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Awards

2019 Youth First Award 

The SYTA Youth Foundation (SYF) is actively seeking candidates for the prestigious Youth First Award. This award is given annually to the individual or organization (SYTA member) that demonstrates a commitment to enriching students’ lives through travel and/or contributing to the advancement of our industry through education, volunteer activities or community service. Please review the application for additional information and guidelines. Click here to apply.

Deadline: The 2019 Youth First Award nomination period ends Friday, June 7, 2019. 

All nominations must be submitted through the online application. The winner will be announced at the 2019 SYTA Annual Conference, August 9-13 in Birmingham, AL.

2019 Visionary Award 

The SYTA Youth Foundation (SYF) is actively seeking candidates for the prestigious Visionary Award. This award is given annually to the individual (member or non-member) that demonstrates a commitment to enriching students’ lives through travel and/or contributing to the advancement of our industry through education, volunteer activities or community service. Please review the application for additional information and guidelines. Click here to apply.

Deadline: The 2019 Visionary Award nomination period ends Friday, June 7, 2019.

All nominations must be submitted through the online application. The winner will be announced at the 2019 SYTA Annual Conference, August 9-13 in Birmingham, AL.

 

SYFAwards TobyOrenstein

2018 Youth First Award Recipient Spotlight: Toby Orenstein

The Youth First Award was awaredd to Toby Orenstein from Toby’s Dinner Theatre & Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts of Columbia, Maryland.

The Youth First Award is given to an individual or organization that demonstrates a commitment to enriching students’ lives through travel and/or contributing to the advancement of the industry through volunteer activities, community service or education.

Orenstein comes to work every day, passionate about theatre and education. With a positive attitude, she encourages her employees, students and volunteers to work hard, dream big and never give up.

Orenstein started her journey of service and education as a result of a phone call from Eleanor Roosevelt. As a recent graduate in Theatre and Education from Columbia University, she was selected as one of twelve teachers to go into the public schools in Harlem and use art—specifically theatre arts—to teach core classes such as English and Social studies to the at risk student population. Today, she is the founder and Director of the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts, a 501© (3) nonprofit organization, serving tens of thousands of children each year for over 40 years.

In 1976, for the Bicentennial celebration, Orenstein produced an original work called Celebrate America. It is a musical montage of the history of the United States performed through song, dance and monologue by a group she called, “The Young Columbians.” Now, generations of children have performed this piece at many prestigious venues around Maryland and beyond including Merriweather Post Pavilion, the White House, Wolf Trap and Disneyland. Students come from all over the state to participate in these unique and extraordinary theatrical arts experiences.

Orenstein is an innovator and activist and works tirelessly to ensure that groups traveling to the Maryland area have the best experience possible with regards to itinerary, lodging and entertainment.

At 81 years old—a time when most people are retired and slowing down to enjoy the rewards of their hard work—Orenstein is still going strong. Never content to rest on yesterday’s accomplishments, she continually sets herself new and bigger goals, whether it’s a new show she’s never tried before, a new initiative like her “Starfish Sponsor a Child” program that provides $35,000 in need-based scholarships to young artists each year, or bringing more arts to the county and state by helping create a new visual arts center.

 

SYFAwards BenjaminDotson

2018 Visionary Award Recipient Spotlight: Benjamin Dotson

The Visionary Award this year is awarded to Benjamin Dotson from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington—someone who has pursued and encouraged these kids to dream big and use travel as a means to explore the world.

Dotson makes them realize that there are endless opportunities for exploration and grow beyond their small city. He works hard to fundraise, establish partnerships and educate administrators on the importance of global education. He went as far as building up a revered horticulture program that uses some of the $25,000 in annual plant sales to fundraise trips and allow students from all socioeconomic backgrounds to participate.

Also a volunteer for several cultural exchange programs hosted at the school, Dotson organizes cultural events for visiting international students and goes the extra step of creating a buddy for them so the students have opportunities to make long-term, meaningful connections. For this year’s recipient, it’s all about making real connections to the people and the culture of the destinations he visits with young people.

 

 

EllenLurz Award

2017 Youth First Award Recipient Spotlight: Ellen Lurz

The recipient of the 2017 Youth First Award is Ellen Lurz from Book My Group.

The Youth First Award is given to an individual or organization that demonstrates a commitment to enriching students’ lives through travel and/or contributing to the advancement of the industry through volunteer activities, community service or education.

With an unwavering passion, commitment to the cause, and dedication to helping SYF grow in unprecedented ways, Ellen has truly been a servant to SYF. She has committed her personal treasures and time, and will be remembered most for her golden feet. Ellen is a past member of the board of trustees, has recruited more volunteers than one could imagine, both inside and outside the association. Through her commitment and determination to helping grow the SYF Running For Youth Team, the program has generated over $353,218 for SYF.

 

AmandaRoberson Award

2017 Visionary Award Recipient Spotlight: Amanda Roberson

The recipient of the 2017 Visionary Award is Amanda Roberson from Hard Rock Cafe.

The Visionary Award is given to an individual or organization that sees travel as a means to an end—as a way to achieve a greater goal in life for oneself and others. A true philanthropist, Amanda’s acts of volunteerism come entirely from the heart. She has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours, both locally and globally, and her work can only be categorized as truly selfless.

