Westwood Rotary and Westwood Youth & Family Services Honor Five Westwood Students with RAY Award

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Photo by Darlene Wong Cancell. This year's five RAY award winners are (from left to right): Sophia Routhier, Jack Stuehler, Timmy Donovan, Yvette Easton and Ali Tariq.

On Monday evening, June 13, 2022, five Westwood students were honored in the Recognize a Youth (RAY) award ceremony at Westwood’s Main Library. The annual RAY award is given by Westwood Rotary and Westwood Youth & Family Services to young people who, through initiative and commitment to community service, demonstrate an ethic of caring that is essential to the health of the community.

Timmy Donovan and Jack Stuehler

High School freshmen Timmy Donovan and Jack Stuehler were the first volunteers for Friends Connect, a pilot program with Westwood Recreation to create social connections between neurodiverse children and neurotypical children. Dr. Asanka Saviani Moehring, who brought the pilot program to Westwood Recreation, nominated the two for the award.

Timmy and Jack also play in Westwood Youth Lacrosse and are volunteers for the annual food drive for Westwood Food Pantry. While Jack is a Hale Day Camp counselor in training, Timmy volunteers with Saint Margaret Mary Church.

Photo by Darlene Wong Cancell. Timmy Donovan gives his applause to Jack Stuehler while awaiting his turn at the podium to speak.

Of his experience with Friends Connect, Timmy said, “One of my favorite situations was to see the smile on kids’ faces and everyday coming in and just being generally happy. And that made me feel very special about the experience.”

Answering the question of why community service is important, Jack said, “Giving time and energy is worth it, because it makes a difference in the lives of others. Volunteering also gives you the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends while working together to make the world a better place. When people volunteer, they become part of the community with those working at the organization and the people that they work to serve. Those connections are very important in bringing our community together after the isolation of COVID.”

Yvette Easton

Westwood High School junior Yvette Easton organized a group of high school friends to volunteer at Highland Glen and participate in activities like games and musical trivia. She and her younger brother also perform two to three musical programs each year there, and during the pandemic, they created a holiday musical video to share. Her piano performances are accompanied by Highland Glen residents singing and dancing. She was nominated by Joshua LaMay, a member of the Highland Glen Apartments management team.

Photo by Darlene Wong Cancell. Yvette Easton smiled as she recounted her favorite memory in providing community service.

Yvette has also been class president at the high school for the last three years and is member of Key Club, Women’s Activism Club and Legislative Council among her many other activities.

One of Yvette’s favorite memories of her community service experience came after a conversation with a lady named Mary. Mary told Yvette that she looked almost exactly like Mary’s granddaughter, and she even reached out to touch Yvette’s hair, asking, “Are you real?”

“I just felt really special because being able to be that face for many residents that can’t see their grandkids on a day to day basis meant a lot to me. And it’s also personal to me because my grandparents aren’t near. They live in Iowa, and so I can’t see them on a daily basis. It’s really great to make those connections and make memories of wonderful people,” said Yvette.

Sophia Routhier

An eighth grader, Sophia Routhier has organized fundraisers at Thurston Middle School, including one to benefit those experiencing mental health issues. She serves as a peer leader to a sixth grade advisory group and teaches a CCD class.  

Sophia is known as a positive person who is always ensuring that everyone is included and having a good day.  Sophia has brought in baked goods to share when she knows someone needs to be cheered up. Sophia was nominated by Thurston Middle School teacher Denise Collins.

Photo by Darlene Wong Cancell. Sophia Routhier (left) approaches the podium for a few words after some laudatory words by Westwood Youth & Family Services Director Danielle Sutton.

On why community service is important, Sophia said, “By sharing your emotions and sharing empathy and just having compassion to help others just makes you feel better about what you’re doing and shows that you’re actually doing something that can help other people.”

Ali Tariq

Junior Ali Tariq was nominated by not one, but three different people – the high school’s performing arts chair, Heather Cote, High School Guidance Counselor Mallory McKearin, and Mohammed Zamn from the Islamic Center of Wayland.

Photo by Darlene Wong Cancell. Ali Tariq speaks on the importance of community service.

Ali is active in many areas. He has volunteered at Westwood Public Library for the last six years, is a Boy Scout and a member of Westwood Council on Aging’s Music Matters program. He is a teaching assistant at the Islamic Center and a role model in his high school music ensemble.

He is also involved in the Let’s Talk About Race, Culture and Ethnicity Club at the high school. If that’s not enough, Ali is also working on creating an app to help sharpen the memories of the elderly.

On why community service is important, Ali said, “I really think that community service can [] help everyone because it allows us to retain our humility. It allows us to appreciate those who helped us when we were weak, and it allows us overall to give back to the community.”

Photo by Darlene Wong Cancell. The 2022 RAY award recipients are pictured here with members of Westwood Rotary and Westwood Youth & Family Services.

Thanks to Mary Ellen LaRose and Danielle Sutton of Westwood Youth & Family Services for sharing this news with Westwood Minute.

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