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Ferndale Youth Assistance Awards Show a Community that Helps Kids

Ferndale Youth Assistance Awards Show a Community that Helps Kids

(Alissa Malerman, March 26, 2017)

FERNDALE – The Ferndale Youth Assistance Program welcomed students, teachers, elected officials and law officers as they pulled up chairs in the very crowded University High School cafeteria to honor contributions of the community’s young volunteers during the Jack and Annette Aronson Youth Recognition Awards Ceremony on Thursday (March 23) night.

“Tonight is all about the young people,”  said former Ferndale Mayor and current FYA Treasurer Craig Covey, who was the emcee of the event. “I’m going to introduce some elected officials and a lot of important people. But really, tonight is not about them. It’s about the young people.”

Among the list of school and elected officials in attendance were Royal Oak Township Trustee Karen Ballard, Pleasant Ridge Mayor Kurt Metzger, County Commissioner Helaine Zach, Ferndale High School Principal Roger Smith, Ferndale Middle School Principal Jason Gillespie and Ferndale Schools Superintendent Blake Prewitt.

“I want you to look and see the police officers, the school teachers, the school officials, the volunteers, your parents, your uncle, your aunt,” Covey said. “The adults are here tonight because of you.”

One adult that was there in support was Army Sgt. Robert Robinson, who came to the ceremony specifically to see Angelo Soave receive an award. Sgt. Robinson said has been working with Angelo for the last few months and that Angelo has shown an interest in joining the military when he graduates Ferndale High School in the coming months.

Angelo was recognized after FHS social studies teacher Bob Henderson nominated him, writing in a letter that “he has a wonderfully positive mental attitude that will serve him well in life.”

Youths take the stage

FYA Chairperson Alyssa Atkinson spoke of the importance of volunteering and extended an invitation for youths to get involved with the program, reiterating Covey’s call to honor the young people in attendance. “It’s all about the youth,” she said before beginning to hand out certificates to the award winners.

More than 40 individuals, as well as eight groups, earned the Youth Assistance awards Thursday, for their many volunteer or good Samaritan actions, including volunteering at the Ferndale Police Department’s Bike Rodeo, helping to raise funds for the organization, helping the homeless, getting involved in efforts to clean Detroit, helping the elderly cross a busy Nine Mile Road, working with local peer-to-peer programs or simply by being compassionate and kind examples in the community.

Skye Hart, a Ferndale High School senior, earned this year’s David Michael Smith Scholarship for her service and perseverance. The fund was founded in memory of David, who was a Ferndale High School student when he was struck by a train and killed in 2006. His parents, Dianna and Lloyd Smith began the scholarship to help benefit Ferndale Youth Assistance. The Youth Assistance now raises funds in David’s honor, and was able to present Skye with a $1,000 check.

Skye was nominated for the scholarship by FHS teacher Paula Cardelli, among others.

“She is a person who faces challenges head on,” Cardelli said in a letter. The letter explained that Skye has hearing loss in both ears that requires the use of hearing aids and an adaptive stethoscope in class and while at work as a nursing assistant at Beaumont Hospital.

“Skye is comfortable at explaining her disability and requesting the support that she might need,” Cardelli said in the letter, boasting Skye’s 3.8 grade point average, love for science and math, and involvement in many extracurricular activities.

“Hardworking, caring, compassionate, trustworthy, loyal and organized are terms Skye uses modestly to describe herself. And I wholeheartedly agree. She will be an asset to her school, her job and her community.”

Skye thanked the support of her parents and of Cardelli, and was viably moved by the “emotional letter” that was read by Covey at the ceremony. Skye said Cardelli was there to support her through all four years of high school.

“In ninth grade I was scared. I didn’t want anyone to know about my disability,” she said. “Now that I’m a senior … I’m acknowledging my hearing disability. I love telling people my story and helping others tell their story. So thank you for this opportunity and this scholarship.”

Hart was also nominated for a service award by Ferndale Police Officer Janessa Danielson.

“Skye has been an absolutely fantastic and dedicated volunteer for Ferndale Youth Assistance,” Danielson wrote in her nomination letter. “She has been instrumental in planning several of our events as well as working hard at each and every event that she is able to.”

Youths were not just on hand to receive awards. Lady Legatos, a singing group comprised of Ferndale Public School students, sang an acapella rendition of OneRepublic’s “I Lived,” followed by a performance of  Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.” Other entertainment included a musical performance by George and Kita Van Der Vennet.

More community winners

Earning special awards for community service were Officer Danielson and Smith. Each was given a certificate and presented an American flag from Rep. Sandy Levin, which were previously flown at the U.S. Capitol. Covey read statements written by FYA Office Manager Melinda Hicks while presenting the awards and flags..

“Roger Smith has been a constant within Ferndale Schools for most of his lifetime. Not only did he attend Ferndale Schools and graduate from FHS, he was also our longtime band director.  He has served in many capacities, most recently as the principal of Ferndale High School,” he read. “We want to thank Roger for serving on the Ferndale Youth Assistance board and for always being so open to our ideas and cooperative with our events and workshops.”

Covey praised Officer Danielson for her service as the Ferndale School Resource Officer, a co-chairperson of our Youth Involvement Committee, her involvement in the Southeast Oakland Coalition and work on programs such as the Teen Safe Driving event, among others.

“One of our favorite aspects of Officer Danielson is that she has incredible instincts when working with the students,” Covey read. “She inherently knows which students need the nurturing ‘mom’ side of her and which students need the police officer side of her. She relates so well to our kids and they all love and respect her.”

Mary Schusterbauer, Chief of Youth Assistance for Oakland County spoke briefly, saying “I’m honored to be here tonight.” She thanked the many volunteers who she said have donated between 45,000 and 50,000 hours of time every year “strengthening families”.

“You are strengthening your neighborhood and also our county,” she beamed, closing with a quote from James Agee (“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men):

“In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again.”

The Ferndale Lower Elementary School Green Team, Ferndale Lower Elementary Service Squad, Ferndale Lower Elementary Junior Coaches, Ferndale Upper Elementary Junior Coaches, Fourth Grade Pokemon Fundraising Group, Mrs. Trolinger’s Third Grade Class, Positively Awesome Leaders (PAL) and Southeast Oakland Coalition Youth Group were recognized during the event.

Brooklyn Austin, Antonio Alexander, Ebony Alexander, Elizabeth Bringman, Ruth Brisson, Kaleb Brown, Peyton Carney, Asyia Cohran, Jemone Cochran II, Mario Combs, Tristan Curry, Kameron Davenport, Kobe Falls, Tamia Hardeman, Taniah Hopkins, Quran Hymes, Sidnie Jackson, Avery Jewett, Nicholas LaCroix, Luke Kelly, Khalilah Lane, John Lemelin, Maria Lopez-Romero, Zyren Mackey, Delvon Martin-Guyton, Ronnell McGhee Jr., Haley Newton, Meagan Parham, Danah Pearson, John Rojas, Elliott Sears, Olivia Shock, Isaiah Shoot, Ethan Simpson, Joshua Smith, Elijah Toney, Derion Walker Jr., Joseph Welbeck-White, Drake Wilson-Carney and Wheeler Winslow were recognized along with Soave and Hart for individual service during the ceremony.


Youth Assistance Programs are community-based, and developed by volunteers who live and/or work in the surrounding communities. The Circuit Court provides the professional staff to work with the volunteers and to provide direct casework services. Ferndale Youth Assistance works under the sponsorship and financial support of the Ferndale School District, City of Ferndale, City of Pleasant Ridge, Charter Township of Royal Oak and Oakland County Circuit Court-Family Division. Visit for more information.


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