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March 23, 2018 - 11:22am

City, County youth bureaus recognize outstanding volunteers at annual dinner

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The youth bureau boards of Genesee County and Batavia held their 22nd Annual Youth Recognition Banquet at Terry Hills on Thursday night.

Arron Brown, top, received the Adult Youth Worker Award. Adult youth volunteers honored were Laura Luft and Stan Kaus. Sixteen students received youth recognition awards.

Information on each winner after the jump.

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Photo by Michelle Witherow.

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Text from the awards program:

Arron Brown -- Adult Youth Worker Award: Arron is currently a fourth-grade teacher at Pembroke Intermediate School. As a teacher, Arron continues to go above and beyond for his students and families alike. He is always willing to go the extra mile and do whatever he can to help. During Arron’s 12 years at the school, he has served as the SADD Club Advisor where he is constantly helping students make positive decisions and guiding them to help their families make healthy decisions as well.

This December, Arron took on the additional role of Student Council Advisor. As the advisor, he has planned numerous events for the school. He has helped organize multiple food drives to benefit the Buffalo City Mission and the Corfu United Presbyterian Church. Arron has taken students to the City Mission to personally deliver the food and donated items. Arron has reached out to multiple athletes such as Lorenzo Alexander and Preston Brown of the Buffalo

Bills asking them to come in and talk about dedication, hard work, and perseverance. Both players have since sponsored reading contests to motivate students. Arron is also instrumental in planning and executing Pembroke’s Annual “Shooting For A Cure” Pink Game, an event held to support Roswell Park (Comprehensive Cancer Center). He goes above and beyond securing donations from the community. Pembroke is fortunate to have Arron as a teacher and community member. 

Stan Kaus -- Adult Youth Volunteer: Stan first became involved with coaching girls fast pitch softball when his daughters were eligible to play. He coached the former Tonawanda Valley Fast Pitch Softball League until his daughters aged out and then turned his attention to umping. But as he umped, Stan grew increasingly discouraged by what he saw happening to the softball program. He decided to do something about that and formed an independent Girls 12 and Under Fast Pitch Softball Team called the Batavia Stingers. He made sure these young ladies had “real” uniforms and a coach that provided a consistent, structured practice schedule while teaching them the fundamentals of the game. Stan is terrific at relating to situations that occur on the field and turning them into valuable lessons for the girls. He will take a loss as an opportunity to explain to the ladies why it is so important to never give up.

When Stan discovered that the other local softball organization in Batavia disbanded, he instantly was on the phone with parents who wanted their daughters to play for the Stingers. He organized a meeting with the parents to discuss what would be needed to expand the league and was critical in forming a nonprofit called the Batavia Girls Fast Pitch Softball, which now has a seven-person board, and successfully fielded a 10-year-old team, two 12-year-olds teams, and a 15-year-old team. In February, Stan was nominated to fill a recently vacated board seat. He is considered to be the founder of the league and it could honestly be said that there would not be fast pitch softball in Batavia today if not for Stan Kaus. 

Laura Luft -- Adult Youth Volunteer: Some words that are used to describe Laura are passionate, engaged, involved, selfless, leader, caring, organized, giver, humorous and focused. These words came from several of the MANY people who Laura influences on a daily basis. Laura devotes countless hours to making sure the lives of the young people in Elba and Genesee County are better. Several avenues she uses to do this are through Helping Hands Community as a liaison. Laura serves in the leadership role for the organization at Elba Central School, an organization that collects donations and volunteers to support families in need. She also serves on the Elba Hall of Fame Committee in which she fundraises and hosts an annual dinner to honor past ECS grads as well as setting up scholarships for future grads.

Another big way Laura is involved in the community is through the Elba Volunteer Fire Department. While she doesn't directly fight fires, she plays an integral role in the planning and organizing of fundraisers for the Department. She is also involved in the Elba Onion Queen pageant, which helps supply scholarship opportunities to local girls. This also leads us to talk about her role with the Elba Betterment Committee where she is always there to help organize the Elba “staples” such as the Kiddie Parade and the Annual Pig Roast. Laura continually spreads her sense of love for her community and its residents. She helped organize a mail campaign for her next door neighbor who recently lost her battle with Leukemia. While Laura does not ask for recognition or limelight, her good deeds do not go unnoticed. She is definitely a great role model for her daughter and is hoping to pass on that sense of community to future generations.

