Heroes in the Community Serving Youth

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Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

The Prince William County Healthy CommunitiesˑHealthy Youth Council (HCHY) held its annual Local Heroes Awards at the Kelly Leadership Center on Feb. 13.

The Local Heroes exemplify how to support and build leadership skills and self-awareness in our youth so that they might one day be leaders themselves—and serve their communities as role models for those who come after.

The winners of the HCHY Local Hero Awards were selected for inspiring and enduring contributions through school and community activities. HCHY Council co-chairs Carolyn Custard, director, PWCS Office of Student Services, and Tracy Hannigan, deputy director, Prince William County Parks & Recreation, presented awards. Recipients came from across many sectors of our community—county and state government, School Division, businesses, non-profits, individuals, and organizations. In addition to winners, numerous honorable mention awards were presented.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Walts and County Executive Christopher Martino thanked the HCHY Council for its leadership and congratulated the award winners, stressing the importance of community in shaping young people into responsible and contributing citizens.

Among the many winners are the following:

Denise McPhail, co-founder of the Creative and Performing Arts Center (CAPAC), cultivates long-lasting relationships with local, state, and national arts and other organizations and provides opportunities for an underrepresented community of theatre professionals, artists, local talent, and audiences. CAPAC this year has provided master classes for approximately 170 Colgan High School students through a partnership to produce an original production, “The Courageous Four,” by Colgan students.

Carol-Anne Volel, a senior at Osbourn Park High School, was recognized for collecting school supplies, toys, and clothing since she was a freshman, to help orphans in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Empowering herself to assist those in need and communicating a plan of action to do so has inspired others in her school to also serve the community and others locally and nationally.

Damon Broiles, a math remediation teacher at Beville Middle School, worked collaboratively with other teachers to establish a positive reward system to recognize students for their positive actions; is actively involved in supporting STEM activities for girls; assists with PTSO activities; and is an official and coach for various athletic leagues.

Brian Gorham, administrative coordinator, and the PWCS Energy Management Team, were recognized for their work in saving the School Division millions of dollars in energy costs by educating students and staff in energy conservation. With encouragement from the Energy Team, students have spearheaded efforts to reduce energy costs in their schools through creative videos. Energy Team members are Byran Conrad, energy education coordinator, Jennifer Rokasky, energy education coordinator, and Jessica Weimer, data analyst, Operations.

Color Guard of Hylton Air Force JROTC

Student host at the event was Lyndsie Cruz, a member of Freedom High School’s Students L.E.A.D. team. The Hylton High School Air Force Junior ROTC presented the colors, and the Colgan High School Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of McKenna Stenson, sang “You Raise Me Up.”

Following tradition at this annual event, guest speakers shared experiences of working or growing up in Prince William County. Kate Arnold, a Hylton High School senior and School Board student representative, recounted how much she learned about the importance of community, the power of words, and positivity, gained from attending kindergarten at Neabsco, eight years at Porter Traditional School, and high school at Hylton.

Rebekah Schlatter, supervisor of Secondary Counseling and Student Support Services, and architect Kristine Johnson, associate principal for the DC Metro Region of AECOM, spoke passionately of their journey and experiences in Prince William County and how important it is to give back to your community.

“The Local Heroes exemplify how we can support and build leadership skills in our youth so that they may one day serve their communities as role models for those who come after them,” said Hannigan.

“H-C-H-Y, as this initiative is better known, is more than a logo; it is an outstanding example of how our community builds and strengthens an infrastructure that is focused on youth development, in both words and action,” said Walts.

The audience of about 150 included Prince William County School Board Vice Chairman Lillie G. Jessie (Occoquan). Tya Robinson from Colgan High School closed the awards presentation, singing “The Greatest Love of All.”

The HCHY Council is comprised of representatives of Prince William County Public Schools, the Prince William County Government, and more than a dozen representatives from the non-profit, volunteer, business, legal, education, and faith sectors. The mission of HCHY is to educate, communicate, empower, and serve the community to support youth in building character, responsibility, resilience, empathy, leadership, and other developmental assets.


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