Lake Oswego High senior Jenny Kwon is among the winners of this year's Pamplin Media Group awards

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jenny Kwon, Lake Oswego's Amazing Kid, is flanked by former Portland Trail Blazer Brian Grant (left) and Pamplin Media Group President and Publisher Mark Garber at a special event Monday at OMSI. What were you doing at age 8, 14 or 17? Perhaps sitting in a classroom, counting the days until summer vacation, when homework and other obligations wouldn't be a drag on time for personal fun.

For some kids — those imbued with selflessness and sense of purpose — the work never stops.

Certainly not for youth like Salsabel Al Asri, a 14-year-old Syrian refugee who came to Portland only a year ago, or Katie Frazer, an 8-year-old from Tigard who raised $24,000 for Ugandan orphans in 2016.

And then there's Lake Oswego High School senior Jenny Kwon.

Kwon, 17, founded Tough Cookies, a charitable business that donates 60 percent of its cookie sales to nonprofits. Recipients include Operation Nightwatch in Portland, which offers food, clothing and medical care to the homeless. Kwon also volunteers to coach special-needs students on the swim and cross-country teams at LOHS, all while maintaining a 4.34 GPA and staying active in community and school groups. Her parents, both scientists at Oregon Health & Science University, say she does it all on her own.

"We are proud of her. She is very independent," says her mom, Hyunjung Lee, who works at OHSU's Knight Cancer Institute.

"I really want to help with something," says her dad, Sunjong Kwon.

Lee then recalls that she has helped her daughter package cookies before, but not bake them. Then both parents smile happily; their daughter is going in her own direction, they say, and they don't mind one bit. Jenny Kwon plans to attend New York University's School of Business, where she'll study finance and accounting.

Kwon, Asri and Frazer are among the 29 students chosen this spring by Pamplin Media Group as "Amazing Kids," an annual event that honors young folks who are doing spectacular work to improve their communities.

"It was awesome to be honored and to meet everyone else," Kwon says.

The recipients were honored at the fourth-annual Amazing Kids celebration at OMSI on Monday, where students, family and some educators mingled for a luncheon, inspiring speeches and presentations.

"There are so many kids that are so awesome and have been through a lot more than I have," Kwon says.

Henry Morissette, 17, a student at Oregon Episcopal School, agrees that the award is "an honor."

"It feels good to be recognized," Morissette says. "I've been proud of what I've done, but there's more to be done." TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kids from around Oregon who have made spectacular contributions to their community were honored at the fourth annual Amazing Kids event on Monday afternoon.

He is interested in solving Portland's housing crisis, and helped build a tiny home for a homeless man. The home was placed at Dignity Village, a City-authorized village of about 60 people in Northeast Portland. He was missing genetics, religion and social justice classes to be at the May 8 event.

Kwon says what the experience of attending the ceremony taught her is how lucky she is, especially with her family's health and her own, when many of the Amazing Kids had overcome death or illness in their family.

"It's a good reminder that you don't always know the whole story," she says. Click here to read more about the Tribune's Amazing Kid honoree, Marko Zirdum

The keynote speaker was Brian Grant, retired basketball player for the Portland Trail Blazers, who gave an encouraging talk about the time and dedication it took to become an NBA athlete.

Grant told kids the characteristics that helped him succeed were his work ethic and ability to see opportunity. The father of eight children grew up in a small Ohio town and worked hard to ultimately be drafted in the 1994 NBA draft.

"The one thing I wanted to do for my town was change the perception of me, because the perception was, 'He won't graduate. He's probably going to go to jail if he doesn't get killed,'" Grant says.

He now runs the Brian Grant Foundation, helping empower people who have Parkinson's Disease. Grant was diagnosed with the disease in 2008 at age 36, only two years after retiring from the NBA. On Monday, he talked about the importance of making connections in the community. Brian Grant Foundation

"What you kids have done in your community, you've been recognized as Amazing Kids. Remember that, because there's going to be more opportunities that come for you to be able to do things for other people, and there will be opportunities to walk through that door like I did all those years ago," he says.

Community is important to Pamplin Media Group — in fact, it's the main reason it puts on the Amazing Kids event.

"I think it's all about what we do best — community journalism," says J. Brian Monihan, vice president and publisher of Pamplin Media Group. "Telling these kids' stories is so inspiring. It's all about making a difference in the community, and there's no better way to make a difference than telling their stories."

Company President and Publisher Mark Garber agrees.

"Certainly this group of young people, they have made tremendous contributions to their community and will make even more in the future," he says.

Lake Oswego Review reporter Jillian Daley contributed to this story. Contact Pamplin Media Group reporter Lyndsey Hewitt at 971-204-7867 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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