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Scholarship recipients

Congratulations to the AWC Center for Quality Communities 2016 scholarship winners!

Six high school seniors were selected for 2016 Center for Quality Communities scholarship awards. Competition for these awards was steep – applications were received from over 50 cities. Special thanks go out to the CQC Scholarship Committee chaired by AWC Past President and Dayton Mayor, Craig George, Tara Hizon, Oak Harbor Councilmember, Bryan Yambe, Fife Councilmember and Tammy Stanger, Wenatchee City Clerk.

These outstanding young leaders will be recognized at AWC’s Annual Conference, this June in Everett.

Carson Bergstrom – City of Pasco
Carson’s goal to become a research neurologist and seek a care for neurodegenerative diseases is driven by his personal passion to help individuals like his grandfather with ALS, for whom he is caretaker. Carson’s commitment to his community is strong. He serves as a volunteer coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association and assistant coach for a local ice hockey team. Carson also serves on the Pasco School District board of directors as the student representative. In that capacity, Carson has had the opportunity to attend the Washington State School District Associations conference, meeting state and national Congressional members.

Alisha Purdom – City of Marysville
Alicia describes that her career goal is to “encourage others to live a life with purpose and integrity.” Alisha grew up quickly one day. On October 24, 2014, she was present at the Marysville Pilchuck High School when a student shot and killed four students before turning the gun on himself. This tragedy has shaped Alisha into a more intentional, supportive and strong leader. After a long period of fear, Alisha volunteered to serve on a small and select team of students to directly advise trauma recovery planning in their school and to help students begin to heal and find a new normal.

Grae Hill – City of Lacey
Sometimes fate steps in and sends a message. One evening after Grae was training to be an Olympia Police Explorer, she moved beyond her shyness and went to Taco Bell with everyone. When she was leaving, a sergeant knocked on her window, thanked her for coming and slipped something in her hand. When she opened her hand, she saw a Taco Bell hot sauce package that read, “Do it with passion or not at all.” Since then, Grae says that little packet has given her the words to live by. As the only girl at the winter police academy in Yakima, Grae made platoon leader.

Kioko Soneda – City of Burlington
Kioko saw an opportunity and took it. After getting involved in the Burlington-Edison High School Interact Club, a branch of Rotary International, she found herself disappointed by the lack of passion and commitment to service by the club. Instead of walking away, she threw herself into it and was elected president. Over the last year, the club hosted a Christmas party for the Skagit Adult Program Bradford house, opened a day care for disabled and senior adults, organized a highway cleanup, and assembled hygiene kits for the Youth Engaged in Service Team to take to Honduras.

Johana Ocampo – City of Mount Vernon
Leadership comes in many forms. Johana has been bilingual from an early age and was called upon to speak on behalf of others in her community. At this young age, she learned to step in to help others overcome obstacles. Volunteering at the Kulshan Creek Center and tutoring children in her community, Johana has worked with children from disadvantaged homes with very limited academic support. Through this significant responsibility, Johana’s own sense of leadership has grown.

Ethan Toth – City of Wenatchee
Ethan says that “behavioral economics and data analysis fascinates me.” To this end, Ethan organized and produced the Pybus Lego Contest, Wenatchee’s first Mini Market Faire. As he describes, “I decided to create something that would bring multiple people together for a day of pure creation… I wanted a day in which people could imagine the unimaginable.” After three years and over 200 hours of work by a community team, the day finally came. Over 1,200 people attended the event and 46 different makers showed off their work.

2015 winners

Zachary Anders is a teacher’s assistant at Lynnwood Elementary, as well as a Little League volunteer, coach, and announcer. He recently spearheaded a new economic development concept of a rotating art sculpture throughout Mill Creek’s Town Center. In 2013, he received the Washington State Emerging Leader Award and an Edward R. Murrow Investigative Reporting Excellence Award. When the Oso disaster occurred in 2014, his high school received permission to dispatch several student journalists to the area. As Editor-in-Chief, Zachary stood side-by-side with giants like CNN, NBC, and ABC and reported through the emotion and noise of the heavy equipment and devastation that surrounded him. The broadcast garnished the attention of FEMA and local news and radio stations. Drawing from this experience, Zachary looks to begin a career in journalism and broadcast media after college.

Nandina Cengic serves on the City of Tukwila Arts Commission. She previously served on the Tukwila Teen Library Council and was a front desk volunteer at NeighborCare Health Clinic. Over the course of one year, she took on the challenge of illuminating the problem of violence against women and children through a short documentary she created entitled Wicked. She choose friends and teachers across cultures who were role models to her and those around her community. This documentary was submitted to the Girls Impact the World Film Festival, and made its way to Bosnia, where it was discussed by numerous news sources. Nandina would like to increase the number of women in leadership roles in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math careers.

