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Service Above Self Awards celebrate giving students

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Thursday night, the Rowan County United Way and nearly 260 students took time to celebrate giving — giving of self, that is. The 2016 Service Above Self Youth Awards honored 258 students who put in more than 28,000 volunteer hours in their community.

It’s the 21st year the Rowan County United Way, together with the Rowan Rotary Club and joined this year by Cheerwine, has honored young good Samaritans in the local community. Thursday night, Service Above Self award committee Chair Dr. Jerry Chandler said that the energy and spirit in the room were palpable.

“It’s a celebration, can you feel it?” he said.

The event, held at Catawba College’s Keppel auditorium, drew a crowd of hundreds, drawing principals, teachers, parents and friends there to support the young people. Students were nominated for everything from helping new students find their classrooms to working with Syrian refugees overseas. They raised money for flood victims, Rowan Helping Ministries, delivered meals, made cards, volunteered at blood drives and translated for fellow students who could not speak English.

But speakers said it was all vital work.

“If you hadn’t done what you’re here to be recognized for, our community would be diminished,” Catawba College President Brien Lewis said.

But this year’s ceremony took a slightly somber tone as those present remembered 7-year-old A’yanna Allen, a second grade student who was shot and killed while sleeping in her grandmother’s 200 Harrel St. home early Sunday morning.

Committee member Dr. Jim Duncan took the podium just before the ceremony’s intermission and invoked A’yanna’s memory, asking all those present to go out and make the world a softer place.

“We’re going to get our county right,” he said. “We’re going to get things right. We’re going to make things better for our kids.”

While the county is still “grieving” over the death of the Koontz student, Duncan asked that people “not forget the good things.”

And Thursday night, the students honored helped those present remember what it looked like to love one’s neighbor.

Individual winners in the K-5 category:

First place: Kate Gregory

Second place: John Robbins

Third place: Devonte’ Gray


Group winners in the K-5 category:

First place: Overton Elementary Student Council

Second place: Isenberg Elementary Dream Girls

Third place: Cleveland Elementary Student Council


Individual winners in the middle school category:

First place: Jude Smeltzer

Second place: Bryson Loflin

Third place: Gabe Morriston


Group winners in the middle school category:

First place: North Rowan Middle School Advocate, Educate, Love, Accept

Second place: Corriher-Lipe Middle School Random Acts of Kindness

Third place: Knox Middle School Band Honor Society


Individual winners in the high school category:

First place: Michael Childress

Second place: Brienne Leach

Third place: Isaiah Morriston


Group winners in the high school category:

First place: West Rowan High School JROTC

Second place: North Rowan High School JROTC Cavalier Battalion

Third place: Immanuel Lutheran Church youth group


Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.



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