Youth board graduates pass torch

Youth board graduates pass torch
Six graduating members of the Youth Board were celebrated Thursday night for their service. Pictured from left are Kristel Hairston, Alex Hornsby, Max Pinkston, Luis Romero, Taisha DeShazo and Mariah Holland.

August 11, 2017

Departing members of the Youth Board of The Harvest Foundation were celebrated Thursday for their impact on the community and its youth, their strong work ethic and the unique traits each brought to the board.

Taisha DeShazo, Kristel Hairston, Mariah Holland, Alex Hornsby, Luis Romero and Max Pinkston were the graduating senior class members of the Youth Board whose terms expired July 31. About 90 people watched as the six were presented with awards and gifts at a reception and dinner at the New College Institute.

Presenting the awards were current board members Sophia Esdaile, who also was mistress of ceremonies for Thursday’s program; Kendall Cope, Devin Page, Karli Foster, Sean Arroyo and Julian Vaughn. Each described the recipients’ special talents and contributions to the board. They highlighted such things as the youths’ willingness to do whatever was necessary, their positive attitudes and their unique perspectives.

In response, the departing board members noted that they appreciated the opportunities board service gave them as well as the fun they had, the skills they had developed and the friendships they had made. In particular, Holland said that in looking back at her high school years, her “most cherished memories come from the Youth Board,” and she now is inspired to serve others and use her voice to move others.

Romero also noted that he found satisfaction working with all members of the Youth Board and being given the power to change the lives of local youth through board service.

Allyson Rothrock, president of The Harvest Foundation, wished the seniors well and offered them some advice for the future.

“… I wish you strength to face challenges with confidence, along with the wisdom to choose your battles carefully. I wish you adventure on your journey and may you always stop to help someone along the way. Listen to your heart and take risks carefully and always remember how much you are appreciated,” she said.

“It is our shared belief that the future of this region is dependent upon the leadership of our youth. Some of the traits we see in this incredible group before you are courage, vision, creative spirit, confidence, honesty, self discipline, determination and humor,” she added.

Rothrock also described some memorable moments during the seniors’ past year on the board: DeShazo as Lady Liberty on the Youth Board float, held together by board members despite gale-force winds, in the local Christmas parade; Romero and Harvest Senior Program Officer DeWitt House searching for each other when car trouble almost prevented Romero from attending a retreat; and Pinkston’s relentless search for a can opener at the Youth Board’s Thanksgiving Eve dinner last November. His final act as board chairman, Rothrock said and House later repeated, is to return that can opener to its owner.

"Listen to your heart and take risks carefully, and always remember how much you are appreciated." - Allyson Rothrock

Harvest created the Youth Board in 2014 under the guidance of House and retired educator Gracie Agnew, according to Dr. Paul Eason, chairman of The Harvest Foundation Board of Directors. It is run entirely by the 13 local high school students on its board, with support from Harvest and the Kiwanis Club.

The board awards grants and creates initiatives or develops projects related to youth issues, and it serves in an advisory capacity to the full Harvest Board of Directors on youth and community issues.

Eason called the Youth Board a “positive force in the community for The Harvest Foundation.”

Also at the event, Pinkston summarized some of the board’s accomplishments in the past year.

 Four months of the year were dedicated to planning the Thanksgiving Eve dinner in which 177 volunteers served 1,704 free meals to area residents. Among other things, the board also awarded grants to establish the QuickStart tennis program in area schools and to assist the Community Fellowship with its Back2School event.

Board members also have spoken about their work to numerous groups and organizations, and the board has been invited to make a presentation to a national grants association in October, Pinkston said. He and Foster also served on the Community Investment Review Panel, formed to consider Community Impact Grants from the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville. 

Foster will be chairman of the Youth Board in the coming year. She noted that the board is unique because it is totally run by 13 teenagers. It is successful, she added, because of the legacy of the graduating seniors.

Foster said she hopes the board will award more grants this year, and added that former members always are welcome back. For instance, former members Paulina Vazquez, Cameron Brummitt and Phillip Williams served as a steering committee to interview prospective board members for the coming year.

As House put it, “Once on the Youth Board, always on the Youth Board.”


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