The Colusa County Office of Education recognized 32 young people at the 13th annual Caring Youth Count awards ceremony last Friday.
The program acknowledges the positive contributions youth offer, and helps build a community where they feel valued and appreciated, officials said.
The annual accolades started in 2005 as a non-competitive award program, said Colusa County Superintendent of Schools Mike West.
“The Caring Youth Count was created in an effort to acknowledge the positive contributions our youth offer our communities,” West said.
Ethan Aragon, Marco Pantoja Ballesteros, Angela Barriga, Tatum Carrere, Lupita De Los Santos, Adan Duran, Alejandra Estrada, Marlene Estrada, Eduardo Alejandro Estrella-Rivera, Frida Garcia, Nathan Gomez, Andrea Jaramillo, Esme Jimenez, Nathalie Lopez, Nathan Kaba, Aubraianna Keeler, Jordan McPeek, Jessica Murillo, Kennedy Nall, Alondra Padilla, Crystal Rodriguez, Alejandra Ruiz, Christian Saavedra, Mary Sanchez, Esmeralda Salud, Phillip Santillan, Juliana Tapia, Gisselle Valencia, Bailey Wilson, Natalie Wilson, Skyler Wynant, and Erica Zuniga received awards in areas the exemplified their contributions, such as community service, heroic resilience, and strength of character.
Many who received nominations from school officials, friends, family, and program leaders throughout the county, worked quietly behind the scenes at events like Pumpkin Village and Christmas Tyme in Colusa, said Jose Ramirez, Colusa County Office of Education Prevention Services Coordinator.
Some organized events and clubs at school or in the community that allowed others the opportunity to find their own voices, strengths, and passions.
Phillip Santillan, a third grader at Williams Elementary, received two nominations for his successful toy drive this past Christmas that provided gifts to children in foster care.
Tatum Carrere, 17, a junior at Colusa High School, accepted her award with Bayne, a 7-month-old Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever-Poodle hybrid), who she is training to be a service dog for military veterans with PTSD.
“I will have him for about a year,” Carrere said. “I’m working with an organization called K9 Connections who works to get veterans dogs.”
Carrere made contact with K-P Connections through Colusa VFW President Bill Tanner, although it was Colusa Unified Superintendent Dwayne Newman who nominated her for the Caring Youth Count award.
Although Carrere is attached to Bayne, she is looking forward to him being placed in his permanent home, where he will provide therapeutic support for a veteran living with anxiety, fear, or isolation due to PTSD.
Ramirez, who headed the Caring Youth Count program for the first time this year, was just hired by the County Office of Education in January.
Ramirez, a 2011 graduate of Pierce High School, has a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies from California State University in Sacramento, and previously worked as a mental health counselor in Nevada City, before getting a job closer to home.
“What better job than to come back to Colusa County where I can give back to my community,” he said.
Although new to the office, Ramirez said he enjoyed putting the Caring Youth County program together this year and calling the nominees and parents to inform them about the awards.
All the recognition was well deserved, he said.
“We have amazing kids that the community often doesn’t know about,” Ramirez said.
The Caring Youth Count program is sponsored by the Colusa County Office of Education’s Educational Services, the Rangel family, Aeryan Reynoso, Lil Caesars Pizza of Yuba City, Country Stop, Roy’s Super Market, Pina’s Juice Bar, and Community Advocates for Parents and Children. ■