2011 Caring Youth Recognition award recipients

Local caring youth to be honored March 17 for outstanding community service

Thirty-one youth who have given outstanding service to others will be honored at the Caring Youth Recognition event Thursday, March 17, 2011, at 7 p.m. at the Minnetonka Community Center, 14600 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka.

This year’s featured speaker is Kathryn Higgins, who volunteers extensively in the Hopkins and Minnetonka community. As a Hopkins Rotary member, she participates in that organization’s Thrive Mentorship Program (similar to Big Brother Big Sister). She also coaches an adult adaptive basketball league through Reach for Resources, assisted with the ResourceWest annual gala, painted homes with Hearts and Hammer and is one of 15 directors of Minneapolis’ Pub and Putt event that raises money for local charities. Kathryn is originally from Plymouth, Minn.

The Caring Youth Recognition salutes young people in grades 7 through 12 who have unselfishly involved themselves in a cause or situation benefiting others. It is designed to honor young people who demonstrate caring by reaching out to others or whose day-to-day lifestyles reflect uncommon concern for others. Caring Youth supports the attitude of giving without expectation of reward or recognition. It encourages an attitude of recognizing the needs of others and responding to those needs in a personal, caring way.

Civic and service organizations, schools and faith community members in the Golden Valley, Hopkins and Minnetonka communities nominated the youth.

The Caring Youth Recognition event is a collaborative effort among the cities of Golden Valley, Hopkins, and Minnetonka, the Minnetonka and Hopkins school districts, and the Glen Lake Optimists of Minnetonka.

2011 Caring Youth recipients


Farhiya Ali

Hopkins High School student
Hopkins resident
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis, working with young patients

Farhiya Ali is an inpatient volunteer at Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minneapolis. Since February 2010, she has spent one-on-one time three hours per week with pediatric surgical patients.

Nominator and Volunteer Coordinator Jenna Barke said, “Farhiya’s presence on the weekends allows parents to take a much-needed break. She is a warm and caring young woman who genuinely loves helping others.”


Sarah Baker

St. Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts student
Golden Valley resident
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis, working with young patients

Sarah Baker has volunteered weekly since January 2010 at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minneapolis. She provides comfort and support to the siblings of hospitalized patients.

Nominator and Volunteer Coordinator Jenna Barke said, “Sarah is one of the most easygoing, adaptable and flexible volunteers we have! Volunteering at Children’s has cemented Sarah’s desire to pursue a future career in nursing and holistic health. We would love to have her back at Children’s someday!”


Caitlin Beauchamp

Minnetonka High School student
Shorewood resident
Minnetonka High School Optimists Club

Caitlin Beauchamp has volunteered for the past two years as a middle school tutor, as part of a project for the Minnetonka High School Optimists Club.

Nominator and Optimist Club Advisor Terry Balfanz said, “Caitlin is committed, focused and very willing to share her time, energy and considerable academic talents. The parent of one the students Caitlin has tutored stated that his son is more confident and better prepared for classes, and is doing much better academically due to Caitlin’s help.”


Erin Breen

Minnetonka High School student
Minnetonka resident
School district’s Youth Development Council

Erin Breen has been involved in the school district’s Youth Development Council since she was in 9th grade, planning and volunteering for more than 24 events in that time.

Nominator and Minnetonka Community Education Director Tim Litfin said, “The members of the Youth Development Council all exemplify ‘caring youth.’ They give of their time and resources to help others. They step up to leadership positions and to mentor younger members of the council. They’re caring people and excellent members of the Minnetonka district and community.”


Bentley Clarke

Minnetonka High School student
Golden Valley resident
Speak the Word Church International in Golden Valley

Bentley Clarke along with fellow Caring Youth Award winner Nick Leeke, volunteers with the children’s ministry at Speak the Word Church International in Golden Valley. He also assists with light and soundboard media technology for teen ministry and adult services at the church.

Nominator and Teen Ministry Co-Leader DeRelle Morrison said, “Bentley’s passion and dedication ensures that youth services of Speak the Word Church are operating with excellence and he provides overall support to the youth ministry. His qualities of humility, passion and strength allow him to make his volunteer service enjoyable.”


Sarah Cook

Minnetonka High School student
Chanhassen resident
School district’s Youth Development Council

Sarah Cook has been involved in the school district’s Youth Development Council since she was in 9th grade, planning and volunteering for more than 24 events in that time.

Nominator and Minnetonka Community Education Director Tim Litfin said, “The members of the Youth Development Council all exemplify ‘caring youth.’ They give of their time and resources to help others. They step up to leadership positions and to mentor younger members of the council. They’re caring people and excellent members of the Minnetonka district and community.”


