Local teens receive Brattin Civic Youth Award

AURORA—Last December marked a significant month for Sugar Grove resident and Rosary High School junior Julia Hoyda. A tenacious and conscientious volunteer, Julia is dedicated to adding memorable moments to her teenage years by serving others in her community, and was recently awarded the Brattin Civic Youth Award at the 43rd annual Pearl Harbor Day Memorial Luncheon.

This particular Civic Youth Award is honored to Fox Valley youth in memory of Aurora businessman Ted Brattin, who was involved in the founding of the Aurora Navy League Council and the Aurora-Naperville Rotary Club. Ten youth showing auspicious leadership and prominent service to the community in the style of Brattin were presented with the award in an event hosted by the Aurora Navy League, the Aurora-Naperville Rotary Club and Aurora University.

Of the 10 recipients of the Brattin Civic Youth Award, Julia Hoyda and Kaneland High School senior Nicole Hanlon reside in the Kaneland community. Exhibiting qualities of citizenship, service and leadership comes naturally to Julia and Nicole, as both have been busy advocating simultaneously as accomplished students and community service supporters. Julia, an active member of the Girl Scouts for the last 11 years, serves as a camp aide and an enthusiastic volunteer of the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association (FVSRA).

“I’m due to receive the Girl Scout Gold Award this year,” Julia said. “To qualify for this highest honor, you must create a project that improves your community. I combined my love for the outdoors, the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association and my brother to inspire me to create this program.”

Julia wants to spread the word and inspire others to realize that people just like her brother (who is autistic and has a seizure disorder) are people, too. It takes a tenacious and patient person to see 80 hours of planning turn into a successful community project. The summer of 2012, Julia brought her vision to life as she led an outdoor program for adults participating in the FVSRA. The program consisted of leading and assisting clients in activities like fishing, gardening and painting a fence for a chicken coop. Julia’s program was such a success among the clients, the FVSRA is gearing up for its second season this spring.

“It was amazing to see the smiles on the client’s faces,” Julia said. “I want everyone to know that just because someone has a disorder doesn’t mean they aren’t cool or like to have fun.”

In addition to her work with the Girl Scouts and Fox Valley Recreation Association, Julia is an honor student and student ambassador at Rosary, a member of the Marmion marching and jazz bands, and participates in Debate and Latin clubs.

“I am wowed that I can make a difference in the lives of others,” Julia said.

Hanlon, an Elburn resident, is also making a significant impact on her community. A World Youth in Science and Engineering team member, soccer player and active youth leader at St. Gall Catholic Church, Nicole’s community service resume is not lacking in supporting organizations that make a difference.

“Nicole is a natural leader,” said Laura McPhee, Kaneland High School secretary. “I nominated her because she has this innate sense of stepping in to help anyone at a moment’s notice.”

In addition to Hanlon’s rigorous academic schedule, she tutors her peers as a member of the National Honor Society and volunteers with organizations like the Aurora Golden K Kiwanis Club and Heartland Blood Center.

“She never hesitates to step up and be an example … I believe Nicole thrives on excellence and encourages her peers to be the best they can be,” McPhee said.

The work Julia and Nicole carry out within the Kaneland community brings to light the fact that teenagers today are making a grassroots effort everyday to improve their world. As Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low said, “The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”