Farmington Youth Assistance (FYA) has recognized six students and two groups making huge impacts in their community and in metro Detroit.
The group’s annual Youth Recognition Awards are typically presented during an annual breakfast, which will not be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the Farmington Public Schools students were surprised this week with certificates from community leaders and yard signs delivered by the Youth Recognition committee.
In addition, two $500 donations have been made in their honor to two local organizations: CARES of Farmington Hills for its food bank and Operation Common Good to stock Hackboxes with paper products, cleaning supplies, personal care items, games, arts/crafts, STEM activities, and school supplies to families in need.
Madeleine Francis, who just finished her junior year at Farmington High School (FHS), volunteers with Operation Common Good. She built a Giving Spot box for Beechview Elementary and collects and provides personal care products. For three years, she has played SPOT, the school mascot at Longacre Elementary
Francis volunteers at a church in Detroit and has taken a DREAM Project Service Trip to the Dominican Republic, where she taught students, built gardens and a new swingset.
“I am most proud of my work on the Giving Spots throughout the community,” Francis said in a press release announcing the awards. “Giving Spots are like little free libraries but for general household essentials and hygiene items. They are designed to provide community members in need with items they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”
Alex Hamilton, a 6th grader at Warner Middle School, planned a community garden at CARES as a Youth United Student Leader. He has been a kindergarten classroom volunteer at Wood Creek Elementary School and served on the Missions Committee at Orchard United Methodist Church, with engagement in the Crop Walk and Tiny Homes programs.
“Really getting involved in volunteer work started when I was on the Tiny Homes Committee at my church where we raised enough money to buy one of these homes,” Hamilton said. “It was something I enjoyed and was proud of, so since then, I keep adding more volunteer work.”
Farmington High PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) student leader Natalie Kasmikha, who graduated this year, volunteers with Rebuilding Together Day, where she cleaned up a Farmington resident’s yard, and with Foster Closet. She volunteers as a photographer for Wigs for Kids, helps at Summer in the City in Detroit, and in the FHS Counseling Office over the summer.
“The highlight of my volunteer work was viewing the impact it had on other people,” Kasmikha said. “Seeing raw happiness and relief is my drive to continue assisting and being a part of bigger things. My favorite memory was helping Rebuilding Together with a project in 2019 after they helped my family back in 2012. I hope to influence others to continue or start volunteer work with the intention to do what’s right and to really be aware of how far one’s humility can go.”
Eric Ligon mentored and raised funds to help homeless families through the Farmington Public Schools Homeless Department and helped with Operation Common Good’s Back to School Drive. At Farmington Youth Assistance, he helped with fundraising efforts and set up events. He also volunteers at Springhill Summer Camp and Oakland Early College, where he is a student.
“I am most proud of being able to time manage my life well enough so that I can volunteer and I am proud knowing that I am making an impact on the community,” said Ligon. “My favorite memory is getting close to the families that I worked with through the Farmington Homeless Program.”
Juliette Quenioux, who will be a North Farmington High senior this fall, has been a student leader with the Hackbots Robotics Team 3414, volunteering 258 hours with the group. Her volunteer work also includes outreach to students at schools, promoting STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) and helping with community events.
“My favorite memories are playing hand-in-hand with the pre-K campers at Summer in the City and hanging out with the rest of the Mayor’s Youth Council during our meetings and events like Youth Symposium,” Quenioux said.
Maleeha Shah, an incoming Farmington High senior, has volunteered at three FPS high schools, leading Mental Health Awareness Day at Farmington High, organizing books at Harrison High, and helping students at Farmington Central High. A Farmington Community Library volunteer, she has also been an active with the Farmington High PTSA, at Lanigan Elementary, at the Farmington High football concession booth, and with the Foster Closet and Starfish Family Services.
“Camp Invention allowed me to laugh every day and provided me happiness to work with bright students,” Shah said. “Volunteering at Starfish gave me the opportunity to help out at an amazing organization which provides family with resources when they need it across metro Detroit. Lastly, PTSA…permitted me with many fantastic opportunities, and I am eager to look at what other chances our group will be given to make this community better. All of these memories provided me with the greatest experiences I could have experienced in High School and I will forever be grateful for them.”
Hackbots Robotics Team 3414, with 85 members from Farmington High and North Farmington High, performs outreach to educate students about STEM and robotics at elementary schools and the Farmington Hills Nature Center, Founder’s Festival, Detroit Public TV, Robotics Expo, and Tech Girls events. They’ve helped with Operation Common Good’s paper products and hygiene drive, and built and stock the Hackboxes at four district schools. During the holidays, they make a Giving Bot robot tree to collect items for needy families.
“With innovation in mind, the Hackbots wanted to make a mark on the Farmington community with the creation of our HackBoxes,” said team captain Ryan Siles. “With five locations, these boxes enable people in need within the Farmington community to get their necessary supplies such as hygiene products, STEM kits, and food. These boxes have become especially important to the community in these hard times by providing homemade face masks, soap, and hand sanitizer. Getting to do two things we love, innovating and helping, really made this community service project a special one for the team, and we can’t wait to keep expanding our locations within Farmington.”
Farmington High School PTSA Student Leaders have been very active at the school and in the community, garnering praise from the Michigan and National PTA (Parent Teacher Association) organizations. Students have volunteered with the Farmington Area Goodfellows Holiday Drive and Foster Closet holiday party, welcomed new families at Starfish Family Services, and helped with chores for a family in need through Rebuilding Together Day.
The group’s Festival of Trees ornaments and tree decoration with students from all four high schools benefitted Children’s Hospital, and they’ve given their time to the All School Clean Up, Staff Appreciation Week, Freshman Orientation, and flower garden, while increasing school spirit and student involvement. The group is led by students Reon Emanuel, Micah Frost and Maleeha Shah and parents Natalie Lowenfeld and Tammy Rasak.
Incoming senior Akhila Mullapudi enjoyed working on the “Stop the Vape” campaign. “Because my peers heard it from each other, (the campaign) was much more impactful. I could feel the positive affect of our campaign on our community. We needed to hear it from our friends to realize how terrible vaping is, and to remind students that are a community here to help.”
Stuti Goel, a junior, gave an impromptu speech in front of a big crowd at freshman orientation, to encourage and motivate the freshmen families.
“I was very excited to guide them and introduce them to the various clubs in our school,” Goel said. “I also volunteered to represent the Youth Advisory Council/Empowerment Zone in the orientation and confirm the freshmen that FHS is a very fair and caring community where anyone can come up to us and share their problems and concerns so that we can help them in every way possible.”
Recipients received certificates from U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Representative Haley Stevens, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, State Representative Christine Greig, State Senator Jeremy Moss, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Youth Assistance, and Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner.