Five Youth Advisory Council (YAC) students from the Phoenix Central School District visited Albany on February 5 and 6 to represent Oswego County and meet with New York State senators and assemblymen at a Youth Leadership Forum sponsored by the Association of New York State Youth Bureaus.
The Youth Leadership Forum is a two-day event at the Capital, where students from all over New York State meet with Youth Bureaus and elected officials to talk about youth development and advocate for programming.
The students were able to ask questions and present the needs of their community to people like NYS Senator Patty Ritchie, NYS Assemblyman William A. Barclay and Lieutenant Governor of New York Kathy Hochul. They also participate in workshops and have the opportunity to listen to a variety of keynote speakers.
“It is a great opportunity to learn how government works and be a voice to our legislators,” said Oswego County Youth Bureau Executive Director Brian Chetney. “The students are expected to go back to their community and continue the work.”
The Phoenix Central School District students who participated in this experience were Tina Li, Olivia Lamphere, Savannah Neupert, Noah Gordon and Darren Fischel.
Student volunteerism, citizenship and community spirit were celebrated during the annual President’s Youth Service Awards ceremony held in the John C. Birdlebough High School cafeteria.
The event honored 29 Phoenix Central School District students who combined for more than 12,000 of community service. The honorees amassed volunteer hours helping at the local food pantry, coaching youth sports, participating in community cleanup efforts, and spending time serving local nonprofit agencies and organizations.
“You have spent countless hours volunteering, and you have performed valuable services – all for no pay,” said PCSD Superintendent Judy Belfield as she thanked the students for their contributions. “The Phoenix Central School District is very proud of you.”
In addition to earning recognition from school administrators, several elected officials were also on hand to congratulate the award recipients. Assemblyman Will Barclay applauded the students for their efforts and challenged them to continue on the path to success.
“You are the future of our community,” Barclay said. “Keep up the great work because we’re going to need you in the future.”
High school Principal Greg Molloy echoed those sentiments as he announced each award recipient and praised the students for their impact on the community and beyond. He noted that a person is “an image, or an average of the five people you spend the most time with,” which he said was evident by looking at the group of students in the room.
“You make my life complete,” Molloy said before presenting plaques to the awardees.
Silver Awards were given to the following students for completing at least 300 volunteer hours: Nicholas Bernard, Alexis Bowering, Thomas Dion, Kaitlyn Greer, Nicole Hetko, Jordan Jock, Shianne Just, Cody Lawson, Ryan Luke, Christopher Nicolella, Emily Riddell, Lauren Thoryk, Alexa Uttamsingh and Ryan Virkler. Gold Awards (500 service hours) were presented to Kea Corey, Alexis Gabriele, Jonathan George, Jessica Jones, Meghan Lees, Evan Logee, William Lord, Joshua Margrey, Noah Neverette, Carolanne Switzer and Derick White. Gold Medallion Awards (1,000 or more service hours) went to A.C. Bowman III and Zachary VanGorder.
After presenting plaques to the Silver, Gold and Gold Medallion winners, Molloy congratulated Tyler Gabriele and Sarah Hoag as the Youths of the Year. The pair serve as role models to their peers, Molloy said, noting that both are hard-working, self-motivated and eager to make a difference.
With a dedication to community service and a focus on helping others, 19 Phoenix youth earned recognition during a ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5540 on Thursday night.
Local dignitaries, school administrators and community representatives were on hand to commend the students for their dedication and volunteer service as part of the 18th annual President’s Youth Volunteer Service Award dinner.
“It’s an honor to be in the room with you,” said Brian Chetney, executive director of the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau. “This is a recognition program that honors tens of millions Americans who have made a commitment to sustained service … and you have all done your part.”
“Sustained” was the key word, as the honorees have devoted much of their free time to serving others. The junior and senior classmen who received the silver distinction accumulated at least 300 volunteer hours while the gold recipients tallied at least 500 hours.
For John C. Birdlebough High School students Meganne Murphy and Dylan Switzer, who each earned the Youth of the Year Award, volunteer service has been a way of life.
“I started in first grade as a Boy Scout,” said Switzer, who earned his Eagle Scout badge in October. “I remember helping out at the shows for winter guard because my sister was in it. Volunteering is something I enjoy.”
Murphy began her community service contributions almost a decade ago.
“I’ve been volunteering since fifth grade, I started out as a Bridge House Brat,” she said. “It makes me feel good that I can make a difference.”
Although that positive feeling is enough to satisfy Murphy and Switzer, the additional recognition Thursday night was equally satisfying and humbling, they said. “I was really surprised because I didn’t expect to get anything from being so involved,” Murphy said. “It means a lot to me to know that I’ve made a difference in the community.”
Superintendent Judy Belfield congratulates JCB student Brian Stafford for his 500-plus hours of volunteer service within the Phoenix community.
Switzer echoed those sentiments. “It’s a big honor,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t know how the selection committee made the decision. There are other people who were just as deserving as me.”
JCB Principal Greg Molloy spoke about the Youth of the Year recipients and the qualities that contributed to them receiving the distinction. Prior to presenting them with plaques, he lauded their volunteer spirit and commended them for their commitment to the community.
In addition to the Youth of the Year Award presentation, Superintendent Judy Belfield and Phoenix Board of Education President Earl Rudy congratulated the Gold and Silver Award recipients and presented them with commemorative pins and certificates.
“Your efforts will make you a well-rounded and a better person,” Rudy told the students.
Gold Award winners were James Benthin, Ben Bulgrien, Finella Campanino, Trever Ferens, Eric Hillpot, Maria Musumeci, Matthew Pelton, Paige Recore, Brian Stafford, Shaun Turner, Ryan Thorn and Olivia Uttamsingh. Silver Award recipients were Hailee Claycomb, Gianna Garofalo, Bailey Goldthwait, Hannah Lees and Jessica Lord.