Red glass flames representing passion for service glowed on display Tuesday night at the inaugural 20 Under Twenty awards banquet.
"The 20 Under Twenty Award was designed to represent a flame. The winners of this award obviously have a burning desire to help others and to be an asset to their community and to provide leadership in a productive, ethical, honorable and inspirational way," said Charles Jarvis, Tribune Chronicle publisher.
"It is the hope of the Tribune Chronicle and the Akron Children's Hospital that the award will always encourage these remarkable young people to keep the flame burning in their hearts to provide leadership and service to benefit others," Jarvis said.
From teaching technology classes for seniors to placing flags on the graves of veterans and working at soup kitchens, the 20 youths younger than 20 years old left judges at the Tribune Chronicle exhausted just reading over their nomination forms listing their community involvement and leadership.
Many of the teens balance part-time jobs, classes at local universities and high schools, and sports team practices and games.
Each student was presented with one of the glass flame awards after dinner at DiVieste Banquet Hall as their accomplishments were celebrated.
The top five 20 Under Twenty Award recipients pose with their glass flame awards Tuesday evening at DiVieste Banquet Hall, Warren. From left to right are Shelby List, 18, of Mecca; Choniece Phillips, 17, of Warren; preeminent winner James Mitolo, 17, of Niles; Nikhil Nadler, 18, of Howland; and Zachary Szewczyk, 19, of Warren. Photo by R. Michael Semple
Toward the end of the night, the top five students were revealed and presented with checks for their chosen charities. They were also given the opportunity to thank family and friends for their progress.
The top five were Nikhil Nadler, 18, of Howland; Choniece Phillips, 17, of Warren; Zachary Szewczyk, 19, of Warren; Shelby List, 18, of Mecca; and preeminent winner James Mitolo, 17, of Niles.
Mitolo received a $500 check for the charity of his choice, while the other four received $125 checks.
Local youths recognized at the inaugural 20 Under Twenty ceremony:
William Anastasiadis, 17, Warren
Dylan Anders, 16, Cortland
Brendan Baugher, 18, Southington
Danielle Bucci, 17, Hubbard
Breanna Bucco, 17, Cortland
Alexa Goffos, 17, Cortland
Matt Headland, 18, Howland
Gabriella Hosack, 16, Hubbard
Alexis James, 15, Warren
Kyle Jones, 17, Warren
Shelby List, 18, Mecca
Dillon Marx, 17, Hubbard
James Mitolo, 17, Niles
Nikhil Nadler, 17, Howland
Choniece Phillips, 17, Warren
MacKenzie Polakoff, 14, Cortland
Tatum Sheets, 16, Cortland
Zachary Szewczyk, 18, Warren
Olivia Woods, 16, Warren
Alexandra Yuhas, 16, Niles
"Sometimes someone will say, 'Well, it's just one dog or one cat,' but it was one dog that inspired me and one dog that will carry on the (Paws with a Cause) legacy, and because of this, I'm here and I just want to say thank you to everyone who supports me," Mitolo said.
Mitolo started Paws with a Cause, an organization focused on responsible pet ownership and ending animal homelessness through awareness, donation drives and by working with local animal shelters. The group consists of 65 students at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, and Mitolo said he would like to eventually see a branch in every school.
About 230 family members, company sponsors and supporters attended the Tribune Chronicle-Akron Children's Hospital event to recognize the group's leadership in volunteer service.
Award winner Alexis James said, "I think it just shows how fortunate you are, and it's important to help those less fortunate.''
James received an award for her work as a Girl Scout, her volunteer work at the Warren Family Mission and her involvement with the Howland Interact Club, among other activities.
Her altruistic motivation was found in all of the 20 who were chosen from a pool of about 60 nominees for their exemplary hard work. Along with volunteer service, the student's grades and other extracurricular activities were factored into their selection.
Cheryl Headland, mother of award-recipient Matthew Headland, said, "(Volunteering) is important because it builds character and gives them a sense of responsibility. They should feel obligated to help. They are privileged and so should help those who are not.''
As the night concluded, the students turned to give a round of applause to their parents and supporters.
"I think this was a wonderful event to show the accomplishments of our youth," said Sue Shafer, event coordinator.
"I think Jim Mitolo said it correctly, that it is just one dream that makes the difference. I can't wait to see what one dream the next group of Twenty Under Twenty will embark on."