This week, ACT honored three Bennington students with Youth Appreciation Awards, which recognize local youth for their leadership and efforts to make the community a healthier and kinder place.
Educators and youth program managers were encouraged to nominate young people they work with who demonstrate leadership by offering help to those in need, making a difference through activism, or showing determination and resilience in overcoming life challenges.
Addison Dwyer, a 5th grader at Molly Stark Elementary School, received the elementary-level award. In the words of his nominator: “Addison is a role model to not only his peers, but also to all the other Molly Stark community members. He is a friend to all… He is kind, caring, and is willing to help whenever asked.”
Vitalia Olson, a 7th grader at Mt. Anthony Union Middle School, earned the award for the middle school level. Her nominator wrote: “Vita is an amazingly creative person, and is a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ youth… She uses her talents and determination to help make the middle school a more inclusive space for LGBTQ+ youth. Shining in her drawings, paintings, music and expressive style, Vita shows our school the meaning of pride in self and pride in community.”
Erica Jansch, a 9th grader at Mt. Anthony Union High School, received the high school-level award. Erica was recognized for her hard work and passion to help those in need in Bennington—specifically, her volunteer work with Bennington County Open Arms, a local group that welcomes and supports Afghan refugees in Southwestern Vermont, as well as her advocacy for unhoused community members.
The students were honored at their schools’ award ceremonies. Additionally, several students received Certificates of Appreciation: Lincoln Billert, MAUMS; Viva Ratray, MAUMS; Ella Saccio, MAU; Aislinn McManus, MAU; Jeremiah Hodgeman, Tutorial Center; and Addison Lentzner, Arlington Memorial High School.
Pictured above: ACT Director Dare Chammings presents Vitalia Olson with a Youth Appreciation Award at Mt. Anthony Union Middle School’s Award Ceremony