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Four young women who have had to overcome hardships while dealing with the everyday responsibilities of being a high school student were honored for their achievements last week.
Hannah Speight, Julia Smith, Kourtney Warr and Megan Crow, all students in York County schools, each received a $500 scholarship and were named outstanding youths of the year.
Their stories of compassion, resilience and leadership were shared at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, where they were presented with a personalized Pewter Jefferson Cup bearing the county seal.
Speight, a junior at Tabb High School, received the Community Service award for her ongoing dedication to the community through the school and her church.
Youth Commissioner Kaela Frazier listed off several of Speight’s community service efforts in the last four years, which included participating in car washes, baking cookies for the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety to thank them for their service, delivering boxes of food to the needy, picking up trash and teaching at vacation Bible school – all while maintaining high honors in academics and playing high school sports and singing in the choir.
Perhaps most importantly, Speight was recognized for her volunteer work with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Speight was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 7 years old and said she would not trade the life she has for a life without the disease.
“Without this disease, I believe I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” she told the Board of Supervisors.
“The work you’ve done is tremendous,” said Chairman Tom Shepperd, who presented the students with their awards Tuesday night. “You were behind in the curve, if you will, but you didn’t let that stop you.”
The outstanding courage award was given to another student battling a disease: Warr, a senior at Grafton High School, was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome and acute gastroparesis, which causes paralysis of the stomach and has no known cure.
The disease has forced Warr to have periods of home-bound instruction throughout her four years at Grafton High School.
“In spite of all these hardships and challenges, Courtney [Warr] has endured this adversity, risen above disappointments and maintained a cheerfulness, inner strength and genuine concern for others that point to her amazing, daily courage that many do not even know about because of her positive attitude and outlook,” Youth Commissioner Connor Pittman said.
Two seniors from Tabb High School — Smith and Crow — received the awards for compassion and overall achievement, respectively.
Smith shared her story about overcoming adversity and building self-confidence, explaining she had a difficult transition from elementary school to middle school, which forced her to seek new friendships by introducing herself to people who were alone — something she said was extremely difficult to do, but helped her become a more compassionate woman.
Shepperd called Smith an “angel.”
“The idea of compassion is truly overwhelming, because to be this compassionate, to hear what you hear in there, is something more than ‘I just have to go do this.’ It’s something deep in your heart, it’s something spiritual,” he said.
Crow received the award for overall achievement. During her four years at Tabb High, Crow has participated in National Honors Society, Key Club, tutoring, marching and symphonic band, Virginia math league, plays and musicals, the orienteering club and multiple sports including cross country, swimming and track and field.
Shepperd said he was proud of the four students and the school division they attended.
“We produce these folks. They come to York County and they serve as great representatives,” he said.
He ended with a piece of advice for the four women: “The world is yours. So step out and enjoy that, and take time to smell the roses along the way.”