Seven Nebraska teens are the 2012 D.J.'s Hero Scholarship Awards recipients.
The high school students will be recognized for their commitment to others and to their communities at the Salvation Army's D.J.'s Hero Awards Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. Monday at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.
The awards are named for D.J. Sokol, son of David and Peggy Sokol of Omaha, who lost his battle with cancer at 18. His memory lives on through the D.J.'s Hero Awards recipients, who are chosen because they share his qualities of dedication to faith, selfless acts for others, volunteerism and commitment to the community.
To be honored are Erin Murray of Bellevue; Poe Dee, Trevor Miller and David Munro of Lincoln; Hannah Wright of Neligh; and Kennedy Healy and Ilmihana “Hana” Kendic of Omaha. Each will receive a $5,000 scholarship.
Erin Murray, Kind and Steadfast Unsung Hero: Murray lives a busy life with Type 1 diabetes. Her activities include volunteering 500 hours a year. She raises funds and is a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She volunteers at Children's Hospital & Medical Center, where she also is part of a cancer support group. She has done volunteer work for the Stephen Center, Ollie Webb Center and Habitat for Humanity. She will graduate from Omaha Gross and plans to major in special education at Creighton University.
Poe Dee, Resilient Hero Dedicated to Education: When Dee was 7, his family in war-torn Myanmar chose him to learn to read and write. Now in the United States, he has perfect attendance and a 3.4 GPA at Lincoln High. He has not seen his family since they were together in a Thai refugee camp. He helps other refugees adapt to their new culture. He wants to become a lawyer so he can continue to help the Karen immigrant community.
Trevor Miller, Role Model and Hero of Faith: Miller doesn't let his stutter stop him from speaking to peers at Teens Encounter Christ, traveling on church mission trips, rallying his team as a YMCA volunteer basketball coach and leading discussion groups. He doesn't compromise his values and inspires others to act similarly. Miller volunteers for Project Service and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The Lincoln Southeast student hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon.
David Munro, Selfless, Involved and Inspirational Hero: Munro has had five open-heart surgeries plus other procedures for a rare congenital heart defect, hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Yet he has a 4.09 GPA at Lincoln Southwest, where he's involved with the Student Council, Student Ambassadors, varsity choir and the National Honor Society, and is student manager for the boys basketball team. When he has been hospitalized, he leads by example to instill hope in other young patients. Munro volunteers at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. He plans to attend Nebraska Wesleyan University and eventually teach in Lincoln.
Hannah Wright, Courageous, Independent and Worthy Hero: Wright describes her disability as “being short.” As a little person, she adapts to life — from reaching the pedals of a car to reaching a countertop while cooking. Last summer, she was chosen to be one of 10 national officers for FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America). She travels nationwide for meetings and to speak. As a junior at Neligh-Oakdale, Wright represented her school at Cornhusker Girls' State. She also volunteers in her community. She plans a career as a pediatric oncologist.
Kennedy Healy, Courageous Hero Committed to the Community: Healy was using a wheelchair by age 6 due to spinal muscular atrophy. Since age 11, she has organized events that have raised more than $50,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. She was student manager of the girls basketball team at Gretna High, was an officer of Future Business Leaders of America, edited the school newspaper and serves on the Youth Leaders of Omaha Ambassadors board. She plans to attend DePaul University in Chicago.
Ilmihana “Hana” Kendic, Steadfast Hero With a Helping Hand: Kendic was born in Bosnia, where she lived until age 4. Her family lived in refugee camps before coming to the United States. She learned English and became a U.S. citizen in November. Kendic is among the top 15 students of her senior class at Millard South. She belongs to many clubs that focus on service, including the National Honor Society, and serves in the character-building school club 40 Assets. She plans to become a physician's assistant.