Every year teens who have conquered obstacles in their lives to do good works and seek a college education are honored with D.J.’s Hero Awards.
The seven recipients of the scholarships this year will receive a $10,000 scholarship to help them achieve their goals. The scholarship amount has been doubled this year, “thanks entirely to the Sokol family,” said Salvation Army spokeswoman Susan Eustice. “They wanted to increase the amount.”
The D.J. in the award name refers to D.J. Sokol, son of Omahans David and Peggy Sokol, who lost his battle with cancer when he was 18. His memory lives on through the scholarship recipients, who are selected because they share his qualities of dedication to faith, helping others, volunteerism and commitment to the community.
The scholarship winners will be honored at a luncheon at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday at the CenturyLink Center Omaha. Guest speaker at the event will be Emmitt Smith, former NFL player, “Dancing With the Stars” champion and community volunteer. Tickets are $100, and proceeds fund Salvation Army programs.
This year’s recipients:
An Unstoppable Hero Ready to Help — Madison Bastian of Arlington, Neb., overcame the struggle to breathe after several bouts of infant pneumonia to become a dancer, figure skater and community volunteer. She is a 4-H queen, student council vice president and National Honor Society treasurer. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she will study to become a dietician specializing in food allergies, and she hopes to go on to medical school.
A Confident Hero Caring for Others — Rosio Granados of Omaha stepped up to help raise six younger siblings because of parental disability. She worked housekeeping and fast food jobs to keep her family together while serving as a community volunteer, completing the academically challenging University of Nebraska Medical Center High School Alliance and graduating sixth in her class at Omaha South.
An Independent, Strong Hero Serving Others — Luis Hernandez of Schuyler, Neb., struggled to learn English as a child and to help his single-parent mother. He and two friends started Project S, a service organization connected to the Sertoma Club. Group projects included collecting clothing for victims of Super Storm Sandy and organizing a blood drive. Luis volunteered as a “big buddy” to a grade school child, volunteers in community projects and is graduating near the top of his class. He plans to study economics.
A Courageous, Energetic and Determined Hero — Jennifer Jones of Omaha has been involved in 27 service projects even though she suffers from migraines and volleyball injuries. She is always ready to get the ball rolling when it comes to community projects. The Omaha Concordia senior tutors students with special needs, which has led to her decision to become an elementary school teacher of children with special needs.
A Problem-Solving Hero and Positive Leader — Kloreace Rose Pokorny of Scotia, Neb., tried to keep her family together, but parental problems sent her and her siblings into foster care. Still, she was able to excel at school and volunteer in her community. She is vice president of the North Loup Scotia Youth Leadership. Kloreace plans to major in social studies and physical education.
A Prayer Warrior and Honorable Hero — Zachary R. Powers of Omaha has cerebral palsy and a visual impairment and uses a wheelchair, but that hasn’t stopped him from setting high goals. He is a good student and volunteers as a mentor for freshmen at Millard North. His faith is strong and he has gone on mission trips, which has made him decide to become a youth minister. He also aspires to be an Eagle Scout.
An Inspiring Hero With High Goals — Lianna Prill of Holdrege, Neb., has survived celiac disease and injuries from a car accident to become a great community volunteer — 600 hours during high school. Lianna, reigning Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen, is organizing the Nebraska Chapter of the Celiac Disease Foundation. Her goals include competing in the Miss Nebraska Pageant, graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and writing a children’s book.