One hundred of the region's best and brightest were honored yesterday at the National Constitution Center for being who they are.
Namely, really good kids.
Take Bonnie McDevitt of Abington Senior High School.
Last summer, McDevitt was part of a group that went to Mali in Africa to help build a school. She's now involved in raising the money to pay for a water pump at the school. In a few months, she will travel to Guatemala with a humanitarian group to deliver used eyeglasses she collects. Ask her why, and she smiles.
"I just feel good when I give to other people," McDevitt said. "It's nice to see them smile."
McDevitt was of one of the youngsters celebrated by The Inquirer yesterday in its second annual student citizenship awards ceremony.
The students were nominated by their schools using criteria such as community and school service, leadership, scholastic achievement and character. All seniors, they hail from New Jersey and Pennsylvania and attend public, private and parochial schools.
The contributions of this year's honorees were many and varied. They have fought world hunger and fed the needy close to home. They have volunteered to aid the sick and helped raise money to find cures. They have mentored children, championed respect for diversity - and that's just for starters. They are scholars, athletes and artists.
"We're here today because we want to recognize the cream of the crop," said Mayor Street, addressing the students, family members and educators.
Inquirer publisher Brian P. Tierney and editor William K. Marimow presented each of the 100 winners - up from 72 last year - with a commemorative medallion. The students also received $100 gift cards, and each of their schools was given a plaque honoring its student.
There was, indeed, a lot to honor.
Mark M. Quien of Moorestown High School regularly volunteers with the homeless and started the Urban Challenge Club, which collects goods and delivers them to the needy.
Shanay Ireland of Parkway Center City High School is not only her school's president, she's an activist for safe sex and against violence in her city. Why does she do it?
"Because it's what I believe in," the West Philadelphia teenager said. "There are so many other things we can do. Violence shouldn't be a part of that. There's many other things we can achieve."
Fellow honoree Samiyha Wilborn isn't only vice president at her school, Parkway West High School, and active in citywide student government: The aspiring pediatrician has fed the homeless, helped with voter registration drives, and collected toys and food for the needy.
"I like to help people, and I figure why not give back to my community?" Wilborn said.
Judging from yesterday, others believe the same.
Meghan E. Haley of Conwell-Egan Catholic High School in Fairless Hills volunteers at a nursing home, worked with Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia, tutors first graders, and is a varsity cheerleader.
Jahna Ferron-Smith of Springfield (Montgomery County) Township High School works with children who have cerebral palsy. The student actress also volunteers as an elementary school aide and with a therapeutic horseback-riding club.
Musa Muhammad of Cherokee High School in Marlton is cofounder of THIS: Teenagers Helping Inner-city Students. He's been involved with breast cancer and heart walks, roadside cleanups, food bank and voter registration assistance, and has read to children in Camden.
Those were just a smattering of the honorees, many of whom were congratulated by Tierney again after the ceremony.
In the young people like those present yesterday, he said, he saw reason for hope.
"I'm very optimistic about this generation," Tierney said. "I'm optimistic about the region, and it's fact-based."