Outstanding youth honored

Published 9:34 pm Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Suffolk Office on Youth awarded this year’s Suffolk Youth Achievement Awards at the Planters Club Tuesday evening.

The awards have been given since 2009 to celebrate the accomplishments of young people who have made a positive impact on the city.

The Outstanding Community Service Award was given to Trinity Woodson, a Lakeland High School senior who will attend Hampton University to major in political science. Her goal is to go to law school and become a civil rights attorney.

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She’s given back to her community through numerous hours at school, church and various other organizations and groups. That list includes the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, Girl Scout Troop 649 and the Portsmouth chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc.

“She is noted as having a tenacious and charismatic personality that allows her to connect with others while being a positive example for her peers,” said DeVondre Bazemore, prevention and outreach specialist for Suffolk Parks and Recreation.

Woodson said it felt good to have this culminating moment after more than 100 hours of community service in each year of high school.

“It feels good, because I know that I put my time into it,” she said. “To see it all added up is like, ‘Oh, that’s where my Saturdays went.’”

The Outstanding Athletic Achievement Award went to Aaron Whear, a Nansemond River High School junior and a vital part of the school’s varsity football and wrestling teams. As of Tuesday, Aaron has 98 career wins in wrestling and recently took fifth place at the state level. He also helped the football team earn regional titles and five state semifinal appearances as a middle linebacker.

“He is noted as being polite and courteous, and he’s often seen putting in many extra hours of practice to improve his skills,” Bazemore said.

His dedication goes beyond the mat and field, as he maintains a 4.35 GPA. According to Aaron, a good work ethic doesn’t stop in sports.

“It’s not something you can turn on and off,” he said. “If you work hard in wrestling, you’re going to work hard everywhere else in life. That’s something our coach taught us as well.”

Josiah Patrick, a sixth-grader at John Yeates Middle School, received the Outstanding Youth Leadership Award. Josiah has spent countless hours volunteering and helping however he could at the Children’s Center. He’s known to strategize, and one of his plans is to keep helping people in his future career, either as a doctor or another medical professional.

“His positive attitude is infectious and makes others’ most difficult days easier to manage,” said Youth Outreach Coordinator Rickeda Fofana. “Great leaders build trust and collaboration while focusing on developing people’s capacity rather than focusing on their situations, and that is Josiah.”

This year’s Rising Star Award was given to King’s Fork Middle School eighth-grader Tyshawn Gray, who was honored for completely turning himself around, from failing grades to passing marks and from several occasions of disciplinary action to none.

“Tyshawn was noted as being like a flower,” according to Fofana. “For many years it seemed as though nothing would bloom, but with the right gardening, he has finally blossomed. He is an inspiration to his teachers and a role model for his classmates.”

Last but certainly not least was the Outstanding Group Citizenship Award given to the environmental stewards in the King’s Fork High School Ecology Club. The students were recognized for their shared initiative in projects around the school such as recycling and creating an outdoor classroom greenhouse.

“They are also working with outside agencies to help ensure that our waterways are safe for fishing, and saving and restoring shorelines,” Fofana said.

Several club members began volunteering for the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance’s Riparian Buffer and Native Plant Arboretum Demonstration Site at Sleepy Hole Park in 2016, spreading mulch and planting trees and shrubs.

“Little did we know that the Ecology Club members had the ‘fire in their belly’ to make major accomplishments in a short period of time,” NRPA President Elizabeth Taraski wrote in the nomination for the club. “They have raised the bar for all Suffolk students to follow.”

Applications for the awards are accepted in March of each year. Contact Rickeda Fofana at rfofana@suffolkva.us or 514-4503 for more information.