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Meet Woodburn's 2017 Amazing Kid nominees

Woodburn Independent received 21 nominations for 25 students. While only one could be chosen, all nominees have made contributions to their community that we thought were worth celebrating. Joined by Chemeketa Community College Woodburn Center, the Independent honored these students at a special reception May 10.

JULIA COMNES - The Independent recognized 21 Amazing Kid nominees May 10 at Chemeketa Community College Woodburn Center.

Woodburn Independent recognized 25 local students who had been nominated for the newspaper's annual Amazing Kid recognition program. The event was held May 10 at Chemeketa Community College Woodburn Center, which sponsored the program for the fourth year in a row.

The event included a speech from Elias Villegas, dean of students at Chemeketa Woodburn Center, as well as one from Hernan Chavez, the 2016 Woodburn Amazing Kid.

The following is part of Villegas' comments:

"Today marks a milestone in your life. On behalf of Chemeketa Community College, congratulations for being nominated an Amazing Kid! And for making our community a great place to live, work, learn and have fun.

"I urge you to continue building a life of virtue, grounded in hope and service with justice illustrated in all of your actions. Continue practicing charity and compassion in your daily lives.

JULIA COMNES - Hernan Chavez, last year's Woodburn Amazing Kid, addressed this year's nominees at the event."Embrace the example set forth by many of you, who have spent many hours serving your community: You have helped run successful blood drives, organized a benefit event and volunteered many hours at the local food bank. You helped to raise funds and hopes for local wrestlers, worked with the Woodburn Proud Clean Up Day project for a cleaner environment, tutored and mentored the less fortunate at our schools. You provided company and entertainment to the lonely at local senior centers, and helped feed the hungry. Examples like these not only reflect a generous community, but also reveal that all of you, even the weakest and least advantaged among you, share a common humanity and potential for goodness.

"I urge you to understand the dignity of human aspirations. The audacity to hope, to dream of a brighter future, underscores what it means to be human. We cherish this quality in ourselves. You must ensure that the dreams and hopes of others in your community are not destroyed by prejudice and discrimination, by poverty and ignorance.

"Never doubt that you can change the world! Our community is a better place to work, live, learn and have fun because of you. We will be even better as you grow and become a more active member of this community. We look forward to you sharing with us your journeys and decisions always.JULIA COMNES - Rafael Vasquez Lopez, Woodburn's Amazing Kid 2017

"Go forward bearing all of our best wishes for happiness and success."

Villegas then joined Woodburn Independent Publisher Al Herriges in congratulating each Amazing Kid nominee one by one while Editor Lindsay Keefer and sports reporter Phil Hawkins read comments about each individual. THe event closed with a reception of cake and punch.

Read about Rafael Vasquez Lopez, Woodburn's 2017 Amazing Kid, here.

Omar Bonifacio

JULIA COMNES - Omar BonifacioOmar Bonifacio arrived in the U.S. three years ago knowing no English. Now a senior at Academy of International Studies, Omar is trilingual, receiving the Seal of Biliteracy in English and Spanish but also speaking his native language, Mixteco. His hard work and passion to help the less fortunate has pushed him to get involved in National Honor Society and to even help start the Club of Indigenous Languages at his school. His community service extends far beyond that, though, having served farmworker youths in the summer by leading basketball workshops and helping canvass for the school bond in 2015. He was awarded the Espiritu PCUNista award in 2015 for his work advocating for immigrant rights. This year, he took to the radio waves on Radio Movimiento to share information about what's going on at his school. Additionally, he holds down a job at Miranda's Bakery. "Omar is a humble leader," his nomination says. "He reminds everyone to not forget where they come from. … In the future I know that Omar will continue his work to help the community, because that's his passion. In a time where our immigrant community is in fear, Omar is a young beacon of hope."

Natasha Beyer

JULIA COMNES - Tasha BeyerNatasha Beyer, a senior at North Marion High School, is not only a remarkable student, but she also has headed several community service projects. As part of National Honor Society, Tasha has volunteered time to run a blood drive three times a year, each time successfully collecting 100 pints of blood. She also coordinates the NHS fashion show at French Prairie Nursing and Rehab in Woodburn. She has also been an Outdoor School leader and has assisted in road cleanups and UNICEF fundraisers. Tasha challenges herself academically, choosing to take difficult classes instead of relaxing her senior year. "She is a well-spoken, composed young lady who has a bright future ahead of her," her nomination says. "And, our world is a better place for it. She does not shy away from hard work if it is for a worthwhile cause."

