Sunday, May 23, 1999

Festival honors area youth

Order of the day food, fun, praise

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Every day, it seems there's a new story about a seemingly normal kid turned bad.

        This is not one of them.

        To counteract the barrage of bad press and to showcase some of the good things that Covington youths are doing, dvocates held a festival Saturday.

        The Covington Youth Fest drew about 325 children and teens to the Holmes High School fieldhouse for cheap pizza and burgers, free entertainment and door prizes, and, in many cases, long overdue recognition for achievements.

        Among the honorees: 12 Covington leaders ages 7 to 17, who have done everything from stopping gang involvement to beautifying their community. Chosen from 42 nominees, they received Key to the Future medals from Mayor Denny Bowman, as well as T-shirts and savings certificates.

        “Kids have gotten a lot of bad press lately,” said Sarah Tomer, coordinator of Brighton Center's Independent Living Program in Covington. “This is just to say, "Here are some really good kids.'”

        Co-sponsored by the Covington Community Center and Covington Independent Public Schools, the festival got its start eight years ago.

        However, the focus on youthful achievements has evolved in recent years, sponsors said, to recognize the often overlooked “good kids” and to encourage their peers to get involved in constructive activities.

        “We have a lot of really talented children in our community,” said Mary Hill, chairwoman of the youth fest. “We just need to show them off more often.”

        Saturday's 12 honorees included Joe Renchen, 14, a former troublemaker turned role model.

        Joe, who credits his turnaround to close friend Christina Barnes and football coach Mark Cruey, now serves as a peer mediator at Holmes Junior High School, helping other teens work out disagreements.

        Once struggling academically, Joe has made the honor roll several times this year.

        Instead of talking back to his teachers, Joe says he now devotes his time to more constructive endeavors, such as leading a petition drive to establish a home economics room at his junior high.

        “Someday, I want to own my own business, or get a technical degree and work on computers,” Joe said. “I love working on computers.'

        Other recipients of Key to the Future awards include:

        • Mark Janeway, 13, a member of the Holmes Junior High football team who is active in his church, the Holmes Junior High Youth Advisory Council and the Covington Community Center.

        • Samantha Sprankel, 8, the youngest member of John G. Carlisle School's state championship Community Problem Solving Team known as the “Gangbusters” for warning the community about the dangers of gangs.

        • Hope Putman, 7, a Student of the Month at Sixth District Elementary School who volunteers weekly at the open recreation program at her school.

        • Brandi Mullins, 8, a Student of the Month at John G. Carlisle School and a member of a committee that convinced the school board to make the playground safer by adding more mulch under the monkey bars.

        • Andrew Ducker, 11, is part of a team that produces the daily, closed circuit, “Eagle News” program at First District School, an effort that recently won first place at the Covington Schools Technology Fair. He also offers computer instruction to younger students and adults.

        • Wesley Collins, 12, is an award winning student athlete, an honor roll student, and is a member of the Community Problem Solving and Governor's Cup academic teams at John G. Carlisle School.

        • Brian Turner, 12, refurbished the basketball courts at Glenn O. Swing School as part of the “Kids Make a Difference” community service team, is a member of 4-H, a computer whiz, and he practices karate from his wheelchair.

        • John Powell, 13, is a star player on the 1999 District Champs Sixth District basketball team, plays trombone in the school band, and is a member of the Community School Advisory Council and Student Technology Leadership Program.

        • Jason Noll, 17, developed an aluminum can recycling program for Holmes and a school beautification program. He also organized a school project that raised more than $3,000 for a child with leukemia.

        • Tiffany Porterfield, 17, volunteers weekly with Bible study for younger children at the United Community Christian Church, and she answers phone calls and does clerical work for Holmes High School's vice principal.

        • Nicole Riley, 17, a junior at Holy Cross High School, has contributed more than 160 hours of service to Northern Kentucky Head Start this year, and she helped raise money for a new Head Start facility in Falmouth to replace the one destroyed by floods.


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