Teacher Valerie Hunziker got special permission to submit more than one page when she nominated Renae Arnold for a Chase Youth Award.
In two pages of small type, Hunziker detailed the girl’s childhood of foster homes, physical abuse and a mother’s drug addiction - and current life of volunteer work, church leadership and school achievement.
Hunziker knew the 17-year-old’s story so well because she had read her autobiography. The teenager wrote it in Hunziker’s computer keyboarding class at Ferris High School.
“My husband and I lay in bed and wept when I was grading it,” Hunziker said.
Arnold won the Chase Youth Award for courage Tuesday night at the Spokane Opera House. She broke into a smile, tilted her head back and temporarily lost her hat when she realized she had won.
“A lot of prayer went into her,” said her father, Orville Arnold, who helped his daughter rebuild her self-confidence after he regained custody.
The Opera House brimmed with other inspiring stories.
Award-winner Tyler Byers, 13, sped his wheelchair down the aisle to the stage, threw himself out of the chair, scrambled up the seven steps and was pulling his chair after him before teacher Dominic Frucci arrived to help.
“I’ve been in education 32 years and I’ve never before nominated anyone,” Frucci said later. “Tyler is head and shoulders above the rest.”
More than 500 young people were nominated for the awards, named for former Spokane mayor and champion of children, James E. Chase.
“I wish we could all be together every day,” said Gavin Doree, a 1995 award-winner who spoke. “Imagine what we could accomplish.”
The ceremony will be broadcast on Cable Channel 14 on March 31 at 10 a.m. and April 7 at 5 p.m.
Other winners are:
“Spirit of Jim Chase” Group Award went to Salk Middle School art students who created and sold 2,000 calendars with a fire safety message, raising more than $10,000 for the uninsured victims of a North Side house fire.
Environmental Concern Award was given to Catharine Slack, 17, who organized an ecology club at St. George’s School. The club conducted a schoolwide waste audit and picked up litter in Spokane.
Entrepreneurship Award went to Ryan Gallagher, 17, a Shadle Park High senior who founded his own computer graphics company.
Creativity Award was given to Brittany Baynes, 10, whose poetry appeared in the 1995 Calendar of Black Children. She attends Greenacres Elementary in the Spokane Valley.
Personal Achievement Award was shared by two students, the first time judging ended in a tie. Born with spina bifida, Byers, 13, is past student body president at Sacajawea Middle School, an honors student, wheelchair athlete and wrestler. Minda Dentler, 18, is a senior at Mead High School, polio survivor, pianist and director of a school fund drive for Wishing Star Foundation.
Citizenship Award went to Tonya Smith, 16, a Deer Park High student who organized a community workshop on AIDS education, planned parties for children at a Salvation Army shelter, and educated teenagers on suicide prevention.
Leadership Award was given to Marie Fleming, 16, a University High student, who taught more than 2,000 students about the dangers of tobacco through Spokane Teens Against Tobacco.
Community Service Award went to Dana Gori, 16, a Shadle Park High student who volunteered more than 1,300 hours at Spokane’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo