For the past 61 years, three American Legion districts in Pittsburgh have hosted an annual youth achievement dinner. The dinner recognizes students in Allegheny County for achievements in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, American Legion Keystone Boys State and Auxiliary Girls State, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), academics, Oratorical Contest, the department’s essay contest on the responsibilities and duties of good citizenship, music and sports.
"The American Legion is dedicated to bringing the voices of our youth into the community and raising awareness about the remarkable achievements made by these amazing individuals year-round," said District 32 Commander Daniel Derence.
Allegheny County’s youth achievement dinner recognized 67 high school students this past April. The dinner was held at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh, with Legionnaires, parents, teachers and friends of the nominated students in attendance. The program featured an honor guard compromised of military and scholastic awardees from the JROTC programs, a POW/MIA ceremony, a guest speaker and the distribution of awards by Department of Pennsylvania Commander Joseph Cocco. Guest speaker was James Hales Jr., past department commander and a Marine combat veteran from the Vietnam War.
"This annual tradition focuses on (the Legion’s) Children & Youth (Pillar) by celebrating and recognizing the excellence of high school students," said Anne Manly, American Legion vice commander of Allegheny County. "The goal is to reward and inspire youth at the post and district levels and emphasize the importance of parents, families and guardians in the development of our nation’s young people and future leaders."
The students are nominated by Legion posts and guidance counselors. The selected students received a medal, a certificate of merit and a monetary award. Awardees included:
Maggie Donaldson, a senior at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and Deer Lakes High School who received the James P. Comiskey all-around excellence award for her participation in the National Honors Society, track, volleyball, cheerleading, student government and community service.
Nickolas Zanetta, a senior at Keystone Oaks High School who was recognized for his athletic achievements in wrestling and his full wrestling scholarship to the University of Pittsburg.
Dominic Moore, a junior at North Allegheny High School who received The American Legion Allegheny County Oratorical award.
Austin Jepsky, a senior at Moon Area High School who received the Allegheny County essay contest award.
The 2012 Boys State and Girls State delegates that were recognized and are planning to attend military service academies included: Aaron Fonner, Jacob Kocsis, Joshua Burger, Channing Nolan, Megan Rosenberger Grace Meakem and Maria Fabi,