BGYA Youth Volunteers Focus on the Positive

Eight-year-old Dilyla Laga recalled seeing a homeless man while traveling with her family. The youth encouraged her father to turn around so she could give him $20 of her own money.
Dilyla’s story was just one of many shared about local students at what has become one of my favorite yearly events as a community member and a Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance board member.
On April 25, I attended Challenge Day at Brandon High School and our annual Youth Recognition Awards, two of the biggest programs we sponsored by BGYA, which somehow ended up on the same day this year. As a result I spent my entire whole day with incredible, resilient students. It as the most rewarding, exhausting 14 hour day I’ve had in a long time, and I loved every minute of it.
To the three other BGYA members who did the same thing as me, Bob McArthur, BGYA chairman and retired Brandon Fire chief, Tasha Hanson, BGYA caseworker and Jayson Rumball, Brandon Township Supervisor, varsity golf coach, BGYA board of directors, and myriad of other things in the community, I commend you. We were all very tired.
Our theme for youth recognition this year was ‘Focus on the Positive’ and boy did these kids do just that. We got to honor 53 students with awards for their volunteerism in their school and community and their overcoming of personal obstacles, and that included five gold star award winners.
Dilyla Laga, as I said above, was nominated for her care for the homeless. Last year while on vacation she saw homeless people and wanted to help. With the help of her family, they made four bags to hand out, and as they give them out to homeless people they see, they replenish them.
Emily Belton, 11, who has dealt with a speech impairment her whole life. Through her life, she has been dismissed and ignored, but still continued to work hard and is now at a place where she can speak comfortable and has never given up.
Jordyn Messick, a 14 year old at Brandon Middle School, who is blind in one eye and has very limited vision in the other eye. Her nominator said she is one of the hardest working students in his class and continues to have a positive attitude with everything she does.
Emma Mulcahey, 17, who was actually nominated by three different people for her volunteerism. She worked with her peers to bring mental health awareness and a Mental Health Week to the Brandon School District.
And Demetri Baker Jr., 17, who was nominated by a teacher who said when she met him, he was a sophomore and was down a lot of credits at school and felt defeated. Through tutoring and hard work, he made up his lost credits, worked through changes at home, and is now on track to graduate this year, on time.
If I could have given gold star awards to every student, I would. I think these kids who were nominated for our Youth Recognition Awards are doing so much work to make a better community for themselves and others.
Hearing these students stories is why I do what I do as a community member. I think we can all learn something from these incredible students about positivity, love, and care for other human beings.
See my column next week for my thoughts on Challenge Day and why these students are so amazing.

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