday afternoon volunteer sessions. She ensures that the horses are groomed and tacked and ready for lessons on time. She is always where she needs to be at any given moment. She extends her very best in all aspects of the barn from grooming, tacking and leading to sidewalking. As a member of the Youth Council, Jade attended Capitol Hill Day and spoke to state legislators about the importance of alcohol and drug prevention. She also helped develop and implement a prevention conference for middle school students throughout Fairfax County.
- William Davis—junior at Langley High School
William serves as an assistant director for TopSoccer, a program to teach soccer to children of varying ages and with varying disabilities. His mother wrote that he has impressed her with the gentle manner in which he works with the disadvantaged children, guiding them in their soccer efforts as well as tuning in to their needs for encouragement and patience. Some of them cannot effectively communicate and can also become moody or frustrated. She is delighted to watch her son persevere in these situations and to see the players improve, have fun, and be successful. The director of TopSoccer noted that on days when William isn’t one of the three assistant directors actually running the practice, he can usually be found helping the older and bigger players who can be more challenging to work with.
- Charlotte Heffelmire—sophomore at McLean High School
For volunteering with Winds of Change. Her sister writes that Charlotte started her Winds of Change charity when she realized that other children are less fortunate than she. Charlotte started by visiting orphanages, spending time with children, and providing money for their needs. She has raised about $4,200 by mowing lawns and shoveling snow, among other activities. She has spent hundreds of hours in the past several years with two parentless children—tutoring them, giving them violin lessons, and taking them to sports and other activities. One of her teachers notes that she is currently developing a self-defense class for teenage girls based on her experience as a Tae Kwan Do black belt because she doesn’t think any of the existing self-defense classes teaches teenage girls the best sort of tactics to make them safe.
- Bel Kelly-Russo—junior at Langley High School
For volunteering with TOPSoccer. The director of the TOPSoccer program wrote that Bel asked him five soccer seasons ago if she could be a buddy to one of the disabled students in the program. He says she has a “warm smile, a friendly personality, and a caring attitude … [she] knows what it takes to motivate and inspire children … [she] quickly became one of my ‘go to’ buddies when I need someone to work with some of our younger players who may be a little scared, confused, upset, or maybe just aren’t having a very good day. [Bel] almost always is able to put them at ease so that they can begin having fun.” Bel’s grandfather wrote that Bel was so impressed with UVa’s Summer Enrichment Program that she donated the $800 she earned as a summer camp counselor to the university so that a less advantaged student could participate in the program. She made the donation in memory of her fifth grade teacher, Gena Rohlfs, who had introduced Bel to the Summer Enrichment Program and who has since died from ovarian cancer.
- Arjan Peters—sophomore at McLean High School
- Azita Peters—freshman at McLean High School
For initiating a stuffed animal collection for children victimized by Hurricane Sandy. Her mother wrote that, as a child, Azita’s stuffed animals comforted her at night, and she thought that a drive to collect stuffed animals would be a great way to put smiles on children’s faces. The two siblings approached the administration and student council at their formal elementary school, Colvin Run, and gained support for their project. Arjan and Azita organized the event, motivated the student council officers, and picked up the collected stuffed toys to deliver them to be shipped and distributed. A teacher at the school wrote that, as former Colvin Run students, they presented themselves as strong role models for their younger peers and demonstrated that a few motivated young people can take action to make the world a better place.
- Anna Pope—senior at Langley High School
For volunteering with the Langley Global Outreach Club. Anna founded the service club to help local and international communities. She led her club of 15 members in efforts to gather donations for the Canned Food Drive for DC Homeless, holiday gifts for Toys for Tots, and Valentine cards to INOVA Pediatric Hospital and the Powhatan Nursing Home. The club gathered box tops for Neval Thomas Elementary School in Anacostia and collected clothing for the homeless in D.C. Club members also collected coupons for military families, made holiday cards for the Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes, and sent Halloween candy to soldiers through Operation Gratitude. Anna also spends time volunteering at the Powhatan Nursing home.
- Alex Riddell—sophomore at Langley High School
For volunteering with the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation. Fellow volunteers at the foundation write that Alex started volunteering at the foundation over two years ago when she needed eight hours of community service for school. She soon realized she had an incredible love and passion for cats and has now spent over 400 hours at the foundation. She has gone from a cat novice to a cat expert, a feat made more impressive by the fact that she is allergic to cats. She has learned the details of the adoption process, the daily care of the animals, and how best to evaluate each cat and potential adopter to determine if the match is right. The foundation cat adoption coordinator writes that she can depend on Alex to talk with prospective adopters, let them visit with different cats, and answer their questions about cat adoption and ownership. She writes that Alex never hesitates to step up and help, often initiating projects without being asked.
- Alex Soltany—junior at St. Albans School
For volunteer work with SOS4Cancer and the Children’s Cancer Center. Alex contacted the Children’s National Medical Center, Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, and became its first high school volunteer. A friend writes, “He interacts and entertains patients, reads to them, assists the art therapist with arts and crafts projects, provides clerical and office support, and provides any patient support needed while undergoing chemotherapy treatment. ... An empathetic person by nature, he tries his best to entertain and comfort these sick children in order to take their mind off their treatment. This also gives some relief to their tired parents.” Alex co-founded SOS4Cancer with other high school students and their parents and now serves on its board. The organization provides gifts to teen cancer patients, assists in their participation in medical camps, and technologically connects the patients with their school and friends.
- Cameron Thompson—senior at Langley High School
For volunteer work with Homework and Tutoring Club and other volunteer activities. Cameron assists elementary-aged children in his neighborhood with reading and math on an “as-needed” basis. For more than a year, he has spent more than an hour a week with one particular student on math. The student’s mother forwards Cameron instructions from the teacher. Cameron then helps the student to understand the material covered in class, as well as to prepare for upcoming quizzes, tests and future chapter assignments. The child’s mother writes, “We were struggling to find a program for our son when Cameron stepped forward and offered his services. He recognized that his perspective as a student who knew what it was like to struggle with schoolwork could benefit our son. … We love having him as a role model … for our eldest child and will be sorry to lose him to college in the fall.”