Young leaders shine brightly

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Coupland
Sarah Ryser, 18, a senior at Girard High School, was announced Tuesday night in Warren as the winner of the 2017 Class of the Twenty Under 20 program. The program honors 20 high-achieving people younger than 20 for their leadership skills through volunteerism, extracurricular activities and academics. Ryser received a $500 grant to donate to a nonprofit for community service.

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Coupland Sarah Ryser, 18, a senior at Girard High School, was announced Tuesday night in Warren as the winner of the 2017 Class of the Twenty Under 20 program. The program honors 20 high-achieving people younger than 20 for their leadership skills through volunteerism, extracurricular activities and academics. Ryser received a $500 grant to donate to a nonprofit for community service.

WARREN — Shock washed over Sarah Ryser’s face when her name was announced Tuesday as winner of the 2017 Twenty Under 20 award.

“I really was not expecting this,” the Girard High School senior said. She indicated to the other 19 honorees and said, “Each and every one of you guys is so incredible, and honestly, I aspire to be more like you.”

CLICK HERE TO VIEW WINNER SARAH RYSER’S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH.

The Twenty Under 20 program, co-sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley and Kent State University at Trumbull, recognizes 20 high-achieving people younger than 20 for their leadership skills through volunteerism, extracurricular activities and academics.

Dozens of nominations were narrowed down to the 20 Trumbull County students who earned the Flame of Service during the fifth annual ceremony at DiVieste Banquet Hall. From the 20, five were chosen as top of the class. As the winner, Ryser received a $500 grant to donate to a nonprofit organization of her choice to help the community, and the other four finalists each were awarded a $125 grant for the same purpose.

“I think this award is so important, not just for myself, but for all the incredible young people, the other 19 students who are being honored here today,” Ryser said. “They go above and beyond and do what’s right even when nobody is looking, and that is what is so impressive to me.”

All five top honorees said they knew where they would invest their community service grants:

l Ryser, 18, said she planned to donate the $500 to Noah’s Net, a fund for a student she works with who has Down syndrome.

l Michael Cline, 17, of Niles McKinley High School, said he planned to donate his $125 share to Niles Community Services. “They have done so much for me and I want to give back.”

l Cara Annandono, 17, of Warren G. Harding High School, said she planned to contribute her share to Tic Tac, a student-led American Cancer Society Relay For Life team she’s been involved with for years.

l Donna Cherry, 17, of Warren G. Harding High School, said her share will go to the Grace United Methodist Church Awana program, a Bible study for youth for which she is a leader, “for the children there, to provide them with one more meal.”

l Jacquelyn Keslar, 17, of Hubbard High School, said she’d like to use her share to buy paint for Grace Lutheran Church in Hubbard, so she can finish a major painting project there “for the nursery, and for a mural tree with the kids’ fingerprints.”

Each of the Twenty Under 20 honorees are profiled in a special magazine inserted into today’s Tribune Chronicle.

Tribune Chronicle Publisher Charles Jarvis said he noticed a few themes as the accomplishments of all 20 honorees were recounted throughout the night.

“They all had leadership, service and were especially good students,” he said. “And so many of them had a strong connection with their church, which is very, very impressive.

“They’re not out there in the dark doing things when no one notices. They’re out there doing things in the daylight for the good of the community.”

Besides the flame-shaped service trophy, each recipient received recognition from Trumbull County commissioners, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a boost from first-year co-sponsor Kent State at Trumbull. Dr. Lance Grahn, dean, announced that all 20 awardees have a pledge of $1,000 toward tuition if they enroll full-time at the campus in Champion.

Grahn told students they need to go to whichever institution will best serve their needs, “but if that’s Kent State at Trumbull, we will welcome you with open arms — and a $1,000 check.”

The 235 attendees constituted the largest crowd in the five years of Twenty Under 20.

“I encourage you to serve when you’re young because you’re able to so much more when you’re young,” Jarvis told the group.

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