Karson Christiansen

JULIA COMNES - Karson ChristiansenKarson Christiansen serves as an incredible role model for his six younger siblings as well as his community. Currently a senior at Wellness, Business and Sports School, Karson earned the Seal of Biliteracy this year after participating in the district's dual language program. Karson spent five years working over 200 hours to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. His culminating project involved completing, renovating and cleaning up the St. Paul Home Storage Center. Karson participated in football, cross country, track, baseball and wrestling. In February, Karson took third place in the 5A 170 lb state wrestling tournament. He is a member of the National Honor Society. Karson devoted his senior project hours to helping at the AWARE Food Bank. Karson, who plans to be an optometrist, will attend Brigham Young University in the fall and then complete a two-year mission project before finishing his studies. According to his nomination, Karson wrote, "The only way to sincerely show you are grateful is to turn and around and do the same for others."

Jonathan Villagomez

JULIA COMNES - Jonathan VillagomezYou may not have seen Jonathan Villagomez at a North Marion School District event. Chances are, he's been there. The senior was selected to be yearbook photographer for yearbook a few years ago and he has taken the opportunity and run with it, attending dozens of events and translating those skills to other areas, including the Woodburn Independent and the Portland Timbers. He takes times to train other students. He is also involved in activities like jazz band and May Day. But through photography he captures positive images and influences his environment. His nomination says, "Jonathan is someone that changes the world through his images. He compels others to be their better self."

Courtnie Graff

JULIA COMNES - Courtnie GraffCourtnie Graff, an honors student at Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy, has been stage manager for the Woodburn High School theater for three years. This leadership position requires her to facilitate rehearsals, oversee the work of the crew and manage every facet of the performances. Her professional leadership and presence allowed for a seamless transition of theater teachers a couple years ago. Courtnie plans to attend Southern Oregon University in the fall to continue theater studies. Additionally, she is on the Student Voice Committee, serves as secretary of National Honor Society and is a student aide to two teachers. She has taken an active role in updating the school's website this year. "Courtnie is accustomed to quietly working hard behind the scenes but the impact of her work is very visible across the Woodburn high School campus," her nomination says. "Courtnie represents the finest Woodburn has to offer: a student who has overcome adversity to be a true servant leader in the community."

Edmundo Figueroa Enciso

JULIA COMNES - Edmundo Figueroa EncisoA senior at North Marion High School, Edmundo Figueroa Enciso had a wakeup call a couple years ago that he needed to shape up if he were to graduate on time. Harnessing the discipline learned from practicing Taekwondo since the age of 11 (he's earned a black belt), he changed his approach and is on track to graduate. Interested in a career in law enforcement, Edmundo entered the Marion County Sheriff's Cadet Program last year. "He has embraced the opportunity to mentor students who are younger and less experienced," his nomination reads. "He loves to look for the potential in others and offer encouragement for others to achieve as well."

Calder Ifft

JULIA COMNES - Calder IfftCalder Ifft is an exceptional student and citizen with outstanding character and a giving spirit. He's always happy, handling challenges with grace and willing to help others in need. He is a dedicated member of the Gervais High School leadership team and, completing many hours of community service and providing exceptional organizational skills to events and activities that benefit the school. He was also named this year's Mr. Gervais in the Mr. and Miss Gervais Pageant fundraiser for Doernbecher Children's Hospital. Calder is also an active volunteer in his church and is an academic success, taking on challenging courses that equate to college credit. His nomination says, "His sweet nature and desire to perform at a very high level combined with his attention to his community make him an outstanding citizen with a very bright future."

Berenice Santiago

JULIA COMNES - Berenice SantiagoBerenice is a senior at Wellness, Business and Sports School and has been in the district's dual-language program since Kindergarten. She is one of 64 students on the WHS campus to earn the Oregon State Seal of Biliteracy this year. Berenice is very active in her church, Apostolic Gethsemane Temple, leading the children's choir and part of the worship team and events committee. At the high school Berenice is part of the OHSU On-Track Program that does vision screening at the elementary schools, teaches in middle health classes and visits OHSU regularly to study medical careers. Berenice participated on the cross country team, the track team and the girls soccer team. For her senior project she job shadowed in the Board of Immigration Accredited Legal Representation. Berenice has been active with the Youth Advisory Board where she participated in the summer lunch program, the downtown farmer's market and the city triathlon. Berenice is planning to study social work as her career. According to the nomination Berenice wrote, "I believe helping in the community and giving back defines the type of person that you are."