Nayeli Cervantes is the student representative to the Pasco School District Board of Directors and has received the Hispanic Academic Achiever award annually since the 4th grade. She is actively involved in the 21st Century Community Learning Center for middle school students, where she serves as a role model and friend. She found her career passion of becoming a Washington State Judge when she attended the 2014 California De Zavala Youth Legislative session and was as an honorary Supreme Court Justice. Nayeli has a passion for criminal and immigration law and would like to major in political science and criminal justice.

Joanna Santana is Quincy City Council’s Student Representative and developed a school newsletter to distribute to the Council to help bridge the gap between youth and adults in the community. She competed at the international level of DECA, which is a student organization for future professionals in entrepreneurship and marketing, placing 20th out of 220 teams. She is a member of a Youth Action community club, and enjoys acting and playing the saxophone. Joanna’s career goal is to attend design school and eventually own her own graphic design firm creating communications and promotional materials.

Isabel Gabriel is very involved in her Friday Harbor community and many service clubs. During her freshman year she helped organize a Soroptimist teen club benefit auction and dinner to raise money for a teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer. After tireless planning, the fundraiser drew around 200 people and raised over $6,000. Because of her involvement with the Soroptimist club, she received the Wellesley’s Women Leadership Award. She has her sights set on a career in biological sciences and would like to become a licensed physician and participate in the Doctors without Borders program.

Simran Handa is extremely active in her Mukilteo community and is interested in becoming a physician and biomedical researcher with a focus in immunology. She would like to work at Seattle Children’s Hospital as a pediatric immunologist and for Doctors without Borders. As a result of attending the Pacific Northwest Key Club District Convention in 2014, Simran took it upon herself to change the world and help efforts to build a sanitary birthing center in Nepal. Through this process, she learned about fundraising and the laws and protocols that surround it. She was inspired by the students of her generation who helped, saying that it restored her faith and belief that people want to give back to their communities.

Dagmawit Kemal plans to focus her education and career on political science and broadcast journalism. Over the past year, she was actively involved with Washington Bus, a non-profit organization that gets youth civically engaged. When Proposition 1 was put on the ballot in King County, stopping bus cuts, Dagmawit and others got involved, making calls encouraging young voters to vote. Dagmawit is President of the Blue Nile Bulldogs Club which raises money for an orphanage in Ethiopia. She is also involved in her school newspaper and concert choir.

Olesya Mironchuk strives to become a cardiologist because of the dual nature of medicine: human compassion and scientific practices. Olesya has volunteered over 280 hours at hospitals, seeing the impact of mental illness and in the community and limited low-cost walk-in clinics in Seattle. This led her to apply and go through the rigorous application process to become a member of the Seattle Foundation’s Youth Grantmaking Board.

Tin Vo teaches at the Vietnamese Language & Cultural Education Center (Van Lang), were he once was a student himself. As a young child, his life was enriched by people who dedicated their time to grounding and teaching him in his culture. Tin uses his knowledge from his own experiences to help young students looking for education and guidance. Tin plans to attend the University of Washington and become an electrical engineer.

Jalen Wright works as sophomore Student Advisor with Rainier Scholars, a non-profit organization that helps low-income minority children go to and graduate from college. Rainier Scholars transforms children into leaders by guiding them through an extremely rigorous 14-month academic enrichment program. Jalen had been through the program himself, but as an advisor, he helped mold 11 advisees with anything from schoolwork to family problems. Jalen would like to become a civil engineer.

2014 winners

Katelyn Dolan from Liberty Lake is a remarkable musician and a gifted leader. Much of her discipline and passion for life have come from music. She’s been the drum major in the Central Valley High School marching band for the past two years. Katelyn has been a member of the Liberty Lake Youth Commission member for multiple years. In her junior year she was the Secretary, and now in senior year she has served as Chair. She has been a member of the Chase Youth Commission during her Senior Year. Her passion for music lead her to meet a great challenge in her community when she founded LETEM PLAY (Life Enhancement Through Education in Music) in 2012, a 501(c) (3) whose mission is to make music accessible to low-income students, they have raised $25,000 in the past two years. The organization, lead entirely by youth volunteers, supplies instruments to students’ who could not otherwise afford them, and organizes clinics where students coach peers in inner cities to increase their own musical talents. After college, Katelyn hopes to found her own nonprofit management firm that consults small to mid-sized nonprofits around America in everything from marketing to fundraising to help them to achieve their missions.

