Comparatively few teenagers have the vision to establish a nonprofit organization. Few others have the logistical know-how to coordinate a public event with local businesses and news media.
But 16-year-old Malcolm Asher and 14-year-old Irie Page, both of Portland, Oregon, are not average teenagers. Last Sunday, the pair received national honors in Washington, D.C., for exceptional service to their communities. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, established by Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), judged Malcolm and Irie to be Oregon’s most committed high school and middle school volunteers.
The teens enjoyed a dinner reception at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and accepted $1,000 awards from Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn, who commended them for their service.
Both young adults earned their accolades for demonstrating “leadership and determination well beyond their years,” according to John Strangfeld, CEO of Prudential Financial. “[It’s] a privilege to celebrate their service,” he said.
Malcolm, a junior at Cleveland High School, established a not-for-profit foundation which helps hospitalized children all over the world create and share artwork with their peers. Malcolm volunteered at a children’s hospital in Portland and witnessed how drawing and painting helped young patients overcome the anxiety associated with a hospital stay. “I could plainly see what a lift this provided to kids who were feeling anxious and scared,” he told KATU news.
This experience motivated Malcolm to found ArtPass, which distributes art kits to hospitalized youth. The organization operates in 11 countries worldwide and encourages young people in developing nations to seek medical care, rather than delay treatment due to anxiety about a hospital stay.
Meanwhile, Irie hosted a nationally recognized author and educator at a free public event designed to inform teens about safe dating practices. Irie raised funds for the author’s speaking fee by establishing a GoFundMe account and securing sponsorships from local businesses. Portland State University provided a recital hall for the event, and local news media publicized the occasion.
As a result of Irie’s efforts, about 500 teens and their parents came to the program, prompting the author to waive his speaking fee. Irie subsequently offered the funds to local organizations which strive to eliminate sexual violence.
In summing up the awards ceremony at the Smithsonian, NASSP president Daniel P. Kelley told attendees that teens like Malcolm and Irie show that “one student really can make a difference. We are honored to shine a spotlight on the compassion, drive, and ingenuity of each of these young volunteers.”
More information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, along with a list of honorees for 2018, can be found at http://spirit.prudential.com and www.nassp.org/spirit.
The Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships that allows awardees the chance to study at Oxford University in England. Only 32 Americans are awarded the scholarship every year, and this time, a fellow Portlander received this award.
JaVaughn T. “JT” Flowers was a student at Lincoln High School. He did not perform well academically and even stayed a fifth year in high school at a boarding school in Connecticut. His efforts payed off, and he went on to study at Yale, founding an organization called A Leg Even to assist low-income Yale students by offering mentoring and tutoring services as well as connections to faculty. During his years at the Ivy League school, he studied in six different countries to examine the various cultures and politics. His thesis investigated Portland’s sanctuary city policy for immigrants undocumented in the United States. His academic excellence also resulted in receiving the Truman scholarship in 2016, which gives gifted students graduate support to help them prepare for government or public service careers.
He currently works for Representative Earl Blumenaur in Portland. “I’m essentially getting paid to learn about all the incredible work going on across all these different silos in Portland,” Flowers said in an interview with The Oregonian.
The competition for the Rhodes Scholarship is intense and involves a difficult, time-consuming application process. Finalists were flown out to Seattle for several events, including standing in front of a seven-judge panel. Rhodes Scholars have their tuition and all expenses covered to study for two or three years at Oxford.
Flowers was floored by the news. “I really don’t know how to attach words to it. I’m really at a loss. I’m so humbled.”
Blumenaur was thrilled by Flowers’ success. In an interview with the Associated Press, he stated, “He’s just an outstanding candidate for the Rhodes. He’s a very quick study, very good wth people, an incisive listener who is able to translate that back to people who contact him and to the staff in our office. We’re excited for him, and we’re excited for what he’s going to do when he’s back.
Flowers plans to earn degrees in Comparative Social Policy and Public Policy in order to give back to his hometown, Portland. “Portland is home for me and will always be home for me. I was born and raised here in the heart of Northeast Portland. I want to set up permanent shop here. I’ll be gone for a couple years, but then I’ll be right back here.”
