Caring Heart Award Winners for 2012

July 01, 2012

Thirteen Northwest academy students were recipients of the $500 Caring Heart Award Scholarship made possible through three-way funding from the North Pacific Union Conference, local conferences and academies. Students were selected by their schools for exemplifying the spirit of the Caring Heart — a willingness to serve others. The North American Division provided each student with a plaque and an engraved Bible. The scholarships may be used toward tuition at an Adventist school or on a short-term mission trip.

Elliot Fletcher

Auburn Adventist Academy

Elliot Fletcher, a junior from Auburn, Washington, believes that a life lived in God's grace is a life full of meaningful Christian service. Elliot leads by example as Auburn Adventist Academy's spiritual vice president and campus ministries student chaplain. His year has been full of creating and facilitating spiritual programming on Auburn's campus. He started a Sabbath afternoon Bible study that is well attended every week, and he plays at the student-led Afterglow program, during which students gather after vespers around a piano or a guitar to sing hymns and praise music.

Auburn students often visit local churches, participating in their worship service for the day, and Elliot is the "go-to" preacher for such trips. His sermons are Bible-based and full of heart, and leave church members wondering how he is only a junior in high school.

Elliot is often asked if he sees a future in pastoral ministry, but orthodontics is where he feels called at the moment. He is academically driven, with a heart that believes in being kind to everyone. He pursues a meaningful and personal relationship with his heavenly Father by opening up conversations with his peers in the campus ministries office, by attending Bible studies in the guys' dorm, and by seeking out the answers to his questions from the Bible and the mentors in his life.

Elliot is an asset to the Auburn campus as an academic, spiritual and musical leader. A "Caring Heart" describes him perfectly. His parents are Kevin and Amy Fletcher.

Keith Matsumura

Cascade Christian Academy

At Cascade Christian Academy our mission is to "Educate students to LIVE for Christ." We want our students to Love like Jesus; have Integrity in all areas of their life; show the Virtues of forgiveness, peacefulness and thankfulness; and finally to show Excellence in everything to which they put their hand. This is all done to the glory of Christ!

Our Caring Heart Award winner, Keith Matsumura, consistently shows these attributes here at Cascade Christian Academy and in our community. Keith routinely gets "caught" living his life for Christ, which is Cascade Christian Academy's equivalent to a student of the week. He has served as a member of the student association and as a class chaplain during his high school career and takes this attitude of service outside the walls of the school as well. One such community event took place last summer when Keith participated in a trip with the organization People to People, whose mission is to strengthen the community by providing quality human services.

He is always quick with a smile and kind word to brighten someone's day. Keith truly shows both in big and small ways every day that he has a caring heart by living for Him! His parents are James and Heidi Matsumura.

Kira Thornton

Columbia Adventist Academy

Kira Thornton, Columbia Adventist Academy (CAA) senior, has been chosen as CAA's recipient of the 2012 Caring Heart Award. Kira is known at Columbia for her concern for the well-being of others around her. She is perceptive to the feelings of other people and offers a listening ear and a helping hand. Kira has used supportive notes, texts and hugs to try to make the day better for everyone. She has shown her caring attitude by initiating tutoring with students who need help with their schoolwork.

Throughout her high school years, Kira has been involved in CAA service activities and has always been a diligent worker on service projects while encouraging her classmates to keep working and do a quality job, especially when conditions were difficult. This attitude of support and encouragement has been visible in her involvement with class activities as well as in sports on the volleyball team, where Kira always looks out for new teammates and makes sure they have someone to care for them.

Recently we have had five Japanese students studying English on the campus. Kira has befriended them and tried to help them as they made the adjustment to our English-speaking, Christian environment. Kira has participated in mission outreach, such our 2010 Mexico mission trip to El Oasis in Baja, Mexico. While there Kira worked with enthusiasm to help paint and repair some of the house in which the children live. She was kind and affectionate with the children and loved to spend time with them and give them the attention they so need.

Columbia Adventist Academy's staff and students are proud to see Kira win this award and feel grateful that she has been a part of our lives. We wish God's blessings for Kira and are confident that her caring heart will continue to share God's live to others. Her parents are Mike and Shelly Thornton.

Tyrell Wolfe

Gem State Adventist Academy

Tyrell Wolfe possesses a wonderful, wholesome attitude. This is what his schoolmates say about him: He's a gentleman. He cares. He is kind-hearted. He laughs a lot. He makes people feel good. He is a hard worker. He is talented.

Wherever he goes, Tyrell is a positive force for good. He attends the Middleton (Idaho) Church where he leads music, helps in the sound room and organizes the weekly potluck. Tyrell is a member of the Gem State Academy Select Choir and the Soundwave Handbell Ensemble, and he plays bass clarinet in the band. He is also an active member of the Oregon Men's Chorus and feels that God may be calling him into music ministry. After he graduates from Gem State Academy, he plans to further his education at Walla Walla University. His parents are Ivan and Denise Wolfe.

Ruth Martinez

Livingstone Adventist Academy

Ruth Martinez was a fairly typical teenager. She went to church every week and attended Adventist school, but she still felt like something was missing. One day some recruiters for Youth Rush came to Livingstone and spoke about their literature evangelism program and how one summer of service can be life-changing. Ruth thought, I never do anything exciting for God. But while the program sounded intriguing, Ruth was nervous. She had no idea if she would be successful and going door-to-door was definitely out of her comfort zone. However, after hearing a fellow student talk about her summer experience in the Youth Rush program, Ruth decided this was God's calling.

The experience proved to be a turning point in Ruth's relationship with God. "It taught me that I need to trust God," she says. "My prayer life came alive as I developed a connection with God." Since then, Ruth has turned her life around in other ways as well. Her grades have gone from barely passing to As and Bs. Her outlook on life is different. Instead of a negative attitude, she now sees life as full of possibilities. She has a deeper passion for her church and working with Vacation Bible School, service projects and future mission opportunities. Her mother is Maria Martinez.

Sterling Cornwell

Milo Adventist Academy

Sterling has coordinated a student-led Bible study group in the cafeteria for the past two years. He genuinely cares about everyone and lives a life of service and faithfulness to God in his daily routine, even in the most humble things. He is always thoughtful in class discussions. He serves his classmates, encourages, uplifts and always does his best. His parents are Kevin and Madeleine Cornwell.

Kendall Jones

Mount Ellis Academy

For those of us who have had the pleasure of interacting with Kendall Jones during the past four years at Mount Ellis Academy, it comes as no surprise that she is the recipient of this year's Caring Heart Award. Kendall is a young woman whose caring personality is exhibited 365 days a year. She's always quick to give a much-needed hug, take time out of her day for a hurting friend and, if you're really lucky, she'll bring you some of her delicious homemade cookies. With a busy life and school, Kendall is eager to volunteer to help in whatever capacity she can. If she hasn't volunteered already, when you ask, she's ready with a refreshing "yes." This year she started her own cell group in the hope of making a difference for her classmates. Her actions truly display her desire to be a servant of our Savior. As her phone signature says, she's "God's girl!" Her parents are Randall and Khristina Jones.

Austin Zirkle

Portland Adventist Academy

Austin Zirkle was recognized by Portland Adventist Academy's administrative committee with the 2012 Caring Heart Award.

Austin's four-year volunteering career at Adventist Medical Center (AMC), in Portland, Oregon, was a major factor in the decision. His 818 total volunteer hours reflect his empathetic heart and his love for others.

Donna Lester, AMC volunteer services assistant, says Zirkle's commitment is exceptional. "We've never seen a young volunteer with such a faithful record of volunteering," she says. "He's been one of our top volunteers for so long. He's motivated, driven and has great customer service skills. We know he'll be a success wherever life takes him."

Austin says volunteering at the AMC is great for teens. "It's a fun and relaxing environment where you get to know a lot of interesting people," he says. "There is usually free food, and it's a good way to get experience for any future jobs you might apply for." His parents are Ron and Sherri Zirkle.

Omar Zarabia

Puget Sound Adventist Academy

Omar is a senior at Puget Sound Adventist Academy (PSAA). He has many interests, including photography, soccer, rock climbing and spending time with friends. Along with being a great athlete and student, Omar is known as a caring and helpful person who is always willing to lend a hand if something needs to be done.

Omar uses his talents and helpful personality as well as his leadership skills in many extracurricular school activities. He was a captain of the soccer team, yearbook editor and senior class historian.

He has also been involved in outreach while at PSAA. He has been a regular participant in the Seattle Outreach program, providing food and warm clothing to the homeless. He also participated in community service projects and several churches, as well as with Hopelink. During his junior year, Omar was part of a mission trip to Belize, where he helped build three classrooms, helped conduct a Vacation Bible School and participated in an evening radio program.

