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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 13, 2005

Teens earn awards for choosing to help others

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Education Writer

Improving the quality of life for sick children or the terminally ill have made two Hawai'i teens the state's top youth volunteers in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.


Robbieana Leung, 17, of St. Andrew's Priory, and Amanda Kaku, 13, of Mid-Pacific Institute, were selected from 20,000 nominees nationwide. They will each receive $1,000, a silver medallion, a trip to Washington D.C., and the opportunity to be considered for a national prize. The program honors one high-schooler and one middle-schooler from every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Leung, a senior, was nominated by the Girl Scout Council of Hawai'i for founding "Sunshine for Shriners," a service group that visits Shriners Hospital for Children at least once a month to share games, songs, dances, and arts and crafts projects with patients.

Kaku, who is in the 8th grade, was nominated by her school because of her weekly piano recitals for the terminally ill, their families and the staff at Maurice Sullivan Family Hospice in 'Ewa Beach.

Leung already had a long history of volunteer work when she was moved by a visit to an orphanage in China. "When I saw all those children unfairly deprived of the needs we often take for granted — love, attention, kindness and care — something in me stirred," she said.

Back home, she called on her Girl Scout troop and schoolmates for help in creating a service club that would visit young Shriners' patients. She also solicited donations of games, art supplies, CDs and DVDs.

"Service is only the first step toward a better, more caring and loving world," Leung said.

Kaku, who has taken piano lessons since she was four, started playing at the hospice when her grandfather stayed there about four years ago. Since she had often played for her grandparent's pleasure at home, it was only natural that she play for them on the piano in the hospice lobby.

When her grandfather died, people at the hospice told her they would miss her playing, so she decided to continue, returning every weekend with a mix of classical and popular music.

"It brings joy to the patients and nurses," she said. "Even though it's the same songs every week, they need some time every week to think about something other than medical stuff."

Two other students were recognized as distinguished finalists and will receive a bronze medallion:

• Robert Hill IV, a senior at St. Anthony Junior/Senior High School in Wailuku, was recognized for building a roof for a pavilion at his school, working with architects, securing more than $5,000 in donations for the project and helping with the manual labor.

• Yiuing Michelle Lee, a senior at Sacred Hearts Academy, spearheaded the establishment of the first Big Brother/Big Sister mentorship program on the Big Island. Yiuing, who lives in Honolulu, coordinated the project, recruited and trained volunteers from various high schools and plans to start a program on Maui.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8014.