SevenDays Announces Youth Winners of Act of Kindness Writing Competitions

SevenDays Announces Youth Winners of Act of Kindness Writing Competitions

Area high school students are playing a prominent role with 2017 SevenDays® Make a Ripple, Change the World that begins Tuesday, April 18 and continues through Monday, April 24.

Now in its third year, SevenDays® is an effort to embrace diversity across races, religions and cultures. SevenDays® focuses on overcoming tragedy produced by hatred, bigotry and ignorance. It continues the healing journey following the murders that took the lives of Dr. William L Corporon, his grandson Reat Underwood and Teresa LaManno outside of Jewish facilities in April 2014. The three lost their lives at the hands of a convicted Neo-Nazi gunman.

Five area high school seniors have been chosen as winners of the Make a Ripple Change the World Scholarships sponsored by Google. Applicants had to perform an act of kindness that makes a ripple, and then write a 500-1,000-word essay about the experience. The winners will be recognized on Tuesday, April 18 at the kick off event taking place at The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah, 12320 Nall, Overland Park. Each senior will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Project details appear at the end of this release. The evening will also include a panel, "Commonalities Within Our Faiths," featuring a rabbi, Imam and pastor.

The Make a Ripple Change the World Scholarship winners, their schools and topics include:

  • Michael Lam, Olathe North High School; Eagle Corps
  • Grace Nielsen, St. Thomas Aquinas; Buttons and Bows
  • Mackenzie O'Donnell, Lansing High School; Countering Cyber bullying
  • Alexander Schroeder, Olathe North High School; Where there's a "Will," There's a Way
  • Kayla Willis, Bonner Springs High School; Special Needs Student program

Each year SevenDays® offers buttons reflecting each of the days' themes - Love, Discover, Others, Connect, Go, You and Onward plus an overall button. This year an art competition took place with judges selecting eight students' work. In selecting the art, the judges were looking for work that best depicted each of the SevenDays® themes.

The winners, their schools and faith affiliations include:

  • Day One-GO: Gabbie Gillespie, junior-Blue Valley Northwest; Methodist
  • Day Two-DISCOVER: Kaitlin Yu, junior-Blue Valley; Agnostic
  • Day Three-OTHERS: Davis Bloom, junior-Blue Valley Southwest (declined to provide faith affiliation)
  • Day Four-CONNECT: Juliet Holmes, junior-Blue Valley; Buddhism
  • Day Five-GO: River Hennick, freshman-Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy; Jewish
  • Day Six-YOU: Jonah Lee, senior-Blue Valley Northwest; Presbyterian
  • Day Seven-ONWARD: Emily Fisher, senior-Blue Valley Northwest; Christian
  • SevenDays 2017: Cassie Forcellini, sophomore-Blue Valley Southwest, Catholic

Each button designer will receive a $250 prize at the kickoff. Videos of each button winner explaining their work are available at www.givesevendays.org/media.

Music is a universal language with tremendous healing powers. This the third year for the annual Faith, Love & Song songwriting competition, sponsored in partnership with the RRACE (Racial and Religious Acceptance and Cultural Equality). Those ages 14 to 21 were invited to submit original music compositions that addressed the subjects of racial, religious, and/or cultural equality and acceptance. Ten finalists submitted videos of their compositions with the public voting by "likes" on YouTube. The three top finalists selected are:

  • Ryan Beard, "Preaching to the Choir"
  • Gracie Schram, "Under the Sun"
  • Simon Couch, "Reign of Love"

On April 18, the winner of the competition will receive the $5,000 RRACE Scholarship, Second Place will receive a $2,500 scholarship and a $1,000 scholarship will be awarded for third place.

The SevenDays® Youth Advisory Board has been very active with all of the programs and activities. These students are planning the pre-walk festivities on Monday, April 24. Members of the Youth Board (listed here) come from a variety of faiths traditions including Atheist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim, reflecting the importance of diversity in making change.

The Youth Board has been working with LRNG KC, a firm that empowers youth to find their passions and earn digital badges that prove their new skills and capabilities. Working with SevenDays®, LRNG KC offers a unique set of experiences (XPs) in three playlists: Love, Awareness and Action that captures and demonstrates participation in the powerful week ahead. These XPs can be found by clicking on the "Take Action" tab under each day on the SevenDays® web site.

