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'Best and brightest' young citizens honored

More than 100 students from 29 schools were recognized on Thursday night in the East Division of Trib Total Media's Outstanding Young Citizen program.

A banquet to honor the students, who were nominated by parents, school administrators and friends, was held at the Churchill Valley Country Club in Penn Hills.

"These are some of the best and brightest young people that our region has to offer," said Ralph Martin, president and CEO of Trib Total Media. "They go over and above, each and every day, striving to make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of others."

WPXI-TV sports reporter Rich Walsh, who served as keynote speaker, urged the students to be diligent in their pursuits.

"You have to work hard in life to achieve what you want because there is so much competition," he said as he described his own path to success. "You make your own luck because things aren't given to you."

The 10 Gold Medal winners selected from among 115 nominees are:

-- Jayme Ranae Andrekanic, a senior at McKeesport High School, performs in the high school musical and volunteers with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. She plans to work in a health care-related field that assists children with disabilities.

-- Michael Booker, a Winchester Thurston senior, is a Young Leadership Council Scholar and a senior captain of the soccer team. He plans to study biomedical engineering.

-- Neil Carleton, a junior at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, is a participant in the Baginski Scholars Program and an assistant captain of the varsity hockey team. He plans to study biomedical engineering.

-- Jessica Chalfant, a South Allegheny junior, volunteers with Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh and is a member of the school's marching, concert and jazz bands. She plans to attend law school.

-- Chareeni Kurukulasuriya, a senior at Taylor Allderdice, is a semifinalist in the Siemens Foundation competition and has won multiple awards in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science. She will study biomedical engineering at Yale University.

-- Kaitlin McCarthy, a Plum senior, volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, and is a member of the golf team, the women's choir and stage crew. She will study engineering at Virginia Tech.

-- Alexander Murph, a junior at Trinity Christian, is editor of the school newspaper, involved in the drama and Spanish clubs, and volunteers at UPMC St. Margaret. He plans to study mathematics.

-- Chelsi Swank, a South Allegheny senior, is the marching band drum major, senior class vice president and yearbook editor. She plans to study dance and cinematography.

-- Jennifer Urban, a sophomore at South Allegheny, performs in the concert band, is a majorette in the marching band, and volunteers with the Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. She hopes to study zoology, biology or dance.

-- Allison Walker, a junior at Oakland Catholic, is a first-place regional winner in the Junior Academy of Science, a member of the varsity swimming and volleyball teams, and volunteers at UPMC Passavant. She wants to pursue a career in health care.

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