In the last few years, she has spent weeks of her own personal time and resources to volunteer and support organizations such as Streetlight USA, an organization that serves girls who have experienced sexual trauma. Amanda also works tirelessly with The Well and Breakthrough Thailand, as well as the A21 Campaign, to help young girls and women victimized by sex trafficking.

Her efforts don’t stop with these organizations: she is fully committed to SYF as well.

 

HarrisRosen

2016 Youth First Award Recipient Spotlight: Harris Rosen

Harris Rosen is the president and COO of Rosen Hotel & Resorts in Orlando, Florida, and is known for his philanthropic heart and his philosophy, which is “to do the right thing.” He generously provided the funds to create the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, supporting youth entering the field of hospitality and tourism. His philanthropic endeavors also include a scholarship endowment fund, providing all-expense paid education to youth in the Tangelo Park neighborhood, and contributed millions to build a Jewish Community Center, which accommodates approximately 150 students. Forbes magazine named Mr. Rosen as the 30th most generous philanthropist in 2008 in America for having given away over $30 million.

 

EricaRadler

2016 Visionary Award Recipient Spotlight: Erica Radler

Erica is a student, an athlete, and a humanitarian. She is a Sophomore at Wayne Hills High School in Wayne, New Jersey, where she is actively involved on the Student Council Executive Board and the Varsity Field Hockey Team. She has received the Silver Award within Girl Scouts after organizing her first of many color runs to benefit the SYTA Youth Foundation and is currently working towards her Gold Award, the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA. She continues to arrange color runs annually to benefit the SYTA Youth Foundation. Through her efforts, she was recognized by the American Association of University Women and was inducted into their Hall of Fame last year. She has also worked with her school and community to spread awareness of the importance of youth education and travel and is extremely honored to be receiving the Visionary Award. Please help me welcome this year’s Visionary award recipient Erica Radler.

 

RileyBanks

2015 Visionary Award Recipient Spotlight: Riley Banks

At 19 years old, Riley Banks is the executive director of the Generation Next. Riley was 13 years old when she visited Kenya for the first time. It was just a two-week trip, one that involved visiting family, feeding babies in a neonatal unit and serving in an orphanage. While visiting, she noticed the babies first: naked, diaper-less, and fed from a medicine cup instead of a bottle. She then noticed the children, sharing one pencil during their school lessons. She realized the barriers to education the students faced while sharing their supplies, and she decided to help change that one situation.

• She founded Generation Next and began collecting school supplies. A year later, she returned to the orphanage in Kenya with 200 backpacks full of supplies.

• Generation Next then collected 200 hygiene kits for girls, and during Riley’s third trip to Kenya Generation Next distributed them to girls in need, then partnered with Nomad Charities to host a medical clinic that served 1,324 people.

 

JohnKamm

2015 Youth First Award Recipient Spotlight: John Kamm

John Kamm has been a member of the travel and tourism industry for more than 25 years and has contributed to SYTA in various ways. In his many roles as a board member, officer, donor and consultant, Kamm works to help SYTA Youth Foundation Board of Trustees members support today's youth. His efforts ensure the proper management and growth of SYF scholarship programs, and he encourages the organization to maintain its important degree of professionalism. Kamm continues to give tirelessly to this foundation.

 

Vivian

2014 Visionary Award Recipient Spotlight: Vivian Connell

Vivian Connell began traveling with students while teaching at Greenville, South Carolina's J.L. Mann High School. The school's principal was dedicated to whole-child education, offering learning beyond tests and academic knowledge. Teachers were committed to student travel, and Connell was recruited as a chaperone. Her first trip, to St. Augustine, Florida, was primarily bonding for freshmen who'd never left the area. Juniors visited Washington, D.C., for American history, seeing the U.S. Capitol, Washington Monument, National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery, and Smithsonian Institution. 

"I absolutely loved these trips!" she said. "I loved the teachers who made them happen and agreed with their philosophy that travel is important."

To read more about Connell's adventures with her students, click here to read this article in its entirety in Teach & Travel magazine.

Photo: 2014 Youth First Recipient, Vivian Connell (Photo courtesy of Jeff Reed/National Archives)

 

BobHoffman

2014 Youth First Award Recipient Spotlight: Bob Hofmann

Bob Hofmann has been a part of the travel and tourism industry for more than 25 years and is one of the community's key leaders. He has been a SYTA member for more than 10 years and has held various Board of Directors positions. He is also an active leader in many of other industry organizations. Hofmann helps connect members within this community—more often than not, he is the first person to greet those who are new to the student and youth travel industry. Hofmann's commitment to this industry is obvious. He clearly believes travel changes young lives for the better.

 Erica is a student, an athlete, and a humanitarian. She is a Sophomore at Wayne Hills High School in Wayne, New Jersey, where she is actively involved on the Student Council Executive Board and the Varsity Field Hockey Team. She has received the Silver Award within Girl Scouts after organizing her first of many color runs to benefit the SYTA Youth Foundation and is currently working towards her Gold Award, the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA. She continues to arrange color runs annually to benefit the SYTA Youth Foundation. Through her efforts, she was recognized by the American Association of University Women and was inducted into their Hall of Fame last year. She has also worked with her school and community to spread awareness of the importance of youth education and travel and is extremely honored to be receiving the Visionary Award. Please help me welcome this year’s Visionary award recipient Erica Radler.

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