Metro-East News

16 local students awarded for excellence in academics, athletics, arts, community service

Isobel Abbott
Isobel Abbott

Sixteen students from Belleville area high schools will be honored with 2017 Young Women of Achievement Awards for excelling in the fields of community service, academics, athletics and the arts.

The young women will be recognized during an awards program and dinner at 7 p.m. Monday at Bellecourt Manor, 225 East A St., Belleville. The awards are presented by the Rotary Club of Belleville in association with the Belleville News-Democrat.

The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Patricia B. Wolff, founder and executive director of Meds and Food for Kids. Wolff’s nonprofit enterprise feeds starving children in Haiti. Wolff is also a professor emerita of clinical pediatrics at Washington University.

Wolff will share some of her wisdom from decades of humanitarian service with the award recipients. “They are on a journey to become their best self. It’s not a journey that ever comes to an end. It actually is something that we need to keep learning our whole lives,” she said.

From the age of 12, Wolff said that she dreamed of being a medical missionary. Instead, her life led her to medical school, then to marriage and raising a family.

In 1988, she had the opportunity to travel to Haiti for the first time to treat children. Wolff said what she experienced there was eye-opening and made her think: “If you could do something, you should do something.” She has been traveling to Haiti on humanitarian missions ever since.

The therapeutic food, Medika Mamba, that she gives to the children “tastes like Reese’s Pieces candy.” The recipe was developed by one of her colleagues, Mark J. Manary, a professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.

The most rewarding part of her work is to see the almost immediate changes that nutrition brings to the children. “They have so little protein in their bodies that their hair, which should be black, is either red or white. Their skin is also pale because their body cannot produce melatonin,” she said.

Wolff said usually within two weeks of consuming the therapeutic food, “They have black roots in their hair, and their skin looks so much better. Within six to eight weeks they look totally normal and are discharged from the program. It seems miraculous.”

She said that Medika Mamba has saved the lives of more than 260,000 children.

Wolff will remind the honorees that on the journey to “become yourself” to make conscious healthy decisions. “I think, sometimes, we take physical and mental health for granted,” she said.

At the end of her keynote address, Wolff wrote, “I see that you all have dreams, and you are well on your way to achieving them. Let’s not get overwhelmed or side tracked on this pathway. And know that there are many pathways to a life well lived, and you cannot plan any but the next step. The step after that will be made clear in the future.”

The award winners to be recognized on Monday night are:


▪  Amy Bertelsman, Althoff, has maintained a GPA of 4.0 throughout her academic career and is eligible to be valedictorian of her class. She has been a member of the Althoff math team and active in the Saturday Scholars, National Honor Society and science club. She’s also a member of the varsity girls bowling team, Girl Scouts, in the drama department’s backstage crew and a music minister for special education religion classes. Amy is the daughter of Steven and Nancy Bertelsman, of Belleville.

▪  Ivy Truong, Belleville East, worked as an intern at the Belleville News-Democrat last summer. She also served as editor-in-chief and social media manager of her school newspaper, “The Lancer.” She is president of the National and English Honor Societies, a National Merit semifinalist, an Illinois State Scholar and captain of the debate team. She has been accepted to Princeton and plans to study journalism. Ivy’s parents are Truc Truong and Trinh Nguyen, of Belleville.

▪  Amelia Schmitz, Belleville West, is a member of the National Honor Society, French club, student council and varsity dance team. Her work on the Signal Hill Character Education Program earned the Girl Scout Gold Award. She is a Greater Belleville Area National Youth Salute Honoree and the 2015 Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Ambassador. Amelia is the daughter of Mark and Katherine Schmitz, of Belleville.

▪  Caroline Stewart, The Governor French Academy, has a 4.0 GPA. She is a 2017-18 Illinois State Scholar, a 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program and a 2016 President’s Volunteer Service Award recipient. Caroline is the member of a puppet team that entertains residents at local nursing homes. She has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award. Caroline has been accepted at nine different colleges and plans to study mechanical engineering. She is the daughter of Doug and Christine Stewart, of Belleville.


▪  Gabrielle Sullivan, Althoff, has performed in eight plays by the Althoff Catholic Performance Arts Department. She is a published author with short stories printed in two magazines. Gabrielle wrote for “Crusader Ink,” Althoff’s newspaper. She has been accepted at Murray State University. Gabrielle is the daughter of Martha Sullivan, of Fairview Heights.

