Children's selfless acts make them leaders

By John Craig
Spokesman Review- Staff writer
on March 29, 2006
posted April 5, 2006

Alexandra Spooner accepts a personal achievement award the Chase Youth Awards. (Christopher Anderson The Spokesman-Review )

March 29, 2006 (Spokane) - Today's youths often are called tomorrow's leaders, but Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard told recipients of four dozen Chase Youth Awards on Tuesday night that they are today's leaders.

Elementary, middle school and high school students were honored at Shadle Park High School for generous, selfless, even courageous acts – acts that measure up by adult standards.

Working as individuals and as groups, grade-school students raised thousands of dollars to help refugees in Spokane Humane Society kennels and African refugee camps. Some tapped their creativity to inspire others, and some inspired by rising above hardships.

Ciera McLaughlin won the middle school award for courage by being willing to sacrifice for her younger brother.

Ciera was separated from her brother, who was 8 years younger, when she and her sister were placed in a foster home. Ciera had taken care of the boy before the state Department of Child and Family Services removed them from their natural mother, but he was sent to a different foster home.

Judges selected Ciera among some 2,900 nominees for various awards in three age groups because she persuaded a caseworker to find her brother and arrange visitation privileges. And because she asked to be assigned to the same foster home as her brother when her brother's foster mother refused to allow Ciera to visit him.

Instead, however, officials transferred her brother to her foster home, and the foster parents agreed to adopt all three children.

Abang Taka with her father

In the elementary school category, 12-year-old Jefferson Elementary student Abang Taka won a citizenship award for efforts to help her older brother and other members of her Anuak tribe in war-torn southwestern Ethiopia and across the border in Sudan. Abang was born in the United States after her father, Agwa Taka, came here to escape what he describe as oil-motivated genocide.

Agwa Taka was separated from his son, Omot, when both of them became as refugees. Taka found out later that his son survived and remains in their homeland.

Many Anuak tribesmen, already divided by the Ethiopia-Sudan border, took refuge on the Sudanese side of the border – but not far enough inside Sudan to qualify for United Nations refugee relief, according to Agwa Taka. It is those refugees that Abang wanted to help by raising money to drill wells.

She enlisted the assistance of her classmates, who stuffed $625.53 into an oversize pickle jar. The money is expected to provide two wells.

Jefferson students raised similar amounts in money and goods for several other projects in the past year, including Hurricane Katrina relief, the UNICEF children's fund, the Second Harvest Food Bank and the Spokane Humane Society among others. For their efforts, the whole school received the America's Promise All-School Award.

Liberty Lake Elementary School's K-Kids Club, composed of fourth- and fifth-graders, won a group citizenship award for similarly prodigious fundraising. Among other projects, they collected $1,316 for Indian Ocean tsunami relief, $600 to stock a food bank, $500 to build a courtyard bench, filled 4,000 plastic Easter eggs and adopted 47 orphans at Amakobe Orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya.



(Spokesman Review source)



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