PHOENIX - It’s one thing for a student to excel in the classroom. It’s another thing to take that excellence out into the community. Nineteen Phoenix high school students were honored Friday for both their academic achievements and their work to help make the community a better place.
The city of Phoenix has been honoring young leaders for the past 30 years. The Phoenix Rotary 100 and Soroptimist International of Phoenix hosted the Outstanding Young Man/Young Woman Awards on Friday at the Phoenix Country Club.
“It’s so important for us to honor these kids today because they are the perfect example of the greatest things the city of Phoenix has to offer for our future. We are a progressive and competitive city. These students exemplify that,” said Allister Adel, a member of Phoenix Rotary 100.
Joshua Kaplan, a junior at Rancho Solano Preparatory School, is one of the students honored. He created a soccer program called G.O.A.L.S., which stands for Giving Opportunities to All who Love Soccer. It partners kids with students who have special needs. They play together in a non-competitive soccer scrimmage.
“One of my teammates actually had a brother with Down syndrome. This kid would play on the sidelines kicking a ball by himself. There was no room on the team because he had this intellectual disability. Then I realized -- if someone was to take action, that person was going to be me,” Kaplan said.
When Kaplan started G.O.A.L.S. over a year ago, they only had nine participants. Today they have over 50.
“There are so many kids who have special needs who come out to my program and they’re absolutely terrified to play soccer with some of these kids, because they’ve never had that type of social interaction before,” he said. “So what G.O.A.L.S. does, is through these friendships we’re able to create a real meaningful bond. They feel more and more comfortable. Not just on the soccer field but in the classroom as well.”
Each student honored Friday received a $500 award. The two students named Outstanding Man and Woman of the Year -- Yash Patel and Angela Osono -- won $1,000.
Here are the winners:
District 1: Tequasia Harris, Yash Patel
District 2: Rebecca Perez, Robert Graham
District 3: Moriah Irving, Brett Budde
District 4: Helena Silva-Nichols, Justin Rainge
District 5: Jennifer Lopez, Jordan Jenkins-Frazier
District 6: Danielle Vermeer, Joshua Kaplan
District 7: Christopher Joseph, Joseph Olivas
District 8: Angela Osono, Carlos Yanez Navarro
Honorary Winners: Alondra Morales Sanchez, Jessica Peebles, Evan Pittman