BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL — McLean County students were honored Sunday at the virtual YICU (Why I See You) Service Awards Celebration.
The accolades were presented via Zoom by For A Better Tomorrow, a McLean County nonprofit that promotes social justice and sustainable philanthropy, also while promising to nurture future generations.
Nominations were requested from local organizations, schools and individuals in McLean County. FBT will make a $250 donation toward a qualifying profit organization in honor of each award winner.
Honorees ages 15 and younger included Bradley Ross Jackson, for his work with the NAACP Youth Council, and Jae Jun Park, who coaches the MATHCOUNTS program at Evans Junior High and supports the Not in Our School program.
Ross Jackson said he was pleased he receive the prestige, and thanked God, "the head of my life," along with his family and friends for their support.
"It’s my pleasure to assist humanity to thrive and not just survive," he said on the Zoom call.
Park said he was extremely honored to receive such an important and meaningful award, and expressed his gratitude for the recognition he has received for his service work.
Winners ages 16-17 years old included:
Aditi Sharma was the sole award recipient in the 18-23-year-old range, and the team award went to the Bloomington High School Promise Council, which seeks to create a sustainable network of caring adults that connects community resources to meet specific student needs.
The Advocate Award went to the Olympia High School Life Skills Class, and Carolyn Hansen earned the Mentor Award.
Rebba, 17, told The Pantagraph that he got the idea for his service project, called Universal Help, when he was in eighth grade.
"Our missive is to improve the quality of life for people all around the world in innovative ways," he said, adding many of his friends and family got involved in the project over the years.
The Normal Community High School senior said the initiative addresses both local and international needs. One of the latter includes helping digitize schools in India by giving them computers and uninterruptible power supply units.
"The power goes out very often in rural India," Rebba said. "The UPS keeps it running interrupted."
He added that a lot of children in those schools don’t have reliable internet access and are also lacking digital literacy, "which is very important in today’s world."
Additionally, Universal Help provided textbooks and notebooks to seven different schools in India.
Rebba said he started to care more about sustainability when the U.S. left the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, and he was inspired to help the environment. Then, over winter break in eighth grade, he said he visited his father’s hometown in Andhra Pradesh in southeast India. There, he said saw a huge gap in the standard of living compared to the U.S.
"There’s things we take for granted here, they’re everyday things in the U.S., and in India it’s more of a luxury," Rebba said. "That just hit me hard."
He also worked to help establish isolation centers when India was facing the Delta COVID variant surge, and he’s looking at creating solar pilot projects in the future.
Engst, also a senior at Normal Community High School, told The Pantagraph that the Unity Community Center in Normal was the best place for her to give back. Engst served there as a teen teacher in the 4-H robotics and culinary arts camps for children.
Engst also spoke to state legislators in Springfield to promote the importance of 4-H, especially in McLean County.
She said she feels very fortunate to have had support from parents, teachers and other mentors in her life.
"Too often, a lot of children I’ve worked with do not have the same level of support," she said. "I’d just love to be one of the mentors that they look up to and feel support from."
Gallery: 28 photos from the Boys & Girls Club ’92 Appreciation Reception
Tony Morstatter and 2020 Helping Hands honoree Terry Reid
Tony Morstatter, Boys & Girls Club CEO, Kimberly Wright, Boys & Girls Club Development Director
Greg and Sara Frankowiak do a little shopping
Gabby Sato, Kimberly Wright
John Carter, Dan Adams
Weekend Getaway fliers
Steve and Deb Anderson
Tony Morstatter awarding the 2021 Helping Hands award to Sara and Greg Frankowiak
Helping Hands honorees Sara and Greg Frankowiak with Tony Morstatter
Dan Adams, Marlene Woodruff, Jonell Kehias
Barb Nathan, Toni Farrington
Gabby Soto, Pam Deaton
Marlene Woodruff, Stephanie Morstatter
Austin Myers, Laurie Moore, Pam Deaton
Terry Ward, Amanda Osman
Marlene Woodruff, Terry Reid
Keith and Marlene Woodruff, Terry Reid
Jeff and Debbie Page
Jenny Hall, Rex Schaeffer, Gabby Soto
Moriki Tomihara Smith
Paul Hursey, David Braun
Trying on a stunning Jack Lewis ring
John Carter, Nancy Brady
Nancy Brady, Marlene Woodruff
Tony Morstatter awarding Terry Reid the 2020 Helping Hands award
Jeremy and Krista Dehaai
Jay Reece, former Sen. Bill Brady
Terry Reid, Cheryl Magnuson, Tony Morstatter
Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison
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September 20, 2021 at 07:03AM