Ten Sonoma County high school seniors recognized for leadership, community service
Ten high school seniors from seven Sonoma County high schools were honored Tuesday for their leadership and civic contributions at the 30th annual Community Youth Service Awards.
Sponsored by The Press Democrat and Oliver’s Market, the event recognizes students with deep volunteer commitments. Winners, who each received $1,000, were chosen from 126 nominees from 20 schools. The awards were presented during an evening ceremony at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa.
This year’s winners volunteered at Brookwood Health Center, Cloverdale Citrus Fair, Redwood Empire Food Bank and the Human Rights Commission; tutored in music, math and reading; coached soccer, volleyball, basketball and baseball; cared for the elderly, children with special needs and fire survivors; traveled to the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Israel and Ensenada, Mexico; helped build school gardens; and participated in student government, French Club, band and their school newspaper.
“Choosing among the contributions of these impressive nominees to select 10 winners was difficult. But it certainly inspires a sense of optimism about the future of our community,” said Steve Falk, CEO of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat. “All 126 finalists and 10 winners have one thing in common: the desire to make the world around them a better place for all of us.”
Ariel Scholten, Analy High School
Ariel Scholten has been involved in agriculture all her life. She earned her platinum star with the Gold Ridge 4-H Club after serving as president and teen leader for three projects. She also was on the club’s All-Star Team.
She’s president of the Sebastopol FFA and the FFA Sonoma Section, which represents nine chapters, including the one she heads in Sebastopol. She’s an officer at Analy’s California Scholarship Federation club, as well as an officer at the Sebastopol Grange.
Scholten worked with the School Garden Network of Sonoma County, where during the summer she helped install and maintain gardens at local elementary and middle schools. She said she’s most proud of the work she did with the Sonoma County Farm Trails as an intern and later as an employee.
Her work with Farm Trails included advertising and managing its Life on the Farm stage and area activities. She handled online and print public relations and advertising for the events.
She said it was inspiring to watch “the children visit the fair and learning for the first time that chocolate milk doesn’t just come from brown cow.”
Her career goal is to become a communications director at an ag business where she can increase ag literacy. Her work was recognized by Heidi Mickelson, Sebastopol FFA advisor, who said Scholten has been able to maintain a 4.0 grade point average even with all the volunteer work and community activities.
“Ariel is the true portrait of a servant leader as she has served on many committees and officer teams,” Mickelson wrote. “I am positive she will be an influential leader in the agriculture industry, and will continue to work hard to achieve the goals she has set.”
Megan Andersen, Montgomery High School
Over the years, Megan Andersen has realized that her passion for art and creativity can be used to make positive changes. That first came to her during her freshman and sophomore years, when she joined ArtStart, a Sonoma County nonprofit where she worked as a volunteer apprentice with professional artists and other youth, creating and installing commissioned works throughout Santa Rosa. They included walkway mosaics, murals and crafted benches — works that showed her how public art could have a positive impact on the community.