Youth Recognition Award Winners

Evan Amberger, 14, Pavilion Central School

Evan has a track record of extraordinary community service. Evan is a member of Boy Scouts of America, where he volunteers at least 10 hours a year. He recently worked with younger scouts showing them how to tie knots, cleaning a cemetery, and visiting a nursing home as well as the Veterans' home. He also volunteers through his church. Evan is an accomplished musician and was asked to perform at his church’s Christmas Eve mass this year. He also volunteers behind the scenes setting up and taking down after events as well as helping with food service. Evan’s service extends to his school as well. He spent two hours digging post holes for the trail of Pavilion’s outdoor classroom. Evan goes above and beyond in all aspects of his life, both personal and academic, and that is why he is being recognized for this extraordinary service to his community.

Nominator: Ann Pursel, School Counselor. Parent(s): Mr. and Mrs. John Amberger 

Camryn Arthur, 19, Le Roy Jr.-Sr. High School

Camryn is a caring young woman who empathizes with her fellow students. Cam holds several leadership roles, through student government, sports, and Le Roy’s peer mentoring programs. She goes out of her way to make students feel included, valued and accepted. As a senior, Cam has taken it upon herself to seek out younger students who are more timid and take them under her wing. In doing this she has formed amazing friendships with these younger classmen, all the while mentoring them to become leaders in the school once she graduates. Cam is making a lasting impact on these girls’ lives. What freshman wouldn’t want to be befriended by a senior? Cam does not do this for the recognition but instead for the friendship and that is why she is so deserving of this award.

Nominator: Kelly Ronan, School Counselor. Parent(s): Justine & Robert Arthur 

Madalynn Augello, 16, Elba Central School 

The unique thing about Elba is that the students are together in the same building from pre-K all the way to 12th grade. That being said, Maddie is a student that you will often see volunteering her time with the younger students. Recently she volunteered her time at the elementary skating party and provided child care for parents attending various parent meetings. Maddie has volunteered for two food drives this school year. Elba is a close-knit community and relies on student volunteers for many events. Maddie is not shy about offering her time to outside events. She worked to clean up at the Annual Pig Roast and the lighting of the Christmas Tree. Maddie is academically busy as well, as she is a member of student council and SADD. She is a great role model to her peers and very deserving of this award.

Nominator: Alison Riner, School Counselor. Parent(s): Charles Augello & Tamara La Pierre 

Ryan Bowen, 15, Batavia High School 

Ryan is eager to help his community. Ryan has been volunteering at the St. Joseph School’s Mammoth Sale for many years. He started when he was very young. He would volunteer with his dad and help move hundreds of boxes and set up the tables. As Ryan has grown so have his responsibilities. He now helps pick up donated furniture, lifting heavy bureaus and dressers for the other volunteers. Ryan spends many hours going through box after box as well as pricing and checking for damage before the sale. This process usually takes up most of Ryan’s Easter vacation, but he does not mind; he is always eager to help wherever he can. This includes cleanup, which is a huge ordeal. The volunteers and parents are very thankful for all of Ryan’s help at this event, saying he is invaluable to this function.

Nominator: Kathy Stefani, Mammoth Sale Chair. Parent(s): John & Wendy Bowen 

Lydia Daley, 14, Alexander Central School 

Lydia has a diverse history of volunteering already. She stays busy by volunteering her musical abilities at the nursing home, playing the flute and singing for the residents. She also volunteers at her church, helping out with Vacation Bible School and going on a mission’s trip to Tennessee to help parents who couldn’t afford childcare during the summer. Not only does Lydia give of her time, but also she gives her heart. Lydia has befriended a girl from her school who has had a hard time making friends. School can be tough for anyone but for some, it can also be lonely. Lydia noticed a girl sitting alone at lunch and approached her and, out of this act of kindness, she gained an amazing friend. Lydia’s choice to show kindness has inspired others to do the same and that is the sign of a true role model.