Ashley Bond

JULIA COMNES - Ashley BondA senior at Gervais High School, Ashley Bond has taken on a lot of responsibility, at home, school and in the community. She has participated in the Mr. and Miss Gervais Pageant, served as Associated Student Body President, volunteered at Bauman's Farm and Garden and kept score for basketball and baseball games. She has also taken on a lot at home, which has not only included helping care for her sisters and tutor her mom in college courses, but also dealing with homelessness for 10 months last year. On top of it all, she's maintained a 4.0 grade point average since the seventh grade. Her nominator said she goes above and beyond in all that she does, never allowing herself to be too busy to help someone out. "I'm very honored, amazed in all she does and is and will become," her nominator said.

Logan Carlin

Seventeen-year-old Logan Carlin is a student at Wellness, Business and Sports School, but what makes him amazing is the talent and character he exemplifies as a student and assistant teacher of dance at Willamette Ballet Academy. "In a day and age where attending ballet and dance classes is not often encouraged for a male dancer, Logan stands head and shoulders above that adversity to enrich our school with his presence as teacher, dancer, partner, prince or bear — filling whatever role is needed," wrote WBA director Deborah Higginbotham. Logan has spearheaded the academy's community program offering classes to financially-challenged families, has performed at local senior care centers and organized the academy's benefit for the local food bank. Outside of the academy, he has been a camp counselor for Outdoor School, a volunteer at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival, a Model UN member and a participant in Latin Club (he won third place in history at the 2016 Latin Convention in Seattle). He has been on the honor role at school, even being given the Integrity Award from the Renaissance Public Academy in Molalla. Higginbotham's nomination continues: "Sometimes a student comes along and all the components add up to an extraordinary person … Logan Carlin is one of the rare ones."

Matthew Boonstra

Matthew Boonstra, a junior at North Marion High School, maintains an A average despite taking college-level courses, not shying away from a challenge but tackling it "with a smile on his face" and without being afraid to ask questions. But he's exemplary in how he cares for his community. Matthew and his family opened a soup kitchen several years ago, having served 10,000 meals since then. "To hear him talk about it, Matthew would probably dismiss this out of modesty, saying he was just sharing food with a few people in need," his nominator wrote. "But this is not a typical action performed by many teenagers; it is not even a typical action for most adults." Unlike many of his peers, Matthew knows how to make an impact.

Melinda Chappell

Between church and school activities, Melinda Chappell, a junior at North Marion High School, is very involved. She sets up and tears down weekly for church, sings on the worship team, attends youth group and serves in the nursery and children's ministry. At school, she's class president, volunteering for multiple events and organizing drives like Pennies for Presents. She also participates on the school soccer and softball teams. She does all this as an honor student. But it's her character that makes her stand out, being willing to step outside her comfort zone, persevering through adversity. She was nominated "not because of all the great things she has accomplished, but because of the way she has accomplished them. I believe she is a great example of a young person who is willing to work hard for her goals, a heart that is willing to love and serve others at her own expense and the courage to attempt hard things, even at the risk of failure."

Asia Foster

JULIA COMNES - Asia FosterAsia Foster, 16, has sped through school, working in the early college program through Summit Learning Charter, which allows her to take Clackamas Community College courses and graduate in 2019 with an associate transfer degree in biology (this will allow her to enter university as a junior). Apart from her academic prowess, Asia has a community-centered heart. She volunteers at French Prairie Nursing and Rehab and with her church as a junior leader. She has also selected from a group of 50 applicants to job shadow at Salem Hospital. Her fifth-grade teacher wrote in her nomination that he was immediately blown away by her "hard work ethic, great leadership skills and desire to work with the community around her. Asia has a true servant's heart and a passion for helping others." He said he still uses Asia as a model for his students every year.

Marcos Sanchez

JULIA COMNES - Marcos SanchezA junior at Kennedy High School in Mount Angel, Marcos Sanchez holds himself to high standards, demonstrating an impressive volunteering resume that includes Oktoberfest, Providence Benedictine Nursing Center, youth leadership at his church and the American Red Cross. Additionally, Marcos maintains a 4.0 GPA and stands out because of the work he has put into the JFK For Life Club, the school's first-ever pro-life club, which he founded. He recruited members, ordered T-shirts and organized a bake sale to raise funds that the club donated to a local pregnancy center. Marcos also organized transportation to a pro-life rally in Portland, where he spoke in front of thousands of people. "Marcos is the finest example of a giving unselfish youth in the mid-Willamette Valley, and maybe even the state," his nomination says. "While Marcos' log of volunteer hours is impressive, what really sets him apart from other youth is his willingness to stand up for what he believes is right and good, even in the face of resistance and ridicule."

