Bloomington-Normal students honored with Why I See You awards

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:

  • Carina Engst

  • Cana Brooks

  • Janani Dharmarajan

  • Taniya Boone

  • Nick Leonard

  • Dhruv Rebba

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.

Dhruv Rebba, a senior at Normal Community High School, speaks after receiving an award at the YICU Service Awards Celebration Sunday. Rebba’s service project was Universal Help, which fulfills needs both locally and internationally.

Brendan Denison

"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.

Pictured is Carina Engst, a senior at Normal Community High School, who served as a teen teacher with the Unity Community Center. She was honored Sunday at the YICU Service Awards Celebration.

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."

Tow truck crews recover this overturned semi-truck after a crash Sunday morning at the I-74 interchange with I-55 west of Normal. Around 100 sheep were let loose from the damaged trailer and were corralled by farmers and first responders.

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

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