Hauppauge, NY – 14-year-old Michael Keschner garnered gold at the Suffolk County Legislature’s 2019 Distinguished Youth Award ceremony on July 17th. Out of 31 recipients, Michael was the only teenager in the 18th Legislative District of Suffolk County to capture this honor.
“Michael Keschner is an exceptional candidate for the Suffolk County Legislature’s Distinguished Youth Award,” said Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer, “I’ve had the privilege to meet with him multiple times throughout the program, and each time I’ve been impressed by his thoughtfulness and dedication to completing the goals he set. Congratulations! ”
Now in its second year, the Distinguished Youth Award challenges Suffolk County youth ages 13-18 to venture into the community and complete goals meant to promote personal development. The award is split into four tiers: Volunteer Service, which required 200 hours of volunteering meant to benefit community members; Personal Development, which requires spending 100 hours on personal improvement; Exploration, requiring students to visit 15 Suffolk County Parks; and Physical Fitness, putting students through 100 hours of physical and mental activity. Completing two of the four tiers awards students with a bronze medal, three out of the four a silver medal, and completing all four tasks a gold medal. Though two out of four tiers was the baseline to receive a bronze medal, some students went above and beyond. Michael was one of 21 recipients in the program to complete all four tasks and to receive a gold medal at the award ceremony.
“When I started this endeavor 12 months ago I was determined to meet the goals I set and excited about the experiences I’d have throughout the process,” remarked Michael. “What I could never have imagined was the personal transformation it encouraged and how it shaped my view of what it means to be a community member.”
Michael completed 100 hours of biking riding to meet the physical fitness requirement and visited 15 of Suffolk County’s beautiful parks to complete the exploration requirement.
To reach his 100 hour personal development goal, he started a chess club at the Tri CYA, a local youth agency, where for the past 10 months he regularly met with boys ages 9-12 to play and study the strategy of the game. During this time, he not only developed his skills as a player, but transitioned into a teaching role. “Over this past year I have tried to teach the boys that devising a plan and putting it into action regardless of the distractions around you is not only how you win at chess but also in life. Together we’ve learned through our chess time that every move has a purpose, confidence is crucial, and you can’t let the small changes to your plan, or bumps in the road throw you off course,” said Michael.
For the 200 hour volunteer portion of the program, Michael began volunteering at Gateway Community Garden last May, which turned into recreating a not-for-profit, Veggies for Veterans. At the garden, he worked alongside 2 veterans to donate produce to the Harry Chapin Food Bank for Military Appreciation Day. Not wanting to end his efforts there, Michael began regularly holding food drives and in total has delivered 700lbs of fresh produce to food insecure veterans living in Huntington. In the 2019-2020 year, Michael plans to expand the reach of Veggies for Veterans to supply produce for veterans in Freeport.
Students interested in participating in the 2019-2020 Distinguished Youth Award class can register through September 30th. To access an application and information packet about the program, visit the Suffolk County Legislature website at https://www.scnylegislature.us/896/Distinguished-Youth-Award. For additional information, please contact Program Coordinator Jerome Bost at 631-853-6355 or via email at DistinguishedYouthAward@suffolkcountyny.gov.
Pictured: Michael Keschner (center) joined with Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (left) and Elizabeth Alexander, Chief Legislative Aide to Legislator William Spencer (right).