*SevenDays™ 2017 Youth Advisory Board Members

(Name, high school & faith)

  • Dawson Gardner, Blue Valley High, Catholic (chair)
  • Nathan Safir, Blue Valley North, Jewish
  • Blake Mendenhall, Shawnee Mission West, Jewish
  • Athena Tran, Blue Valley North, Muslim
  • Caitlin Riffer, Blue Valley High, Christian
  • Mahrukh Jamal, Blue Valley Southwest, Muslim
  • Sydney Osterlund, Blue Valley High, Catholic
  • Sumaya Hussaini, Blue Valley Southwest, Muslim
  • Shaktivail Arunachalam, Blue Valley High, Hindu
  • Areej Arshad, Blue Valley North, Muslim
  • Elaine Zhu, Blue Valley High (not provided)
  • Roshini Thirumalai, Blue Valley West, Hindu
  • Sydney Galamba, Blue Valley North, Jewish
  • Belal Jamil, Blue Valley High, Muslim
  • Ahmed Shabbir, Blue Valley North, Muslim
  • Lucy Lui, Blue Valley High, Atheist

Sponsored by the Faith Always Wins Foundation and LaManno-Hastings Family Foundation in partnership with several organizations, SevenDays® promotes interfaith dialogue by engaging all people to discover commonalities and overcome evil with acts of kindness. Everyone has the power to make a ripple and change the world.

Community groups and organizations are invited to create their own ways to participate and share their activities through SevenDays® social media sites using #givesevendays. Additional information about the themes, activities and sponsored events will be continuously updated on the SevenDays® website.

Full details of all of SevenDays® activities and programs can be found at www.givesevendays.org.

The Faith Always Wins Foundation and The LaManno-Hastings Family Foundation are equal beneficiaries of net proceeds and donations of SevenDays® to continue this important work. Donations are tax deductible.

For more information about SevenDays®, visit www.givesevendays.org.

Make a Ripple Change the World Projects

Michael Lam (Olathe North High School)- An Eagle Scout, Michael joined a program called Eagle Corps with the Boy Scouts of America. Eagle Corps partners current Eagle Scouts with troops in the inner city to help members achieve Eagle Scout status. Michael and fellow Eagle Scouts worked with Troop 27 in the Swope Park area. They were able to help Troop 27 complete its project of improving the grounds around their "scout cabin". Michael and his fellow Eagle Scouts have helped a total of nine members of Troop 27 become Eagle Scouts.

Grace Nielsen (St. Thomas Aquinas High School) - Grace has Cerebral Palsy. She and her occupational therapist started a girls therapy group called Buttons and Bows for ages six to 10 who have disabilities. In this group, the girls do physical projects that help them use the affected parts of their bodies. The effort has helped the girls both physically and socially becoming more outgoing through the experience. Grace and her therapist are also planning a summer camp for some of her therapist's patients.

Mackenzie O'Donnell (Lansing High School) - Mackenzie started a program to combat cyber bullying in her school. As a response to a twitter site that was set up to be negative, she started an anonymous positive twitter site. She tweets out positive messages about students at Lansing High. She does them on her own and gets Direct Messages from others that she passes on. The site has 128 followers currently. She plans to pass the site on to an underclassman when she graduates.

Alexandra Schroeder (Olathe North High School) - Calling her project "Where There's a 'Will', There's a Way," Alexandra decided to organize her school to "adopt" a Make a Wish Foundation Child. Alexandra and her friend had to present the idea to the administration, get a sponsor, form a committee, raise funds, and find the Make a Wish child in Olathe to make it happen. The Make a Wish child is actually a middle school teacher's child (Will). Working with a diverse committee, Grace fundraised throughout the entire school community in order to make the child's wish a reality. On April 27, an all-school assembly will take place to present the child with his wish.

Kayla Willis (Bonner Springs High School) - Kayla took on her school board to make a difference in her community. She was told that some special needs students (one that she befriended in particular) would be sent to their home school district. These students have been placed in her district because it offers a better program for them. Kayla went with the students when they were visiting the new school. She was horrified by their sad, scared and upset reactions, so she decided to do something about it. After gaining support from students and parents in the district, making a presentation to the board, getting rejected, continuing to communicate with both boards, Kayla got a call from her special needs friend's mom indicating the districts' worked out a plan in which the special needs' students could go to their normal schools four days a week and their home schools one day a week. It was great news not only for the students, but also for the entire school.

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