BATON ROUGE, LA — Six high school students and two middle school students have been chosen as recipients of the 2014 Louisiana Young Heroes Awards.
Now in its 19th year, the program celebrates the achievements of students who have excelled in the classroom served their communities, overcome adversity and inspired everyone around them.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) and the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge sponsor the program which was underwritten this year by Acadian Companies, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, CenturyLink, and the Credit Bureau of Baton Rouge Foundation.
The winners and their families will be honored on April 16 with a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion and a banquet at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge. This year’s Young Heroes are:
Caroline Beard, 13, a seventh grader at Alexandria Country Day School
Joshua Castille, 18, a senior at Sacred Heart of Ville Platte
Kamryn “Kami” Chauncey, 14, a freshman at Benton High School
Cody Crews, 16, a sophomore at Cenla Christian Academy in Pineville
Morgan Gautreau, 14, an eighth grader at St. Theresa Middle School in Gonzales
Elizabeth Kasongo, 18, a junior at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge
Andrew Matthews, 17, a junior at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge
- Isaac McFarland, 16, a junior at Caddo Parish Magnet High School in Shreveport
A few weeks after she was born, Caroline Beard was diagnosed with cancer and a detached retina. When the cancer spread to her other eye, an experimental procedure saved her right eye but she lost her left eye. A skilled artist, the Christmas ornament she designed in 2005 was selected by Oprah Winfrey as one of 100 gifts for that year and her artwork is the top seller at St. Jude Children’s Hospital. She has also participated in numerous other fundraisers for St. Jude.
Joshua Castille has battled a long list of ailments since he was born including two different immune deficiencies, infections, jaundice, and anemia to name just some of his past and present health problems. He has hosted an Archery Shoot to help raise money for Dreams Come True. The second shoot will be held in May, 2014.
A cancer survivor, Kami Chauncey of Benton has dedicated her efforts to raising awareness of childhood cancer and St. Jude Children’s Hospital where she was treated. She and her classmates raised the money necessary to get the State of Louisiana to allow the St. Jude license plate to be sold as an official license plate in Louisiana to raise money for the charity. She and her family have also sponsored a Relay for Life team since 2007 and have collected thousands of aluminum can tabs as a fundraiser.
Cody Crews of Deville is an outstanding student at CENLA Christian Academy in Pineville who initiated the Send a Book On Safari program to help children in Africa learn English, read to children in daycares after school and joined his sister Cassidy in the Soles4Soles program to collect shoes for the less fortunate. It was during relief efforts after Hurricane Rita in 2005 that he was attacked by a large dog that caused serious damage to his face, mouth and tongue that required a long recovery.
At the age of nine, Morgan Gautreau was diagnosed with the debilitating disease Spina Bifida. Suffering from constant back pain, she underwent major spinal surgeries in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and just had another surgery in 2014. She also has had bladder reconstruction surgery. Since the cause of Spina Bifida is not yet known, Morgan set up a program called Making a Difference With Morgan to raise money for research. The project ended up raising more than $18,000.
St. Joseph’s Academy of Baton Rouge junior Elizabeth Kasongo and her family narrowly escaped from the Congo after they were marked for death during the genocide in the African country. Her grandfather was not so lucky, as he and his wife were executed. Since she arrived in America, Elizabeth has been very active in the pro-life movement and collects food and other items for the less fortunate in the Baton Rouge area. She is currently writing a book about her family’s story.
Andrew Matthews is a junior at Catholic High in Baton Rouge was born three and a half months early and faced a long list of physical problems, but 52 days later was breathing on his own. He was in physical, occupational and speech therapy for his first 10 years,` and has faced a number of learning disabilities but overcame them. His difficulties haven’t stopped him from volunteering with Vacation Bible School, serving as an athletic trainer and becoming a certified Louisiana State First Responder. As part of the EMS Explorer Program, he volunteered more than 400 hours in his first year and received Explorer Post 912 Service Award.
When Isaac McFarland of Keithville learned that one out of three children in the state don’t receive meals on a consistent basis, he decided to do something about it. His program, Game Changers Let’s Tackle Hunger, set out to eliminate hunger in his community and other locations around the country.
He received a national grant to get officials, celebrities, classmates, junior ranchers and other interested parties to donate more than a thousand decorated Tackle Boxes. These boxes were filled with non-perishable breakfast items and delivered to families around the area. Isaac also launched a city-wide food drive in the fall of 2013 that collected several tons of food.