On Thursday night, Spokane celebrated the audacity of youth.
Hundreds of people gathered for the Chase Youth Awards at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox also applauded their drive, kindness, passion and even their leadership.
Because children can lead the way, sometimes in astonishing fashion.
Madeline Perez moved to Spokane Valley from Tennessee in seventh grade and found it to be “not very diverse.”
However, that’s changing. Now a senior at Central Valley High School, Perez embraced the task of organizing the annual Martin Luther King Jr. assembly.
She also made it a point to include everyone in the process “because it was important to have every single diverse group help in this,” said Perez, who won the Chase award for Cultural Awareness in the teenage division.
The result was an assembly described by some as the most powerful they’d ever seen, with videos produced by Central Valley’s Marshallese, Latino, Native-American, Muslim, African-American and LGBTQ communities.
Dozens of people helped produce videos that depicted stories that might otherwise go untold.
The award was nice, but Perez said she felt more satisfied with “starting a conversation about diversity and acceptance.”
Perez was one of 35 winners at the annual event produced by the Chase Youth Commission.
From several hundred nominees, awards were given to elementary, middle and high school students in several categories: Arts and Creativity, Community Service, Compassion, Cultural Awareness, Innovation, Leadership, Personal Achievement and Social Advocacy.
The evening also included the Jim Chase Adult Award, awarded to Freda Gandy, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Outreach Center.
“You’re never too old to win,” said master of ceremonies Dave Cotton of KHQ.
Leadership was a common thread for many of the winners.
Samantha Thompson, a senior at Mead High School, won the Arts and Creativity award partly for her talent but mostly for her passion and leadership.
Thompson is a member of the Mead marching band, Wind Ensemble and Jazz One, where she is a clarinet section leader and woodwind captain.
“Everything I’ve done at Mead was inspired by the senior class there my freshman year,” said Thompson, a tenor saxophone player who plans to study at Whitworth this fall.
“Those seniors were all so involved I wanted to emulate that and be the best example I could be for the freshmen so they got the same experience I got,” Thompson said.
Thompson also leads by example, volunteering at events hosted by Mead’s band, such as setting up and tearing down at the craft fair, working as an usher for the jazz festival and painting floors for the color guard performances.
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