RAHS student receives Shoreview’s 2013 Caring Youth Award

Ava Witthauer received the 2013 Caring Youth Award, which was presented to her by Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin, left, and Shoreview Human Rights Commission co-chairs Bob Minton and Nancy Hite. (Joshua Nielsen/Review)

Ava Witthauer of Shoreview has been in the habit of helping others since she was a little girl at Parkview Center School in Roseville -- from raising cash donations for victims of 2004’s deadly tsunami in southeast Asia, collecting thousands of Valentine’s Day cards for troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, to helping start a food shelf at Roseville Area High School (RAHS).

“She was born this way,” her mother Kim says. “As far back as I can remember she has been looking for ways to help others.”

The 17-year-old RAHS senior was recently recognized for her commitment to helping others by Shoreview’s Human Rights Commission, which presented her with the 2013 Caring Youth Award.  

Witthauer was given the award at the annual volunteer dinner held at Shoreview City Hall last month.

“I feel honored, not a lot of people get things like this,” Witthauer said. “It’s nice to be recognized.”

The Caring Youth Award, now in its second year, was created by the Shoreview Human Rights Commission “to empower the community to value its youth and youth to value the community.”

Witthauer’s student council advisor, Concetta Smith, nominated her for the following award categories: Community Involvement, Courage, Cultural Awareness and UnBullying Leadership in the community.  

Smith describes Witthauer as “ a driven student who shows perseverance and displays leadership as a community member and student.”

Witthauer was chosen as the award recipient, in part for her work as a “Link Leader,” or mentor to incoming freshman students. She also created a program to help eighth graders in the Roseville district build confidence and feel safe when facing a potential bully. To address the issue of bullying, Witthauer created “Safety Spreaders,” which encompasses a self-defense class, video demonstration and online resources for students.

Additionally, Witthauer serves on the Roseville Student Council. During her time on the student council, she created the “What’s Happening at RAHS” Facebook page, which allows students to stay in touch with current events on campus. She has also created and organized other resources for students as well, and is captain of the RAHS girls swim team, a member of the RAHS choir and a lacrosse player.

“My main focus beyond the student council will be the choir,” she says of the rest of her academic career at RAHS. “The choir is my family, they’re wonderful people.”

Witthauer says she is looking forward to college, but admits seeing her time at RAHS winding down is bitter sweet. She has not selected a college yet.

“That’s the burning question,” she says with a grin.

She is leaning toward studying analytical or clinical psychology and Spanish studies, but has not made up her mind yet.

“She’s bright, outgoing and talented. She will be very successful with what ever she chooses,” Shoreview’s Assistant to the City Manager Tessia Melvin said.

In the meantime, Witthauer says she is committed to enjoying her remaining months as a high school student, and encourages other students to volunteer.

“I think when people think of volunteering, they think it’s all about money. Donating time is just as important,” she says. “ It doesn’t have to be a big commitment, it can be something as simple as opening a door for an elderly or disabled person, just having a kind soul -- it can make all of the difference to someone. If you have the resources and privilege, donate it. Someone’s life could change just from the Mac and Cheese you bought.”

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.

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