By Susan Bromley
Brandon Twp.– A little encouragement goes a long way.
Efforts to better the community and just being nice often go unheralded, but on April 27, more than 100 youth were officially thanked during the 30th Annual Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance Youth Recognition Ceremony. Among them was Larry Rottenberk, a Brandon High School senior.
“It felt nice to be recognized for some of the good things I do around the community in helping people, things I would consider common courtesy,” said Rottenberk. “Just little things that I think should be normal, but aren’t as common in the world.”
Fran Hotchkiss, chair of the youth recognition event and library youth services manager, presented Rottenberk with the Gold Star Award, the ceremony’s highest honor. She found him worthy of the honor after witnessing what she found to be an emotionally moving moment between Rottenberk and another youth.
“Larry was at the youth service desk and saw a young boy that wanted to check out a huge stack of books but had overdue fines,” recalled Hotchkiss. “Larry said, ‘I’ve got you covered, bro,’ and took out his wallet and paid the fine. Tears came to my eyes. He’s not doing it for community service hours, he’s just doing it because he is a nice, considerate young man. He is always opening doors and helping the elderly and moms with little ones and he says everyone does that, but no, they don’t. He has a heart of gold.”
Also joining Rottenberk in receiving “Gold Star” recognition were Amanda Miner and Lukas Miner, nominated by Karyn Milligan, who appreciates the siblings’ volunteer efforts at St. Anne Church, where they are members, and particularly their efforts on the Ortonville Community Emergency Fund Junior Board, which they chair.
“They work so well together as brother and sister,” said Milligan. “I’m so impressed with the time and effort they put in to the Septemberfest bake sale to help at-risk families. The bake sale brings in over $1,000 each year for the food pantry and they put so much thought and care into how they can make it bigger.”
The theme of the 30th annual youth recognition night was “Volunteers Plant the Seeds of Kindness,” and the community reaps those benefits year-round through a range of volunteer activities from the nominated youth, which ranged from those who participated in rocking and raking to help seniors and the disabled with yard work, to students whose recycling efforts improve the environment, to youth who participated in Relay for Life to raise funds to fight cancer. Boy Scouts were among the nominees for their help in honoring veterans at the Memorial Day Parade, and three were also youth recognized for their volunteer efforts at the library, as well as efforts to collect clothing donations, and donations of their own hair to Locks of Love to benefit cancer patients.
Several young adults in the Brandon School District’s adult transition program, in which 18- to 26-year-olds with special needs are assisted in becoming members of the workforce, were also recognized for their achievement in overcoming personal challenges and setting an example for others.
As guest speaker Brian Moore, a BHS teacher, noted in addressing all those gathered for the youth recognition, “Everyone asks me why do I like Brandon so much and there is just something different about Brandon students. Parents always say, ‘Make good choices’ and you are here because you made good choices to make the community better… Thank you so much for making good choices and see you again next year.”