PHILADELPHIA, PA - He ran voter drives, lobbied the Millburn Board of Education to recognize two new ethnic and religious holiday celebrations on their school calendar and more. Now, Ranen Miao is being recognized for his work during his time in town with a national award.
Miao joins 12 individuals and one group of students in being recognized with the Young Heroes award. Miao was specifically recognized for his work in advocating for marginalized voices through service with senior citizens in the Short Hills community, through leadership with underclassmen, and through political activism in the state of New Jersey.
TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills reached out to Miao for an email interview, where he spoke about the honor of being awarded.
"It is an incredible honor to have been nominated and selected for the Young Heroes Award," he said. "It is deeply humbling to know that both in the eyes of my teachers and of the selection committee, I’m seen as a leader and public servant."
In the interview, Miao credited his background as a minority and as a son of immigrants for giving him a unique perspective on struggle.
"Being an Asian American means that my family and I often feel a need to prove ourselves as truly American," he said. "However, I think America’s greatness and strength stems from our diversity, and we ought to strive for an inclusive and caring society which makes every person feel as if they have a place in our society."
When asked why he felt it was important to work locally in his community, Miao said, "This desire to promote inclusion and kindness is what drives me to service. No matter your religion, race, sexuality, gender identity, immigration status, or class, every person should know they have a place in our country...every person deserves dignity and respect."
"Working locally in Millburn-Short Hills was important for me because the first step in creating change is by working within your own community," Miao added. "I moved here at the beginning of high school, and wanted to get involved; through my work, I’ve met some of the greatest people and fallen in love with my high school and overall community."
He said that one of his favorite service projects was Key Club’s Color Run, which he helped organize three years in a row. For two of those years, Miao said the group raised funds for local families who were battling with cancer.
"Getting to work with families in our community and make a difference close to home gave me and the rest of our volunteers a much more personal relationship with the work we were doing," he said. "Getting to witness that impact is beyond fulfilling, and it’s why community service has always been such an important part of who I am."
Before the ceremony, Miao said that he is incredibly excited to meet the other Young Heroes being honored, and hopes to learn from the ways they contributed to their communities. As he heads off to college, Miao said he will look to bring those lessons with him to college to continue making an impact.
"In the future, I hope to stay engaged in community and public service," Miao said. "In college, I want to help plant trees around campus, work with local charities, join student groups that focus on creating inclusive spaces and remain politically involved by registering voters and lobbying in the state legislature.
"I’m not sure where I’m headed after college, but whether it be law school, a non-profit, or government, I’m excited to continue finding ways to give back to the people around me."
Miao will join other Young Heroes winners at an awards ceremony at the National Liberty Museum on Thursday, Aug. 15 where he will receive a certificate of recognition, medallion and gifts.
Additionally, a plaque featuring his story will be displayed for a year in the Museum's Young Heroes Exhibition.