20 amazing youths to be honored this week

This week, the Tribune Chronicle will join with our partners, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley and Kent State University at Trumbull, to celebrate the latest class of Twenty Under 20 honorees.

It’s hard to believe five years have passed since our newspaper first began this program that recognizes and honors the most impressive young leaders in Trumbull County and the awe-inspiring acts they do that make them the cream of the crop.

It’s similar, in part, to the Tribune Chronicle’s long-standing annual Community Stars program that celebrates local people who make their community a better place through selfless acts. (We’ll soon begin calling for nominations for Community Stars, so keep reading the Tribune for more details in the near future.) The Twenty Under 20 program, however, honors local youth under age 20 for their involvement in extracurricular activities; academic achievement; and most important, leadership through volunteerism. These youth were nominated by members of the community and then judged by a panel based on these three categories.

When we make our selections, we base the decisions not on the kids who hold the highest GPA or who take the most difficult classes. The program also is not a popularity contest. Rather, it focuses on the leadership skills these young people exhibit in developing programs that benefit people in our community. After reading through the nominations and the stories that my staff has developed about each honoree once the winners were selected, I have to say, I feel pretty good about our future. These are the impressive youth who will march us into the coming decades.

This year’s honorees will be recognized for their tireless efforts to help the less fortunate, exemplary leadership skills, academic success and future aspirations during a banquet Tuesday, when the overall winner will be announced.

This year’s honorees are:

Cara Annandono of Warren; Emma Baugher of Southington; Francesca Byrne of Girard; Donna Cherry of Warren; Michael Cline of Niles; Anthony Costarella of Girard; Jillian DiCesare of Warren; Kaitlyn Elder of Warren; Megan Fielder of Girard; Celeste Harris of Warren; Taylor Hope Honsaker of Warren; Gianna Jones of Warren; Jacquelyn Keslar of Hubbard; Phillip Loges of Warren; Anastasia McLeod of Cortland; Elizabeth Mintus of Warren; Hyungjun (Richard) Park of Girard; Sarah Ryser of Girard; Lydia Walls of Warren; and Addison Wilson of Lordstown.

These young men and women have participated in mission trips, helped the elderly, the needy and younger children. They are members of Scouts and are active in their churches and school activities.

The overall winner each year receives a $500 stipend to use to further charitable undertakings, such as the “You’ve Got a Friend” program, a mentorship group created and led at Howland High School by last year’s overall winner, Ryan Jones.

Ryan was chosen in 2016 in large part because he created that program to provide students with an intellectual or developmental disability the opportunity to spend time with fellow students as tutors and participate in school and after-school activities with a friend.

It was intended to help bring awareness and acceptance to disabled classmates by encouraging social interaction and self-confidence while helping in school work and fostering friendships. Ryan co-founded the club with his friend, Leah Pollifrone, also of Howland. The inspiration for the program was Ryan’s little sister, Lauren, who has Down syndrome.

If you ever worried you might lose faith in our area’s youth or in our future, you should take some time to read the magazine that will be published in Wednesday’s Tribune Chronicle profiling each of these 20 students, their leadership, academics and volunteerism. It will give you goose bumps.

And if you know of a young person who is worthy of nomination, keep him or her in mind for when we seek 2018 Twenty Under 20 nominations. It will be here before you know it!