The Pocono Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual youth appreciation ceremony at the Northampton Community College, Monroe campus, on Friday, April 22.
The Chamber welcomed recipients and their guests at 12 PM, followed by recognition of event sponsors. State Representative Rosemary Brown commended the honored students for transcending their situation and encouraging them to keep moving forward.
Benjamin Huffman of East Stroudsburg High School South was presented his award alongside his counselor, Jay Kule. Kule detailed Benjamin’s battles. Diagnosed with Autism, Ben struggled at a young age to complete everyday tasks, making learning more difficult. Ben overcame these challenges, putting in the work to become a class leader. Midway through sophomore year, a tumor was found in his knee, and Ben was diagnosed with cancer. During the battle, he lost his leg, but he never gave up. A year and a half after his diagnosis, Ben was cancer-free
East Stroudsburg High School North student Christian Lorenzo was honored next. His counselor, Douglas Beckworth, detailed how Christain overcame two brain surgeries to remove cancerous tumors, which led to significant vision loss. Beckworth recalled, “Despite all he went through, his GPA was solid all four years. He had to learn how to renavigate the world because of his vision issues, also navigate how he learns, but he never gave up.”
Monroe Career & Technical Institute’s Candace Summers was honored with her counselor, Thom Sarcinelli. With the world shutting down for the past two years, learning welding became a big challenge outside of the classroom. Candice went the extra mile in seeking to continue her education. With the support from Sarcinelli and others, Candice was able to do so, going on to Place 2nd in a Pennsylvania State welding contest, all while balancing work and family responsibilities.
Jawon Fitzgerald from PA Careerlink of Monroe County received his award, which career counselor Dushan Chaoon presented. With Chaoon’s encouragement and the support of Jawon’s family, he overcame prior incarceration by working hard and passing the test, becoming a driver for Western Express, “It changed my life.” Jawon proclaimed.
PV basketball coach Robert Hahn presented Pleasant Valley High School student Luke Pandolfo’s award. At a young age, Luke was diagnosed with autism and was told by his doctors that he may never walk and never talk. Defying expectations, Luke played on the Pleasant Valley’s basketball and track teams. With the help and support of family and staff, Luke has participated in the Special Olympics. Hahn said, “As a hero, Luke does not allow the world to get him down. He uses it as inspiration. Inspiration to prove that he can achieve anything he sets his mind to.”
Pocono Mountain East High School teacher and coach Jerry Greeley introduced the next honoree, Jordan Williams. Quoting his grandfather, Greely said, “If you develop their confidence, you’ll be surprised and inspired by what they can do.” Jordan was living proof. Leader of the school-to-work program, he is an incredible worker, working a weekend job while starting his own landscaping business. Jordan is always looking out for others, regularly checking in on his friends. One is Michael, a non-verbal student who Jordan would facetime every day throughout the pandemic shutdowns to make sure he was okay. This(Pennsylvania Association for the education of young children totaled 577 days, and it’s just one example of Jordan’s kindness and initiative.
Counselor, Madison Above, announced Jayla Carter of Pocono Mountain West High School. Jayla is a Member of the student council and show choir. She overcame adversity at home and will be attending the University of Colorado Denver to study biology. Her goal is to become a genetic counselor.
The final student to be recognized was Matthew Wilson of Stroudsburg High School. William Kunkel spoke on behalf of Wilson, who could not attend the ceremony as he participated in a TSA (Technology Student Association) event. Along with serving as Treasurer and Vice President of TSA, Matthew is also involved in FBLA, Marching band, NHS, track and field, and participated in competitions with TSA and FBLA. Matthew volunteers at an Animal Shelter outside of school and is an avid streamer. Hosting a charity stream in December, Matthew raised over $1000, which he donated to the Children’s Miracle Network. All of this while dealing with a cancer diagnosis his Junior year, which he beat.
The ceremony closed with singing and encouragement from Worship Leader and Youth Pastor Robin Smith from Labor of Love USA. Smith said, “You’re created by a God who has a special design for your life. Don’t give up. Keep going, and remember there is no one like you on the planet.”
Event sponsors include:
- Dr. Khanna’s returning youth initiative.
- Pennsylvania Careerlink.
- First Nation Bank and Trust CO.
- Barley Creek brewing company.
- Sonia Sweet Inspirations.
- Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.
- VIP Studios Inc.
- The Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children.
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