Youth Recognition Awards shine spotlight on local students

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 31, 2024

 The 28h edition of the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance Youth Recognition Awards is scheduled to take place May 1 at West Bloomfield Middle School.

The 28h edition of the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance Youth Recognition Awards is scheduled to take place May 1 at West Bloomfield Middle School.

Photos provided by Connie Kanoyton


WEST BLOOMFIELD — Carol Hack has been a part of the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance program for approximately 35 years.

Since making the decision to get involved, aside from observing how the nonprofit has grown, Hack, who is currently a member-at-large, has also noticed the positive effect it can have on the lives of youth.

West Bloomfield Youth Assistance is a nonprofit organization that offers professional counseling services and conducts prevention programs for youth and their families in the West Bloomfield School District.

According to Hack, every school district in Oakland County has a youth assistance program.

Connie Kanoyton, who is the office and event coordinator for the WBYA, described the nonprofit as an Oakland County Circuit Court Family Division prevention and diversion program.

“We get financial support from the local district,” Kanoyton said. “What we do is we try to prevent youth from getting into trouble. We do mentoring programs and casework services that’s at no cost to the families. … We do all of these things for the youth to help them stay on the right track. … Some of them have some behavioral problems, and we have a caseworker on staff.”

Part of what the WBYA does is call attention to the positive contributions that some youth are making in their communities.

One way of doing that is via the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance Youth Recognition Awards, and this spring the nonprofit is set to host its 28th edition of the awards.

The event is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. May 1 at West Bloomfield Middle School, with Lorie N. Savin, who is a judge with the Oakland County Circuit Court Family Division, set to be the guest speaker.

Local schools, hospitals, religious organizations, police and fire departments, and private residents can nominate youths for recognition at the ceremony.

The nomination deadline was scheduled for March 29, and Kanoyton was expecting 40 nominees.

According to Kanoyton, the age range for nominees is 18 and under.

“The award is to recognize youth who have made an impact in our community, whether it be for volunteer services, a concern for the wellbeing of others, or their own personal self-growth,” Kanoyton said. “All of these individuals have made a difference in the community.”

Hack recalled that about 30 years ago, there were maybe five students recognized, with that number now having grown to around 40, which includes some students who are part of a group.

“Once a student gets into the system, he can soar like a butterfly and become a good adult, a good young person, and that’s what the recognition’s all about,” Hack said. “Sometimes a kid can start the school year out on a bad note. His grades aren’t good, he’s not paying attention, he’s fighting, and by the end of the school year this kid has turned himself around, and he’s now a leader in his class and he’s a mentor. Those kids can get recognized at youth recognition.”

From Kanoyton’s perspective, sometimes the attention that is brought to youth is for the “worst” of what they’re doing. However, her aspiration is for those who are doing positive things to also be recognized.

“Everyone wants to feel like they made a difference, or they brought something to the table,” Kanoyton said. “We like to make sure our youth feels good about what they’re doing, because there’s a lot of things happening in the community. … (There’s) a lot of youth out there that’s doing really good things.”

Hack is of the opinion that the benefits of youth being recognized can have more than just a temporary effect.

“I believe youth recognition builds stronger students and stronger young adults, and it helps the community be a stronger community,” she said. “I think once you give a child recognition that’s not expecting (it), he just goes on to be an even better person. I think it does more good for the community to recognize our young people for the things they’re not expecting recognition for.”

Those interested in volunteer opportunities can send an email to

Kanoyton — who acknowledged the team she has to work with at the WBYA, including Carol Finkelstein, who is part of the West Bloomfield School District Board of Education and the chair for the youth assistance recognition committee, and Jennifer Sepetys, who is a teacher at West Bloomfield High and the co-chair of the youth assistance program — described the Youth Recognition Awards as “almost like a graduation,” with recipients walking across a stage and receiving their awards.

“I encourage the community to come out and see what these youth are doing, where they can actually see that our youth are doing some positive things in the community and they’re making a big difference,” she said. “Sometimes they’re not always recognized for it.”

For more information about the nonprofit or to make a donation, visit