Nominator: Ashley Cangialosi, School Counselor. Parent(s): Steve & Julie Dailey 

Summer Jeschke-Dean, 16, Alexander Central School 

Summer says volunteering has been relatively new to her these past few years. You would not know this if you looked at her community service career. Summer and her mom have organized the VFW’s seasonal parties (Halloween and Christmas) for the past four years. This has meant many late hours of decorating and cleaning up afterward. Summer volunteers in school as well. She joined the SADD and Donate Life Clubs last year and has since been a part of several blood drives and special events like Red Ribbon and Donate Life weeks. This year Summer joined Genesee County Youth Court, which has taught her the power and importance of restorative justice. She is thankful for the opportunities and takes pride in helping her community.

Nominator: Ashley Cangialosi, School Counselor. Parent(s): Cindy Jeschke & Gary Dean 

Sheron Perez-Fuentes, 17, Elba Central School

Sheron is a standout student who has found time to volunteer her time in the community even with a host of responsibilities she undertakes at home. Over the past several years, both of Sheron’s parents have undergone several surgeries for medical conditions. Since taking care of them post surgery it has become a goal for Sheron to enter the medical field as a career. Even though she is busy at home and with her academics, Sheron still finds time to give back to her community. She has volunteered to work Open Houses at the school, Darto night through the Parent Teacher Association, as well as volunteering for several food drives at the school. Sheron is a caring, kind, hardworking and responsible young lady who is very deserving of this award tonight.

Nominator: Alison Riner, School Counselor. Parent(s): Edgar & Aminda Fuentes-Perez 

Connlan Hotnich, 16, Alexander Central School

Connlan has been an active member of his community in various organizations for a while now. He started volunteering four years ago at his church. Connlan is part of the tech team, meaning he is in charge of changing the lyrics on the projector, helping with the band and the lights. He also helps out with the youth group and has been a leader for the middle school group for two years now. Connlan had the opportunity to be a junior counselor for his church’s youth retreat this winter. Connlan is also active in his school assisting with the PTA’s production of "Sherlock Holmes." He was a junior director for the younger actors. He is also an active member of the Boy Scouts of America and is considered a Senior Patrol Leader.

Nominator: Ashley Cangialosi, School Counselor. Parent(s): Julie & EJ Nichols, Sean Hotnich 

Camden King, 13, St. Joseph School

Camden has already been making extraordinary contributions to his community at such a young age. Camden plays his part by volunteering at various functions throughout the year. He has been an altar server for St. Joe’s and Resurrection Parish for the past five years. He always arrives early on weekends to assist Father Ivan or the Deacons during Mass. Every year, Camden not only assists with the St. Joe’s Penny Carnival but also spends time setting up and cleaning up after the event. Camden completes all his tasks with a smile on his face. These are just some of the things that make him an extraordinary young man.

Nominator: Alicia Palmer, Teacher. Parent(s): Stephanie & Edward King 

Nathan Knickerbocker, 18, Byron-Bergen High School

Nathan has been a member of Youth Court since 2016 after attendinging an intense nine-week training and passing a bar exam. The Youth Court Coordinator is impressed with Nathan’s ability to always show up on time or even early to every case he is able to attend. He is one of the only members that can take on any role in the courtroom, including Chief Judge. All of the Youth Court members look up to Nathan in the courtroom. This year he went to Albany on behalf of the County Youth Bureau to advocate for funding. While in Albany, Nathan was looked at as a leader not only within the small group he attended with but by the 150 youth who were at the conference. Nathan is truly a well respected Youth Court member and a great asset to the Youth Bureau system.

