Youth honored at event

Published 9:07 pm Thursday, June 7, 2012

Awards: Seven young people received awards at the Youth Achievement Awards on Tuesday. From left are Taylor Branscomb, Alexis Brueggeman, Laura Smith, Erica Billmeyer, Skyla Williams, Shanice Mason and Matthew Bradshaw.

Many of the city’s top young people were recognized during the annual Youth Achievement Awards ceremony on Tuesday.

Seven young people were honored in the areas of leadership, community service, performing arts, athletics, group citizenship and “Rising Star.”

In addition, members of the Suffolk Youth Advisory Council were commended for their work throughout the year.


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All of the young people were challenged to make a difference in the world with their talents.

“There is a society outside of this safe haven that needs your scholarship, your leadership and your service,” said Kenneth Rice Jr., past chair of the youth advisory council. “I challenge you to do so well that no man living, no man dead and no man yet to be born can do it better than you.”

In her remarks, Mayor Linda T. Johnson said the young people were awe-inspiring to her.

“Your commitment is admirable, and you should be an example to your peers,” she said. “I can’t wait to see you put your mark on this city and on this world.”

Taylor Branscomb, who was honored for her community service at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and other places, said she was speechless.

“I’m actually really excited,” she said. “I love kids. I didn’t think I would get an award for it.”

Also receiving an award at the event was Master Police Officer Andre Weaver, the school resource officer at Nansemond River High School. He was given the 2012 Outstanding Youth Supporter award.

The young people honored were:

Skyla Williams — Rising Star Award

Skyla, a freshman at King’s Fork High School, has raised her grades in Spanish and science by one or more letter grades. She is active on the youth advisory council. Her future goals include attending Auburn University to major in marine science.

Erica Billmeyer and Alexis Brueggeman — Group Citizenship Award

Billmeyer and Brueggeman, along with other International Baccalaureate students at King’s Fork High School, put together the “Change for Invisible Children Project” to inform others of atrocities in Africa. They also have participated in other community service projects, such as collecting canned goods and clothing.

Laura Smith — Outstanding Youth Leadership

Smith, a junior at King’s Fork and also an IB student, is a Certified Peer Educator, vice chair of the IB Student Advisory Board, vice president of the Technology Student Association, and more. Her goals include studying at the University of Virginia and studying abroad.

Taylor Dionne Branscomb — Outstanding Community Service

Taylor, a sophomore at Nansemond River High School, volunteers in the puppet ministry at CHKD by visiting patients to read stories and play with toys and games. She also volunteers at Sentara Obici Hospital and has organized a collection of cards for troops in Afghanistan and paperback books for the veterans’ hospital.

Matthew O. Bradshaw — Outstanding Performing Arts

Bradshaw, a junior at Lakeland High School, is a member of the Lakeland High School Orchestra Chamber Select, plays cello in the All-District Junior Orchestra, and has received the Most Versatile Actor award at Lakeland and the Outstanding Actor award in a district theater competition. He also volunteers at Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, Suffolk Christian Church and other venues.

Shanice Mason — Outstanding Athletic Achievement

Mason, a senior at Nansemond River High School, is a four-year letterman and starter on the varsity golf team at Nansemond River. She was named to the first team, All-Southeastern District, and was co-captain of the varsity co-ed golf team. Last school year, she finished 24th out of 87 in the Virginia High School League Girls State Tournament. This school year, she also helped lead her team to its first regular season district title and a spot in the regional championship.