Prabha Dublish from Sammamish is a talented and gifted student who started Charity Circle, a community service organization that helps local charities by involving teens in their work. Over the past year, Charity Circle members have dedicated 231 hours of community service. She is the President of her local Girl Scout Troop, and serves as the Community Service Chair for the Sammamish Youth Board where she organizes volunteer and public relation campaigns on important issues such as health concerns that are linked to obesity. A National Honor Society Member, she is ranked very near the top of her graduating class with a 3.93 GPA. A dedicated volunteer she has a passion for linking students with people in need; both in her local community of Sammamish and in countries as far away as South Africa. Prabha’s passion is helping people. After college, she hopes to become a social entrepreneur, fulfilling her dream of finding ways to give back to communities through business. Ideally, she’d like to start a nonprofit organization that will help people in her home country of India.

Nina Klinkhammer from Lakewood is an outstanding leader and an inspiration to her peers. She is heavily involved in community activities from serving as a leader for local church camps to volunteering at food banks, retirement homes and fund-raising for Relay for Life. Nina is a talented artist and designed a beautiful mural representing many of the world religions. This was part of a campaign to bring awareness to religious tolerance. Her involvement in leadership activities consists of serving in Leadership Advisory and as a Key Club member in her school, and her extensive involvement in the community. Nina is a current member of Lakewood Youth Council and represents youth at our city functions.

Lucas Gordon from Anacortes is very involved in our community organizing events like the tree cleanup and UNICEF fundraisers. He has volunteered as staff at the Boy Scout camps for two summers and was a true leader to the youth. At school he participated in Key Club, ASB, Robotics and Technical Theatre. He is very involved in wild land maintenance projects and trail clean-ups and restoration. His personal drive and leadership ability make him stand out amongst his peers. Lucas is a model student who embraces all of his life’s experiences – even the very challenging and emotional experiences.

2013 winners

Emina Dacic from Tukwila was student representative to the Tukwila School Board for two years, serving as liaison between students and city leaders during a period of tension and uncertainty. She is Associated Student Body Treasurer, class President, and Vice President for both the National Honor Society and Future Business Leaders of America. She studied Spanish to participate in National Outdoor Leadership School in Guatemala last summer. She volunteered to educate youth in environmental settings, was a camp counselor and mentor, and anti-bullying Co-Chair. Emina is preparing for a career in public service, whether in elected or appointed positions, and wants to work with non-profit organizations to improve conditions in struggling communities.

Michael Dyer from Kelso chairs the city’s stormwater advisory committee. Previous flooding in his high school led him to spearhead the creation of the Kelso School District’s Flood Emergency Response Plan. Through his perseverance, he secured invitations for six peers to attend the US Army Corps of Engineers’ recent Engineering Day at Bonneville Dam, ensuring representation for his community. He is a member of the National Honor Society. Michael plans to obtain a degree in chemical or civil engineering and work for either the Corps of Engineers or the Department of Defense.

Danielle Larson from Almira is the student representative to the Lincoln Hospital Foundation’s Board of Trustees, a position she assumed after job shadowing at the hospital. She lettered in varsity softball, participated in band and knowledge bowl, and was class valedictorian. She is a library, country fair, and vacation bible school volunteer among many community activities. For three summers, she was a lifeguard at the local pool where she learned about handling emergencies and bullying. She helped with a walkathon to keep the pool open. Danielle plans to pursue a human resources position at a rural hospital so she can continue to contribute to her community.

Elizabeth McKeen from Anacortes is the President of the speech and debate clubs, a leader in the freshman transition program, business manager for the Association Student Board, and a peer tutor. She is volleyball captain and lettered in sailing. She serves as student representative to the Anacortes School Board and as student ambassador for Anacortes Sister Cities. She volunteered as activities assistant for the city’s parks and recreation department. Volunteering as a therapist’s assistant at summer camp for autistic children gave Elizabeth the desire to pursue a career as a speech therapist. She also plans to join the Peace Corps and work with Operation Smile to help youngsters with cleft palates.

Ce’Nedra Thomas from Latah, recently named KREM 2 News’ Hero of the Month, is Associated Student Body President, a peer mentor, and is the President of Family Career and Community Leaders of America. She started a teen social and a community harvest party, which has grown into an annual success. She volunteered as games coordinator of her church’s weekly Kid’s Club and advanced to teacher and then Youth Leader. She teaches American Sign Language to preschool children. These experiences have helped prepare her for a teaching profession either for elementary students or focusing on Family and Consumer Sciences or English at the high school level.

Kendall Todd from Odessa is President of the National Honor Society, her Associated Student Body, and of Future Business Leaders of America. She is also captain of the volleyball and basketball teams and was crowned Miss Odessa, turning her into a home-town ambassador throughout the state. She has served as a juror on the Lincoln County Traffic Safety Court, has volunteered for the local food bank and Chamber Deutschesfest, and has raised funds for such organizations as the booster club and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Kendall plans to pursue a doctorate and career in physical therapy in order to help people achieve and maintain healthy lifestyles.

2012 winners