Two Desert Vista students were honored Friday as finalists for the city’s annual Outstanding Young Man and Woman of the Year and both say the experience taught them to just go for what they want and have no fear.
The two seniors, Joshua Sipes and Allyson Kolodziej, submitted an application with an essay, transcripts and a letter of recommendation, and answered questions in front of a panel about community issues, their own personal inspiration and their plans for the future.
“I decided to apply because it’s just a really great honor and something that really stands out,” Kolodziej said. “It’s a big deal. There’s also a scholarship attached to it which will be great for college next year.”
Kolodziej has volunteered with Girl Scouts, tutors math and science, and spends a lot of time at a local retirement center. She plans to go to college next year and major in chemical engineering so she can get a job in the pharmaceutical industry and help develop medicine for those with Alzheimer’s.
“I have seen what these diseases can do to people and families,” Kolodziej said. “It just made me want to get into that field and help make a difference. There are a lot of different things you can do with your life and I felt like I wanted to do something to help people and change the way lives are lived.”
Joshua Sipes is a second year fire science major at the East Valley Institute of Technology. He volunteers with HandsOn Greater Phoenix and the Mesa Fire Department. He’s been selected to take part in the city’s Sister Cities Youth Ambassador Program and said ever since that experience he’s been keeping an eye on all the programs Phoenix offers. He decided to apply for this award because every bit helps when he’s thinking about college.
“I thought I’d regret not doing it,” Sipes said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my story out there and more importantly meet more people like myself. I was relieved and really happy that I made it this far. It was nice to know that other people outside my family and friends validated me. It was really rewarding for me.”
Sipes plans to go to Arizona State University and study chemistry so that he can become a hazardous materials technician for a local fire department.
For those considering applying next year, both students say it’s a great experience.
“It’s an opportunity to reflect on everything you’ve done, look at what you’re doing and get some pointers,” Sipes said. “It definitely helps you put your life into perspective and ensure you that you’re doing the right thing. Don’t hesitate with it. It’s not a brutal process and everyone works with you.”
Two finalists were chosen from each district for outstanding community service and commitment to excellence. Each of the 16 finalists received a $250 cash reward while the two overall winners, Kapil Kanagal from District 3 and Madison Armer from District 7, each received $2,000.
For more information on the Outstanding Young Man/Young Woman Awards, visit phoenix.gov/nsd/programs/youth/outstanding/index.html.
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