Nominator: Chelsea Elliott, Youth Court Coordinator. Parent(s): Stefanie & Kevin Knickerbocker 

Jillian Menzie, 15, Byron-Bergen High School

Jillian is being honored with this year’s award due to her dedication to the Arc of Genesee Orleans County Bowl-A-Thon. Jillian and her sister have been involved in the Bowl-A-Thon since they were young. It has been a family affair as their grandmother was one of the original organizers of this event. This year with Jillian’s help the Bowl-A-Thon raised more than $3,400. Over the past three years, Jillian has helped raise $8,716 for the Arc. Besides her volunteering, Jillian is a model student. She is involved in Girl Scouts, Young Life, and the Bergen Explorers.

Nominator: Patrick McGee, High School Principal. Parent(s): Tammy & Gerry Menzie 

Julia Menzie,17, Byron-Bergen High School

Julia is being honored with this year’s award due to her dedication to the Arc of Genesee Orleans County Bowl-A-Thon. Julia and her sister have been involved in the Bowl-A-Thon since they were young. It has been a family affair as their grandmother was one of the original organizers of this event. This year with Julia’s help, the Bowl-A- Thon raised over $3,400. Over the past three years, Julia has helped raise $8,716 for the Arc. Besides her volunteering, Julia is a model student. She also plays soccer and golf. Julia also participates in horseback riding and is involved in the Bergen Explorers Program.

Nominator: Patrick McGee, High School Principal. Parent(s): Tammy & Gerry Menzie 

Benjamin Slenker, 18, Alexander Central School

Benjamin is very involved in his school and community. His first experience with community service began when he participated in the pit band for the Drama Club. After giving his time, Benjamin discovered he wanted to do more, so for the next three years he continued to volunteer in various capacities with the Alexander Drama Club. Through Drama Club, he met friends who would inspire him to look for other opportunities in the community to reach out. It was there that he found bell ringing. He and a group of friends decided they would go to several locations and bell ring for the Salvation Army. They even took that up a notch by greeting shoppers with instrumentals and song. The opportunity Benjamin has enjoyed the most, is his involvement with the Big Buddy Program with the elementary school. He enjoys hanging out with the young students several days per week acting as a role model to them as they come up through his school and community.

Nominator: Ashley Cangialosi, School Counselor. Parent(s): John & Jennifer Slenker 

Justina Pruski, 17, Oakfield Alabama High School

Justina is being honored for her dedication and service to her church. Justina is enthusiastic, dependable, knowledgeable, and is a great role model for the children with whom she works. The Parish community has been enriched by the efforts of Justina each week as she volunteers to assist with the Faith Formation classes. She has always been a very active young person at the parish, participating in many events and activities including choir. She’s the first one to step forward when the need arises for an extra set of hands. Justina is also a member of Genesee County Youth Court and can be counted on to fill many roles within the courtroom.

Nominator: Rev. Thaddeus Bocianowski, Parish Priest. Parent(s): Daniel & Anna Pruski 

Eric Stroud, 17, Alexander Central School

Eric uses his time in and out of school to help his community at large. Eric is a great swimmer who uses his personal motivation to do well and to inspire others in the pool. Eric has always strived to succeed whether it be academically or athletically. Eric had a realization this year that it wasn’t so much about his success as it was about helping others be successful. With that attitude, he now spends his time helping the modified swim team. You can also find him in the booth announcing the meets. Outside of school, Eric is very involved with his church. He spends his Sundays preparing food and drinks for after service, saying this service makes him humble, thankful and compassionate.

Nominator: Ashley Cangialosi, School Counselor. Parent(s): Matthew & Joelle Stroud 

Isabella Riner, 15, Elba Central School

Isabella challenges herself both academically and socially. While taking accelerated classes in school, Isabella is also involved in many extracurricular activities and programs such as National Honor Society, Mock Trial Team, Student Council, varsity soccer, basketball, and tennis team. Even with all these activities going on, Isabella is often one of the first to sign up when a new volunteering opportunity becomes available whether she is providing school tours to ECS alumni, helping with alumni annual dinners, assisting with the JV Girls’ Basketball Team or supervising elementary students during both National Walk to School Day and Santa’s Secret Shop. Isabella is an intelligent young woman who serves both her school and community faithfully and is very deserving of the recognition she is receiving tonight.

Nominator: Lauren Kent, Teacher/NHS Advisor. Parent(s): Michael & Alison Riner

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