BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Within Union County many young people volunteer their time to make a difference in the world, but it is those who do so without drawing attention to themselves that are true heros. Wednesday night the high schools in Union County recognized one junior and one senior, selected by the school staff, who has overcome hardships, models citizenship, and displays a spirit of quiet strength with the Union County "Unsung Hero" Award.
New Providence High School's staff and administration selected junior Katie Kinum and senior Katie Tselepsis to receive this honor. Both have gone above and beyond to serve the New Providence Community, making it a better place for residents.
Kinum is a standout athlete on the basketball court who has reached the incredible feat of 1,000 career points in only three varsity seasons. Her athletic contributions are only the tip of what she brings to the school. As the oldest of five girls, Kinum learned how to be independent and compassionate towards others despite their differences. As a sophomore she put this lesson into motion by bringing the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign to New Providence High School. The campaign brings awareness to the hurtfulness of the word "retarded".
Kinum has continuously fundraised by selling products at sporting events and donating all proceeds to Special Olympics. Recently Katie organized a short basketball game to be played during halftime by students at the Children's Institute of Livingston which is a private institution for children with autism and disabilities.
Kinum was extremely humbled by the award and in true "Unsung Hero" spirit, talked about the community which she serves and the other recipients when asked about her philanthropy.
"Sitting there I realized how lucky I am to live in such a supportive and compassionate community where there are so many great people willing to give back despite their own personal hardships," Kinum stated, "Knowing that there are so many people putting others first made being included in this group such an honor."
Tselepsis is a member of the Pioneer Volleyball team and involved in the Model United Nations club. During her summers she gives back to the surrounding communities as a lifeguard and an intern with the Summit Police Department.
Despite her illuminating presence at New Providence High School and selfless acts within the community, life has not always been kind to Tselepsis. When she was three and half years old her father passed away tragically in the attacks on September 11th. Tselepsis has gone through life watching her friends spend time with their fathers at "Daddy Daughter Dances" and sporting events. Rather than wallowing in her sorrows, she has involved herself deeply in her service in order to better the lives of others.
Principal Lauren Zirpoli presented Tselepsis with the award and described her as, "A strong and mature young woman."
Next year Tselepsis will be continuing her education at University of Illinois, her father's alma mater. She intends on majoring in social work in light of all those who have helped her through her own personal struggles.
Editor's Note: Karly Deland is a senior at Gov. Livingston High School, participating in the TAPinto internship program. To learn more about how to be part of the program email firstname.lastname@example.org.