By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer
When you are 17 or 18 years old, it is hard sometimes to imagine that there is a world beyond the one you live in every day - a world of high school classes, Friday-night football, and hanging out with friends.
But, in the Greater Cincinnati area, there are at least 55 young people who have shown they can see far beyond themselves.
They are the finalists in the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative's Golden Galaxy Awards competition, co-sponsored by the Enquirer, WKRC-TV (Channel 12), and Ashland Co.; and each is an area high school student being honored not only for academic achievements, but a willingness to serve their communities in a variety of ways.
Wednesday night, at the Schiff Family Conference Center at Xavier University's Cintas Center, 11 of them will be awarded $1,000 scholarships, one in each of 11 academic categories. First runners-up in each category will receive $500; second runners-up receive $250.
"It's an honor just to be a finalist,'' said Lindsay Scheer, a 17-year-old Walnut Hills High School student who is one of five finalists in the music category.
Like all of the finalists, Ms. Scheer earns good grades and spends a considerable amount of her time helping others.
In her case, she uses her two abiding interests - singing and gymnastics - to help children with muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome learn basic gymnastics at Hyde Park Gymnastics and Dance.
"I always incorporate music into what I do with the kids,'' Ms. Scheer said. "The kids are getting physical therapy and they don't know. They're just having fun.''
A school choir member, she also sings with a jazz ensemble, plays soccer and is a volunteer soccer referee for the Special Olympics in Cincinnati. Next year, she will go to the University of Louisville on soccer and academic scholarships to work toward a degree in pediatric physical therapy.
"It's the volunteer work I do that helped me decide what I want to do with my life,'' Ms. Scheer said. "It's very rewarding.''
While some of the finalists, like Ms. Scheer, do volunteer work that helps one person at a time, others have taken on global issues.
Karthik Balasubramanian, a 17-year-old senior at Sycamore High School who is a finalist in the general scholarship category, has been a volunteer at the Cincinnati chapter of the American Red Cross for several years. But recently, he has been involved in a fund-raising project for the American Red Cross's plan to vaccinate 200 million African children for measles over a five-year period, raising over $3,000 in a high school campaign.
Now the Blue Ash teen is deeply involved in an even bigger fund-raising event for the measles campaign - "Run for Vaccinations,'' a 5K run/walk that will be held in downtown Cincinnati in March.
"What I'm doing now is preparing me for the future,'' Mr. Balasubramanian said. "It's good practice for what I want to do in the future - to help people on a large scale.''
Ben Shapiro, another Walnut Hills High School senior, is a finalist in the art category. The Clifton youth is photographer for his school paper and for a community newspaper, the Clifton Chronicle. He has also volunteered his time at an Over-the-Rhine soup kitchen.
"I'm thrilled to have been selected,'' Mr. Shapiro said. "There are a lot of very talented artists at my school and it is an honor to be singled out.''
Elizabeth Zultoski of Mount Lookout, a finalist in the social science category, hopes to study environmental science in college and go to law school. But she said she hopes she will always have time to help others.
The Walnut Hills High School senior started a tutoring program for children from Evanston in grades three through eight. She and her volunteer tutors help the children with everything from math to reading.
"We help them with whatever they need,'' Ms. Zultoski said. "The reward is in seeing them succeed.''
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