Caroline Doherty

Minnetonka High School student
Minnetonka resident
West Suburban Teen Clinic in Excelsior

Caroline Doherty has volunteered since April 2010 at the West Suburban Teen Clinic in Excelsior, helping with everything from putting together informational bulletin boards to copying brochures, assembling patient charts and organizing baby supply donations.

Nominator and Volunteer Coordinator/Health Educator Jennifer Stout said, “Caroline’s volunteer work truly helps our clinic and organization to run smoothly. Her work has touched clients in the clinic, students at local schools receiving WSTC presentations and teen and young adult mothers receiving donations.”


Bridget Friendly

Minnetonka High School student
Shorewood resident
School district’s Youth Development Council

Bridget Friendly has been involved in the school district’s Youth Development Council since she was in 10th grade, planning and volunteering for more than 18 events in that time. She is also a co-chair of the group this year.

Nominator and Minnetonka Community Education Director Tim Litfin said, “The members of the Youth Development Council all exemplify ‘caring youth.’ They give of their time and resources to help others. They step up to leadership positions and to mentor younger members of the council. They’re caring people and excellent members of the Minnetonka district and community.”


Scott Gleason

Homeschooled student
Golden Valley resident
Church of St. Margaret Mary in Golden Valley

Scott Gleason was nominated for his volunteer work at the Church of St. Margaret Mary in Golden Valley. Scott has participated in serving meals for Loaves and Fishes and Sharing and Caring Hands; helped prepare the course for the past five years for the City of Lakes Loppet; assists at church services; and has transported an elderly lady to church weekly for the past three years.

Nominator and Pastoral Minister Sister Irene Dohmen said, “Scott’s service has made the life of others better. He sees a need and tries to make a difference, and helps build a caring atmosphere in the community.”


Fiori Goitom

Hopkins High School student
Hopkins resident
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis, working with young patients

Fiori Goitom has volunteered since May 2010 at Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minneapolis, spending time with children in the inpatient unit.

Nominator and Volunteer Coordinator Jenna Barke said, “Fiori’s presence has provided emotional support to patients during very vulnerable times in their lives. Fiori is an absolute delight to be around and devotes her Saturday mornings to volunteering, while many of her peers are still asleep! Her friendly smile and caring demeanor put everyone around her at ease.”


Megan Gonzalez

Hopkins High School student
Minnetonka resident
Hopkins School District, working with children

Megan Gonzalez has volunteered weekly since September 2010 at Alice Smith Elementary School, providing childcare during Ready 4K parent meetings. In addition, Megan has volunteered in a variety of other roles at the elementary school over the past several years.

Nominator and Early Childhood Programs Coordinator Christine Fehst said, “Megan’s volunteering has allowed parents to participate in parent education classes while their children participate in fun, safe stimulating activities. As a result of her volunteer activities, Megan has decided she wants to be a teacher and will be majoring in education when she attends college this fall.”


Kira Hanna

Homeschooled student
Minneapolis resident
St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Minnetonka

Kira Hanna was nominated for a variety of volunteer work at St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Minnetonka, culminating with her selection last year to serve as an Elder representing youth in the church.

Nominator and fellow church Elder Darrell Schmidt said, “Kira’s suggestions, insights, decisions and living example have had a great impact on the 390 members of St. Luke, especially impacting our youth programs now and for years to come. Kira’s efforts have inspired more of our youth and adults to get involved in the community.”


Emily Herrmann

Benilde St. Margaret’s High School student
Hopkins resident
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Hopkins

Emily Herrmann was nominated for her six years of volunteer work as a flutist with the adult choir at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Hopkins.

Nominator and Music Director Kathleen Schafer said, “As a young person Emily has been a wonderful addition to and important part of the adult choir. She has been a role model for young people from Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina and St. Louis Park who are members of our church, and has been a wonderful ‘touch of youth’ for the adult choir.”


Alexandra Johnson

Hopkins High School student
Eden Prairie resident
After-school homework program at Eisenhower Elementary School in the Hopkins School District

Alexandra Johnson was nominated for her twice-weekly volunteer work with an after-school homework program at Eisenhower Elementary School in the Hopkins School District.

Nominator and Teacher Stefanie Trebil said, “The students in this program have very little support to complete homework at home. The students adore Alexandra, and cannot wait to see her. The first graders’ reading, math and spelling scores have improved through this program, but more so because of the time Alexandra has spent building relationships with them and showing them she cares.”