When Jen Feldman of Portland, Oregon, discovered she needed a kidney transplant and she first reached out to her family and friends, hoping they might qualify as organ donors.
Feldman, though, didn’t give up. She sent a letter to fellow members of her synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel in Portland. Perhaps a kind-hearted acquaintance would consider her need.
Feldman’s faith in the generosity of strangers was rewarded when Jonathan Cohen offered to donate a kidney. “No, I didn’t know much about kidney donation at all,” Cohen told KATU news. But, he felt convicted to help Feldman. “It’s gonna be me,” Cohen thought after contacting Feldman.
Cohen, in fact, turned out to be the only donor qualified to help Feldman.
After a successful transplant, he reflected on the opportunity to sacrifice for another person. “Who doesn’t like being the hero in the movies or whatnot,” he said. “So to be able to be that in real life I thought was a pretty cool opportunity.”
Feldman considers her survival a miracle. “I wake up every morning and think about, and go to bed every night and think about, that someone gave me a living organ to put in my body to save my life.”
Jack Schumacher is an eighth-grade student at Straub Middle School in Salem, Oregon and facing a difficult challenge compared to most students his age: bone cancer. He is currently at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, fighting hard to recover.
However, he’s not alone in his fight against cancer. The middle school had a pep rally for Jack on Friday morning to support him.
In an interview with Koin6, The Principal, Laura Perez, explained, ” When we found out that Jack had cancer, leadership kids wanted to do something more, so they started selling boo grams.”
In the end, the kids raised over $1,000 for Jack’s treatment, and Jack’s friend, Brayden, who had also been diagnosed with cancer two years earlier, was able to present the check. Even though Jack could not be physically present at the rally and had to FaceTime in, several of his family members were there to accept the check, and his entire family was very moved by the show of support.
Jack’s grandmother, Pam Tucker, stated in the interview, “I’m so overwhelmed with what these kids did for Jack.”
Principal Perez was very proud of the leadership students that took the initiative to raise the money. “This is what we want kids to be learning, is how to care for one another.”
Bill Conway, Clackamas County Fire Department Chief of Emergency Medical Services, is always on the job.
This past Saturday, Conway went grocery shopping with his wife. As he strolled the aisles of Grocery Outlet, he heard another shopper collapse to the floor. The individual had lost consciousness and stopped breathing, according to a Clackamas Fire Department press release.
Conway didn’t wait for on-duty medical personnel to arrive. Rather, he immediately began chest compressions on the victim, and continued until paramedics could transport the person to a hospital. Conway’s instincts and job training likely saved the shopper’s life: paramedics restored the individual’s pulse after two defibrillation procedures.
Conway is passionate about equipping others with medical emergency response skills: he has taught CPR to over 40,000 people, and has funded purchases of defibrillators (AEDs) for law enforcement vehicles and businesses. In the process, he is helping to train the next generation of everyday heroes.
After three months in the hospital, Bobby Asa, a seventeen-year-old Sam Barlow High School student, finally returned home.
On June 27th, Bobby was driving home after visiting a friend, when another driver rear-ended his car. Bobby lost consciousness after the impact of the collision fractured his skull and damaged his spinal cord. He didn’t wake until six months later.
Doctors told Bobby’s family he would likely never walk again. But, after being released from Randall Children’s Hospital last Friday, he is already proving them wrong: “Walking is good. I’m getting to relearn it and learning how to be in a wheelchair, so relearning, kind of, life again,” Bobby told KOIN reporters.
Bobby hasn’t allowed his struggles to embitter him. In fact, his recovery has taught him important lessons: He values life more than ever before, because he now realizes “it can be taken away just like that. That’s what I think mostly, and not taking stuff for granted is what I want to do now.”
Last weekend, Bobby’s family celebrated his return home with an open house to thank friends and neighbors for their support. Nearly 200 people attended the event. “I just want to say, like, thank you to everyone who helped,” Bobby said.
Bobby explained that he looked to his family and community for encouragement during his long recovery. However, he ultimately credits his astounding progress to something else. “Well, I think it is a miracle because, like, right now, I shouldn’t even be doing what I’m doing,” he stated. “I should be in bed right now, but I’m not. So that’s great.”