The Rochester-Monroe County Youth Bureau and Monroe County Legislature honored youth and adults advocates in the community at the 2020 Youth Awards ceremony.
The Young Citizen of the Year and Willie W. Lightfoot Youth Advocate of the Year awards represent one of the highest honors for youth and adult leadership, community service, advocacy and perseverance. These awards pay tribute to outstanding citizens who exhibit remarkable leadership, perform extraordinary acts on behalf of others or serve as a role model for youth advocacy.
This year, four members and one volunteer from the Monroe County 4-H program were honored for their impact on and advocacy for the youth in the community. The 4-H program, offered through the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County, encourages youth to engage in hands-on activities and opportunities that encourage them to innovate.
Kathy Lee has volunteered as a 4-H leader for 25 years. Her club, the Busy Bees, is located at Mary Cariola Center. Club efforts include providing sweet treats and to-go snack bags for Ronald McDonald House, completing projects for St. John’s Home, sending colonies of bees through Heifer International, and supplying cards to veterans via Honor Flight Rochester. Lee coordinates an annual petting zoo attended by 4-H members across the country.
Molly Krotz, who received a Monroe County Legislative Youth Citizenship Award, has participated in 4-H for seven years. In the past year, she took on leadership opportunities usually reserved for older teens. Krotz is a representative to the 4-H Horse Education Committee in Monroe County. She excelled at 4-H quiz bowl and hippology testing events, qualifying for the state level in both.
Krotz supports the 4-H Petting Zoo at Mary Cariola Center, bringing various animals to the school including a turkey. When the event went virtual this year, she highlighted the different animals she cares for on her family’s farm.
Also recognized were three members of the 4-H UNITY program, a 4-H partnership with the Youth Services Division of the Ibero-American Action League. 4-H UNITY, which stands for Urban Neighborhoods Improved Through Youth, has teens become community change agents, conducting community improvement projects that they design.
Kaelin Lopez, Gisely Ortega and Angel Sepulveda-Lopez received the 2020 Youth Citizenship Award for Monroe County. Lopez is a rising eighth grader, and Ortegoa and Sepulveda-Lopez recently completed eighth grade at Eugenio Maria De Hostos Charter School.
“Angel has volunteered his time to be engaged in service-learning workshops and activities,” said nominator Nathalia Martinez-Bliss, an Aspira mentor with the Youth Services Division. “In the service-learning sessions, Angel has demonstrated leadership, commitment and enthusiasm to improving the community by voicing ideas and solutions on ways to serve the community.
“Kaelin has volunteered her time. She has demonstrated leadership, commitment and passion to giving back to the community. During the service-learning workshops, she has recommended projects that can be organized to improve the community, and has worked with her peers to research, propose and share those ideas with others.”
Ortega volunteered in community service projects, leadership workshops and civic engagement activities in the past two years. She helped plan a positivity project when she was in seventh grade for students to create a supportive environment and lift each other up.
“Giselly is a role model for her peers and has encouraged her peers to also give back to the community,” Martinez-Bliss said. “Giselly was able to recruit youth to volunteer their time to learn about leadership and give back to the community.”
Lopez, Ortega and Sepulveda-Lopez also made dog toys for the Verona Animal Shelter. They helped deliver the toys and connected with staff to learn about ways to serve animals in the future.
The youth created a kindness month in the spring to spread goodwill in their communities. They livened up the areas near where they live by creating sidewalk chalk art, decorated kindness rocks to randomly spread joy, created gratitude cards for COVID-19 helpers and spread random acts of kindness.
Lopez and Ortega participated in a hero’s leadership training program through the Harry Potter Alliance, where they learned about types of leadership, communication styles and values.
Lopez and Sepulveda-Lopez were involved in the 2019 Ibero Coat Away Drive. They helped individuals with selecting a coat and designed cards that were given to all attendees.
“Congratulations to all of the recipients who were recognized this evening,” said Susan Coyle, 4-H program leader. “They are outstanding leaders in Monroe County. The 4-H program offers youth various tools to grow to be leaders in service, explore their interests and make connections that last a lifetime. We’re so proud our members and volunteers have been recognized for the fantastic work they are doing in the community. These experiences are instrumental to 4-H’s positive youth development mission.”