Silas Weathersby

JULIA COMNES - Silas WeathersbySilas Weathersby is an eighth-grade Woodburn resident who has wanted to be a firefighter for many years. To jumpstart his dream, he began volunteering at Woodburn Fire District last year and made an impression on the staff there, who call him "wise beyond his years." Silas will work on the fire district training manual while on one of his two-hour shifts, waiting for a call. These calls allow him to get to know the community. Not only does he volunteer with the fire district, but he's also active at the Woodburn Public Library and in his church, where he helps park cars for fundraisers and teaches children's ministry. "We cannot say enough about this young man," the nomination said. "His determination and personal drive are going to serve him well. His love of knowledge, physical fitness and adventure are key stepping stones to achieving his quest of becoming an exemplary firefighter."

Mackenzie Agnew

JULIA COMNES - Mackenzie AgnewA seventh-grader at North Marion Middle School, Mackenzie is active in volleyball and is a teacher's assistant at her school. On top of that, she's demonstrated academic success, being the only one in her class to earn a 100 percent in humanities. "She goes above and beyond with every assignment," her art teacher wrote in the nomination. "I see her in the hall being friendly to all different students, not just a regular group, which is so common with her seventh-grade peers."

Alondra Paz Alarcon, Kiarah Bryant, Emily Thomer Guzman, Neyda Segura Hernandez

JULIA COMNES - Neyda Segura Hernandez (left), Kiarah Bryant and Alondra Paz AlarconTo earn the privilege of representing their school in the Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB) regional tournament, students have to demonstrate good work ethic, teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship and courage. In OBOB, teams have to master the content of 16 selected books and be able to answer detailed questions in a competitive setting. Not only did the foursome show teamwork by attending practices and diligently reading, but "they approached each battle with composure and showed respect to each of the teams they competed against," their nomination reads. "They worked together and supported each other throughout the entire battle and were gracious in their victory." While this is achievement enough, these four girls also participate in the SMART reading program, choir, SMILE club and sports. They have also demonstrated academic success. The nomination continues, "We expect them to continue to excel in academics and in life."

Jazmine Ortiz and Sherlyn Garcia

JULIA COMNES - Sherlyn Garcia (left) and Jazmine OrtizWhen thinking about the Woodburn School District core values, Jazmine Ortiz and Sherlyn Garcia came to their principal's mind. When first meeting and interacting with these girls, it quickly became apparent that they both possess leadership qualities, he wrote. They have a way of communicating and expressing themselves that is evident of being a critical thinker. Knowing students like Jazmine and Sherlyn gives us hope for the world. They value self-determination and are honest, trustworthy and committed to education as multilingual students. They have compassion for others and question injustice. These young ladies have recently participated in a fundraiser to help disadvantaged children around the world get basic supplies and clean water through the United Nations Children's Fund. Jazmine and Sherlyn are excellent role models who can turn challenges into opportunities.

Karl Price

JULIA COMNES - Karl PriceA fifth-grader in the dual language program at Nellie Muir Elementary School, Karl is an academic success, ranking in the top 5 percent of his class in math and nearing proficiency in reading of both English and Spanish. "Karl applies himself to every task placed in front of him in class. He is very eager to learn and share with others. He is an independent learner and a self go-getter." Outside of school, Karl is active in his church, in Boy Scouts (he just earned his "Arrow of Light" in Webelos) and is learning the piano. "Karl is a true citizen of the world, which is part of the International Baccalaureate philosophy Nellie Muir aspires to teach its students."

Alondra Herrera Amaya

JULIA COMNES - Alondra Herrera AmayaThough only in fourth grade, Alondra Herrera Amaya is already proving to be a leader. She came forward asking how she can help serve students with disabilities at her school, Washington Elementary. Once a week, she goes to the Structured Learning Program special education classroom to read to students. Her community involvement also extends to other areas of the school, where she serves as the fourth grade student council alternate representative, and where she participates on the Oregon Battle of the Books team. Outside of school, she's also very involved at church, helping her pastor set up for Mass each week, and with the Kids Building Clinic at Home Depot. Alondra is also an athlete, being involved in both soccer and basketball. She excels academically, as well, placing second at the science fair. In her spare time, Alondra is an avid Lego collector.