The YWCA of Youngstown will honor 27 area high school seniors on Saturday, March 9 at its 19th annual Young Women with Bright Futures Awards ceremony at the Holiday Inn, Boardman. Among those 27 are two Canfield seniors, one from Canfield High and one from Cardinal Mooney.
Each year, the YWCA recognizes young women who have demonstrated a commitment to serving their schools, communities, and families. Senior high school women are selected by their school teachers or administrators for their leadership qualities, academic excellence, creativity and volunteerism.
At Canfield High School, the choice was an obvious one, said guidance counselor Tara Kalina.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Canfield High School’s Abby Baker will be one of 27 high school seniors honored this Saturday at the YWCA’s Young Women with Bright Futures Award ceremony. She is posing here with CHS guidance counselor Tara Kalina, who nominated her for the award.
"We asked our staff which kids could sit among any group and make a person feel welcomed and important," Kalina said. "Abby Baker was mentioned every time, and we when repeatedly asked teachers about who to nominate for the YWCA award, Abby's name came up."
Baker is a person who cares enough to get involved with a plethora of activities. She is serving her second year as Y-teens and Young Leaders president at CHS, is a member of choir, Student Council and plays basketball and softball. In eighth grade, she received the Archie Griffith Award for being an athlete who is a proven leader both on the sports field as well as in the classroom.
As head of Young Leaders, she worked hard in the prom dress program that seeks donations of dresses to be given to high school girls who can't afford a prom dress.
She has taken part with the ALS walk, volunteers at eighth-grade orientation, helps man a booth at open house to register people to vote, and has organized and delivered canned food for those in need.
Outside the school, Baker is a member of the St. Michael's Youth Group. She has also braved the elements to ring the bell at Giant Eagle to bring in funds for the needy at Christmas. Baker is one who is always willing to step up and lend a hand.
"Whenever I ask Abby to do something, she says she can make it happen and does," Kalina said.
Another attribute for Baker is her humble attitude. She found it hard to believe that she would be nominated.
"I couldn't believe it at first," Baker said. I thought [Mrs. Kalina] was kidding."
For the future, Baker plans on playing softball in college and hopes to pursue a degree in athletic training.
Baker won't be the only Canfield girl to be among the 27 honorees for the Bright Futures award. She will be joined by Cardinal Mooney senior Gianna Parella who has a similar long list of accomplishments.
Parella is vice president of the Cardinal Mooney speech team and is a member of Student Council, the school's service club, National Honor Society, Youth Leadership-Mahoning Valley, Link Crew (a freshman-senior orientation program), and peer tutoring where seniors help tutor their younger counterparts. She is also in her fourth year on the Mooney tennis team, and did three years on the school's swim team.
Some of the more recent involvements included working at the Rich Center for Autism's preschool at Youngstown State University and volunteering at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Boardman, through a program called comfort care.
"We go into patients' rooms to change the water pitcher and offer friendship to help build morale," Parella said.
She also started a fundraising team with her speech coach to raise funds for the annual Walk for Autism.
The community involvement doesn't stop with the school. She is also a member of the St. Christine Youth Group. Through that group, she volunteered to spend a week in Appalachia to repair and rebuild a home for a family in need.
Parella has built a reputation at Mooney of a dedicated, honest, hard-working student. Those qualities are why Mooney Director of Guidance Diane Fimogmari said she nominated her for the YWCA honors.
"Of all our candidates, she by far exemplifies what we look for in a young woman with a promising future," Fimogmari said. "She wakes up every morning with the goal of doing what is right. She is what we all would want our daughters to be."
Fimogmari had the joy of taking the guidance office's decision and letting Parella know. She said she knew of the program from a friend who was nominated last year.
"I knew Breanna Dannessa, who was last year's nominee [from Cardinal Mooney]," she said. "She had some outstanding accomplishments. For me to be chosen this year was a real honor."
Both Parella and Baker will be among the 27 girls chosen from around the Valley who will receive their Young Women with Bright Futures award this coming weekend. Saturday's event will be chaired by Cryshanna A. Jackson. Meghan Louttit, multimedia producer of the New York Times and former 2004 Bright Futures honoree, will be the keynote speaker for the event.