Brendan Johnson

Minnetonka High School student
Eden Prairie resident
School district’s Youth Development Council

Brendan Johnson has been involved in the school district’s Youth Development Council since he was in 10th grade, planning and volunteering for more than 18 events in that time. He is also a co-chair of the group this year.

Nominator and Minnetonka Community Education Director Tim Litfin said, “The members of the Youth Development Council all exemplify ‘caring youth.’ They give of their time and resources to help others. They step up to leadership positions and to mentor younger members of the council. They’re caring people and excellent members of the Minnetonka district and community.”


Tyler Keller

Minnetonka High School student
Excelsior resident
Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley

Tyler Keller is a dog adoption support volunteer at the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley. He socializes the dogs, cleans up after them and works with potential adopters to try to make a good match between pet and adopter.

Nominator and Volunteer Services Coordinator Sean Koebele said, “Any 16-year-old who chooses to spend three hours of his weekend picking up dog poop and cleaning out kennels is qualified as a caring youth. Tyler shows care and compassion with each of the dogs and truly wants to find them a home.”


Ryan Kemp

Minnetonka High School student
Minnetonka resident
ICA food shelf in Minnetonka

Ryan Kemp has volunteered every Saturday for the past year with the ICA food shelf. He works with families, packs perishables and has helped set up a satellite distribution site.

Nominator and Volunteer Coordinator Liz Scaman said, “Ryan has demonstrated such dedication to his volunteer job. He is a kind, caring, bright young man. I believe working at ICA has helped open his eyes to the needs of his own community.”


Alexander Kimball

Hopkins High School student
Minnetonka resident
Minnetonka Library

Alexander Kimball has volunteered for four years at the Minnetonka Library. Most recently, he ran a mid-winter book sale for the Friends of the Minnetonka Library, which involved recruiting volunteers and taking care of set up and take down of the sale.

Nominator and Librarian Katherine Debertin said, “Alexander definitely has a passion for books and reading. He is dedicated, and has really grown in terms of compassion and commitment over the last year in particular. It was great to see him plan the book sale from start to finish!”


Denzel Kla Diihbah

Hopkins North Junior High School student
Hopkins resident
Hopkins Police Department’s “face2face” community event

Denzel Kla Diihbah volunteered to help coordinate the recent “face2face” event for Hopkins Police and youth. He is also a participant in his local Neighborhood Watch group.

Nominator and Police Services Liaison Anne Marie Buck said, “Denzel was able to bring his mature attitude to the planning process for the ‘face2face’ event. He is a responsible young man who is not only caring about the work he volunteers to do, he is committed to excellence and getting it done right with good quality.”


Zoe Korengold

Hopkins North Junior High School student
Plymouth resident
Students Promoting Positive Actions

Zoe Korengold is involved with a number of volunteer activities through Students Promoting Positive Actions, including tobacco litter cleanups. Most notably, she recently worked with other youth to persuade the cities of Minnetonka and Hopkins to declare certain youth-oriented park facilities in the cities as tobacco-free.

Nominator and Youth Development Program Supervisor Denise McKizzie said, “Zoe is very passionate about helping others and the well-being of others, and is a natural leader.”


Nick Lunde

Minnetonka High School student
Minnetonka resident
Minnetonka United Methodist Church

Nick Lunde was nominated for his many volunteer activities with the Minnetonka United Methodist Church. He has raised funds for ICA, collected backpacks and school supplies for ResourceWest, packed food for Feed My Starving Children, served meals to the homeless, painted homes with Paint-a-Thon and many other activities.

Nominator and Director of Programming Donna Albert said, “Nick’s willingness to serve others has brought comfort, pride and joy to those in need. Whether it was paining a house, breaking up cement in a flood-ravaged neighborhood or knitting a prayer shawl for a youth experiencing difficult times, Nick embodies the leadership and spirit of a caring faith community.”


Courtney McDougal

Minnetonka High School student
Deephaven resident
School district’s Youth Development Council

Courtney McDougal has been involved in the school district’s Youth Development Council since she was in 9th grade, planning and volunteering for more than 24 events in that time.

Nominator and Minnetonka Community Education Director Tim Litfin said, “The members of the Youth Development Council all exemplify ‘caring youth.’ They give of their time and resources to help others. They step up to leadership positions and to mentor younger members of the council. They’re caring people and excellent members of the Minnetonka district and community.”


Malika Musa

Hopkins North Junior High School student
Minnetonka resident
Hopkins Police Department’s “face2face” community event

Malika Musa has volunteered for the past two-and-a-half years with the Hopkins Police Department, most recently assisting with the “face2face” community event.