Some of Omar's fondest memories while at PSAA include the mission trip to Belize, winning the soccer tournament at Walla Walla University (WWU) three years in a row, senior survival and the junior/senior banquet. Omar is planning on attending WWU in the fall with pre-dentistry as his focus. His parents are Armando and Carmen Zarabia.

Eric Katzenbach

Rogue Valley Adventist Academy

Eric began his educational experience at the Shady Point School in Eagle Point, Oregon. With the wonderful foundation he received there, his transition to a larger school was almost seamless. Since his arrival at Rogue Valley Adventist Academy his freshman year, Eric has displayed effective leadership qualities. He has served as Student Association religious vice president and as class pastor for most of his high school experience. He has been instrumental in starting a young men's Bible-study program.

When faced with difficult life lessons, Eric has shown courage and persevered, keeping his focus on God, his family and his goals for the future. With his willingness to lend a hand to staff and students alike, Eric will be greatly missed when he leaves Rogue Valley Adventist Academy to pursue his college education plans. His parents are Gerald and Kathleen Katzenbach.

Laressa Farnsworth

Skagit Adventist Academy

Skagit Adventist Academy is proud to name one of its seniors, Laressa Farnsworth, as this year's Caring Heart Award recipient. Laressa possesses a cheerful personality and was selected by this year's student body to serve as student body spiritual vice president, as well as by her class to serve in the parallel role. In addition to coordinating music groups and worship opportunities, she led out in additional opportunities, such as a student fast and secret prayer partners. The students also selected her to be one of five speakers for the student-led Week of Prayer. She joined in the academy mission trip to the Dominican Republic during spring break, where she requested to be involved in all three aspects of ministry (church construction, Vacation Bible School and medical outreach).

Outside of school, Laressa has spent two summers participating in Washington Conference's youth literature evangelism program, Youth Rush, and plans to return for a third year. She's shared many stories with the student body about the ways she experienced God's presence and direction by door-to-door witnessing. She's active in community service and in youth activities, both those targeted at her age group and in playing music for the younger children's Sabbath School classes at her home church, the North Cascade Church, in Burlington, Washington.

Her plans for next year are as yet undecided between Walla Walla University and one of the Bible training schools associated with the Adventist Church. Her primary desire is to pursue opportunities that will allow her to strengthen her personal walk with God while equipping herself with tools to serve Him in whatever ministry opportunities to which He calls her in the future. Her parents are Dave and Tressa Farnsworth.

Gabrielle Warren

Upper Columbia Academy

Gabrielle Warren is a junior at Upper Columbia Academy (UCA). You will often see her pitching in and helping when others are in need of assistance, most of the time without even being asked. The 16-year-old native of Spokane, Washington, is the type of person who enjoys assisting others no matter what the circumstances. "Being helpful is who she is," says Troy Patzer, UCA principal.

Assisting others in her community is not the only way that Gabrielle keeps busy. She is also a teen leader in training in the Wheatland Coyotes Pathfinder Club. "Gabby does everything asked of her and more," says Cindy Williams, the club's director. "She teaches honors, acts as a junior counselor and does worship too." Currently, Gabrielle is working on becoming a Master Guide. In and out of Pathfinders she always enjoys having a good time but will speak up when she doesn't believe something is honorable.

Although not her first career choice, Gabrielle has enjoyed several preaching experiences. After studying the book of James, she preached on it for a UCA Church service. Even more challenging, Gabrielle participated in an evangelistic series while on a mission trip to Chiapas, Mexico.

After graduation, Gabrielle is planning on going to college to major in chemistry and education. In the short term, she is excited about going on a mission trip next year.

Sometimes it is just her smile and kind personality that can make a person's day. Patzer says that there is one thing that really makes Gabrielle stand out: "She is always the first to volunteer to help no matter what the job is." Her parents are Stephen Warren and Joyce Soper Warren.

Lauren Spickelmier

Walla Walla Valley Academy

Lauren Spickelmier joined Walla Walla Valley Academy for her junior year and graduated this June. It quickly became apparent this young lady from Henderson, Nevada, not only shared a smile that would melt ice but consistently demonstrates a genuine spirit of helpfulness and encouragement for all.

A high point during her junior year was a mission trip to the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington State. Her volunteer work has ranged from canned food drives to teaching honors classes in Pathfinders and placing encouraging notes in students' lockers.

Lauren plans on attending Walla Walla University and majoring in communication. Her parents are James and Katherin Spickelmier.