▪  Kelsey Knee, Belleville East, has performed as a vocalist at the Muny in St. Louis for the past 10 years. She is the president of the drama club and book club. Kelsey is a member of the French club, choir, the marching band dance team, the National Honor Society, math and French honor societies. She was a 2016 Theater Departmental Honors Nominee. Kelsey is the daughter of Chris and Sandy Knee, of Swansea.

▪  Maggie Baltz, Belleville West, was selected as an Illinois State Scholar. She is a drum major, section leader of the symphonic band, jazz band and spring musical pit orchestra. Maggie is also a member of the math team, the Science Olympiad and the Spanish honor society. As a member of the First United Presbyterian Church, she has served on mission trips and at the Belleville Interfaith Food Pantry. She plans to attend Millikin University and major in elementary education. Maggie is the daughter of Colin and Joy Baltz, of Millstadt.

▪  Isobel Abbott, The Governor French Academy, has worked backstage in the drama department for six years. She created backdrops, props, sewed quilts and costumes and starred in two productions. Isobel is the author and creator of numerous works including short stories and landscapes. She plans to major in creative writing and become a journalist. Isobel is the daughter of Sarah Abbott, of Belleville.


▪  Emily Myatt, Althoff, is a varsity member of the soccer, basketball and volleyball teams. She served as the captain of the volleyball team and led the team to a Super Sectional appearance her junior year and third place in the 2016 Volleyball State Tournament her senior year. Emily maintained a 3.6 GPA throughout her academic career. She was an officer in the National Honor Society and student council. Emily is the daughter of Thomas and Kristen Myatt, of Belleville.

▪  Derika Moore, Belleville East, is the captain of the volleyball team and has maintained a 3.7 GPA. She is a member of the National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Derika volunteers at summer camps and her church. She plans to become a pediatrician. Derika is the daughter of Derrick and Angela Moore, of Fairview Heights.

▪  Kacie Kinnikin, Belleville West, has played both volleyball and soccer for her high school. She was the captain of her volleyball team in her junior and senior years and was named Scholar Athlete for the 2016 All-Area Team. Kacie was named to the 2016 BND All-Area 2nd team and was voted Most Valuable Player by her peers. She is a National Honor Society candidate and plans to attend pharmacy school. Kacie is the daughter of Jeff and Susan Kinnikin, of Belleville.

▪  Sarozjani Hunter, The Governor French Academy, is a member of the Girls Golf of Southern Illinois and has a black belt in karate. She is captain of the varsity basketball team and has played for four years. Sarozjani has run varsity cross country for four years and been captain for her junior and senior year. She participates in MuAlpha Theta, WYSE academic teams, and Kiwanis Key Club. Sarozjani has won the Gateway Young Achievers, the Two Degree Growth Mindset, the Heroes Amongst Us Awards and earned the Girl Scout Gold Award. Her parents are Janfrey and Cynthia Hunter, of Shiloh.

Community service

▪  Kaitlynn Borik, Althoff Catholic High School, participates in Student Ambassadors and the National Honor Society. She was a junior delegate for Network Against Malaria, an executive board member of the Rotary Interact Club and leader of Althoff Catholic Enrichment. She tutors students at Blessed Sacrament School and volunteers in her church ministry group. Kaitlynn has earned the Silver and Bronze Girl Scout awards. Her parents are Robert and Melissa Borik, of Belleville.

▪  Clare LaBlance, Belleville East, volunteered 115 hours in the Child Life Services playroom of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She was a teacher’s assistant at her church school and tutored students at Belleville East. Clare was a four-year member of the varsity dance team, marching band and wind ensemble. She was a member of the BASIC Youth Board, and the Math, Science, English, Spanish and National Honor Societies. Clare plans to major in pre-med or pharmacy. She is the daughter of Gary and Ann LaBlance, of Swansea.

▪  Kamryn Martin-Giacalone, Belleville West, had leadership roles as president of the National Honor Society, editor for the yearbook and vice president of the Rotary Interact Club. She organized an Illinois Leadership Enhancement and Development Workshop at her high school. She has volunteered at the YMCA literacy program, Belleville Interfaith Food Pantry, Art on the Square, the Gingerbread Run and Belleville Helping Belleville. Her parents are Petrina and Donna Martin-Giacalone, of Belleville.

▪  Caleb-McKenzie Phillips, The Governor French Academy, is a member of the Kiwanis Key Club and assisted the March of Dimes nonprofit organization. As part of the student council, she has assisted in fundraising efforts for a local slain police officer. Caleb is an important part of her mother’s fashion business and has attended New York’s Fashion Week. She is the daughter of Jerry and Cameo Phillips, of Belleville.