Nominator and Police Services Liaison Anne Marie Buck said, “Malika is an amazing leader. She has an outgoing personality and is able to energize others with her passion, insightfulness and honesty. She is an amazing motivator for any group she volunteers with!”


Soraya Nassiri

Minnetonka Middle School East student
Minnetonka resident
Minnetonka Heights Community Program

Soraya Nassiri nominated for volunteering in a number of ways for the Minnetonka Heights Community Program. She has helped kids with homework during the summer youth program and assisted seniors with household chores.

Nominator and Program Director JoAnne Robinson said, “Soraya’s help with younger students is contagious. When they see Soraya helping out with activities or happily cleaning up at the end of the day it helps the younger students want to do good things too! Soraya is a bright and beautiful young woman—it’s been a treat to watch her grow into such a wonderful person!”


Ryne Nichols

Student at the Robbinsdale School District’s Cooper High School in New Hope
Golden Valley resident
Valley Community Presbyterian Church in Golden Valley

Ryne Nichols has been actively involved for four years with the Valley Community Youth Group at Valley Community Presbyterian Church in Golden Valley. He serves on the youth mission committee and has helped plan mission trips to Detroit and to Washington, DC, in addition to helping paint homes with several volunteer organizations.

Nominator and Youth and Young Adult Director Sarah Bigwood said, “Ryne cares about other people and the community. He is a leader and a great follower too! He is willing to work long hours and do difficult or messy work. He is committed to a lifetime of service, and I know that his actions will yield even more amazing things in the future.”


Hannah Pearson

Hopkins High School student
Minnetonka resident
Girl Scouts

Hannah Pearson worked with a partner to develop a curriculum to teach preschoolers to be eco-friendly, as part of a Girl Scout service project. Hannah and her partner then implemented and taught this program at All Saints Lutheran Church in Minnetonka.

Nominator and Girl Scout Advisor Bev Gillen said, “Hannah enjoys working with children and has also shown a commitment to ‘being green.’ She really connected with the children and took her leadership role in the project seriously.”


Jeni Pederson

Hopkins High School student
Edina resident
All Saints Lutheran Church in Minnetonka

Jeni Pederson has been actively involved in a variety of volunteer activities through All Saints Lutheran Church in Minnetonka, including youth groups, mission trips, youth choir and helping with Sunday School.

Nominator and Youth and Family Director Kristine Clemens said, “Jeni is caring, loving, compassionate and dedicated to her church and commitments. She has stuck with her commitments to church throughout her entire school career. She gives 100% and deserves to be recognized for this.”


Skai Plotnick

Hopkins High School student
Minnetonka resident
West Suburban Teen Clinic in Excelsior

Skai Plotnick serves on the youth advisory board at the West Suburban Teen Clinic, volunteering about ten hours per week on various projects for the clinic.

Nominator and Community Educator Nina Jonson said, “Skai is a valuable member of our group, always coming up with unique projects, activities, games and solutions to problems we see in our work. She is also a very relatable young person, and her excellent communication skills help her interact with young people, teachers and professionals equally.”


Katie Segner

Benilde St. Margaret’s High School student
Golden Valley resident
Feed My Starving Children
Food shelves
Autism Society of America
Student opportunities at her high school

Katie Segner was nominated for her volunteer work with a wide range of organizations, from Feed My Starving Children to food shelves to the Autism Society of America to student opportunities at her high school.

Nominator and Golden Valley Fire Education Specialist Steve Baker said, “I have a great appreciate and respect for those who make the decision to commit time to a volunteer organization, especially when that person is a youth volunteer. When I see a young person like Katie who dedicates 20-30 hours per year of her spare time to giving to others, I believe I have an obligation to recognize that person.”


Maray Singleton

Hopkins North Junior High School student
St. Louis Park resident
First Church of God in Christ in Minneapolis

Maray Singleton volunteers at First Church of God in Christ in Minneapolis and as a student leader at her junior high school.

Nominator Mariama Kpaka said, “Maray’s volunteerism helps improve the financial support and stability of many who live in the Golden Valley, Hopkins and Minnetonka area. Her mentorship with 7th grade students who live and attend school in Minnetonka has helped them become better and more confident, successful students.”


Matthew Stetler

Student at the Robbinsdale School District’s Armstrong High School in Plymouth
Golden Valley resident
Golden Valley Library

Matthew Stetler has volunteered once a week for the past year at the Golden Valley Library.

Nominator and Librarian Mary Steinbicker said, “Matt’s commitment and willingness to help others at an institution he cares passionately about makes him a most excellent Caring Youth! Matt’s cheerful, creative and compassionate nature and his enthusiasm enhance the joy he brings to library volunteering.”