Teen honored for community service proposes honoring others

Thursday, January 6, 2011 | 6:45 p.m. CST; updated 10:49 a.m. CST, Friday, January 7, 2011
Michael York separates aluminum from cardboard in the large pile of recycling he's amassed on the Boone County Fairgrounds on Thursday. York has collected three tons of recycling.

COLUMBIA — After collecting 3 tons of recyclables and 1,200 pounds of canned food, a Columbia teen is now working to shine light on other youth achievements.

Inspired by the recognition he’s received with his awards, Michael York wants to create the Columbia Youth Award to give to students who perform exemplary deeds of community service. As York conceives it, winners would receive a pin and a certificate signed by Mayor Bob McDavid.

"I think he's got an interesting idea," McDavid said. "I think that youth leadership should be recognized and should be recognized through the existing institutions we have in Columbia."

At 15, York already has a record of award-winning community service, including recycling projects and work with the Boy Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club, and 4-H. He knows that being involved in these activities gives him a certain visibility when awards are being given out.

His goal in establishing the Columbia Youth Award is to reach young people whose good deeds might be less public. Fifth- through 12th-graders would be eligible, and they could come from public or private schools or be home-schooled.

“I think the students will be excited,” York said. “I know I’m excited.”

As of Thursday, York has visited Oakland Junior High School and plans to visit as many other schools as he can to encourage them to participate.

"I think it's a great concept," Oakland Assistant Principal Helen Porter said.

The school needs clarification about the award, though, before agreeing to participate, Porter said.

York is proposing that applicants would have until the end of April to submit an essay to their participating school outlining what they’ve done in the community and what they learned from it.

Before school ends in the spring, winners would be decided based on the following criteria:

  • Initiative: Was the applicant ambitious in executing the activity, and did he or she organize it or demonstrate leadership?
  • Effort: How much effort did the activity involve, and were any obstacles overcome in the process?
  • Impact: How significant was the activity in affecting individuals or groups in the community?
  • Personal growth: What skills or insights did the applicant gain from the activity?

An award ceremony at the end of the school year would then be held in the teen center at the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia, York said.

York is coming at this as someone experienced with community service projects.

With assistance from Civic Recycling this summer, York helped clean up after the Boone County Fair by sorting through garbage and collecting recyclable materials.

In the fall, as a community leader with the Boy Scouts, York organized a canned-food drive that collected 1,200 pounds.

Even before arriving in Columbia in July 2009, York was getting attention for his dedication to the community. Originally from Yakima, Wash., he was presented with the Yakima Youth Award in March 2009 for his achievements in community service.

Currently a sophomore at Hickman High School, York said he carries out these activities because it gives him a chance to do something for the community.

“I feel good doing all this," he said, "instead of just looking after myself.”

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Toni Messina January 7, 2011 | 8:49 a.m.

I am acquainted with Mike and his mother Bonnie. They are a strong family working hard to make a difference in the community and spread the word to others. I wish them the best!

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