2017 Young Citizen of the Year
This Westie is awarded to a high school student in the Westlake area who has contributed time, energy, and heart to both their school community and the Westlake community at large. It is in recognition of their outstanding contributions through community service activities that have made them an inspirational role model for other students in the Westlake community.
2017 Winner: Julia Breeden, WHS Senior
Julia says she has always felt a burning passion to improve the lives and well-being of others. Her high school experiences have allowed her to turn that passion into action. First, she’s been involved in organizations such as National Charity League and Girls Energized Towards Making a Difference. It was her involvement in organizations like these that opened her mind and heart towards what it means to submit time and energy to other people.
She has launched two main initiatives thus far, and each one of them came from a desire to follow passions on particular matters. First, she has always been interested in improving inclusion of special education students and being a friend to all. An unfortunate reality is that special education students are often underrepresented when it comes to school activities and inclusion with general education students with extracurriculars. As a student with a desire to advocate for the equal treatment of others, she decided to extend her relationships with special ed students from inside the classroom to life outside of school. She started an inclusive volleyball team at WHS, where general ed students and special ed students participated in practices and one game during the spring of 2017. With this team, many students from different backgrounds where brought together to form new and valuable relationships, practice teamwork, and simply have fun in a non-school environment. The success of this team was greatly rewarding. Each week she saw the barriers come down and new relationships form. As teenagers, she felt they all just want to feel included and loved.
Aside from special education, her other great passion in life is empowering girls and women, and helping them achieve confidence and equality. Last year, she co-founded a nonprofit called The GEO Foundation- Girls Education Organization. Through this organization, they supply school girls in the East African Region, particularly poor districts in Rwanda, with supplies to sew their own menstrual products. Unbeknownst to many, girls in these areas often miss out on educational opportunities due to their periods. When they begin menstruation, with no medical supplies to handle their periods, these girls will miss almost a quarter of their school days. These missed days compile until many girls often drop out of school, leading to early marriages and the furthering of the poverty cycle. The mission of GEO is to empower girls and instill a sense of self-worth through supplying the tools to attain educations and become the powerful global citizens each and every girl deserves to be.
2017 Finalists: Diego Miro, Eve Churchill
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