Service shines bright for YMVA award winners

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Proudly holding their YMCA awards are, from left, Sean Setzen, from Guilderland; Sarah Murray and Alexandra Cunningham, from Voorheesville; and Monica Beach, from Guilderland. The awards were presented April 29 at a breakfast at the Appel Inn in Guilderland.

GUILDERLAND — For the seventh year, the Capital District YMCA honored students and teachers for their community service.

The ceremony was held on April 29 at the Appel Inn with a keynote address delivered by Dr. James Gozzo, president of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

“You are our future,” Derik Martin, the YMCA’s district executive director, told the 15 students chosen for the awards.

“You are our future,” Peter Lauricella, chairmen of the Bethlehem Board of Advisors, echoed in his closing remarks, adding, “and I feel good.”

Ten of the honored students — Annie Burdick, Taylor Rohan, Gabrielle Turi, Noah Poust, Emily Stento, Guthrie Diamond, Jacob Stryker, Gabriela Wemple, Siena Marcelle, and Collin Wittmann — were from Bethlehem.

The only educator to be honored, Heather Culnan, was also from Bethlehem, where she works as the assistant principal at the high school.

One student, Isabelle Lombardi, was from the Academy of Holy Names.

And four students were from districts covered by The Enterprise:

Sean Setzen, a sophomore at Guilderland, was lauded for “always being willing to do whatever is asked of him.” He gave tours to incoming ninth-graders. With his class, he visited Costa Rica and overcame a fear of heights when he conquered one of the highest zip lines. While in Costa Rica, he helped bring toys to students at an elementary school and spoke with them in Spanish. Back in Guilderland, he provides religious instruction to elementary children;

 Monica Beach, a Guilderland junior, has volunteered at the YMCA for the past three years, working at the front desk, and helping the Autism Swim Clinic in the pool. She also assists at special events like the Brenda Deer Race, the Pinebush Triathlon, and the Membership Appreciation Picnic. She raised funds to go on a school trip to Italy in February where she grew into a better human being, according to the event program;

Sarah Murray, a junior at Clayton A. Bouton High School, was praised for her “strong desire to help out the less fortunate and do so in another part of the world.” Last summer, on a scholarship from The Broadreach Foundation, she studied wildlife and conservation in South Africa. She collected field data to further animal protection and land preservation efforts. She also took a day trip to volunteer at an orphanage for about 100 children whose parents had died of HIV/AIDS; many of the children also suffered from the disease; and

Alexandra Cunningham, also a junior at Clayton A. Bouton High School, who has served as a Natural Helper at her school since ninth grade. She is currently president of the Class of 2015, and she has been the treasurer of Key Club for the past three years. “Her passion for volunteerism, commitment to the club, and self-motivation have made her the perfect person to fill the treasurer’s position,” according to the program notes. She has also instructed in the Voorheesville Learn to Swim Program.

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