A 17-year old Filipino-American received an award in the United States for her “selfless dedication” and a strong desire to give back to her community.
Jeanelle Pua Mapili, a student from Adams High School in Rochester Hills, Michigan, was bestowed with the 2020 Youth Recognition Award by the board of directors of Rochester Area Youth Assistance (RAYA).
Mapili spearheaded the “Dora Backpack Drive,” an outreach program for students in a remote village in Isabela, Philippines.
As a member of the National Honor Society in the US, Jeanelle collected school supplies from fellow students and peers for donation. To date, over 500 people have benefited from the drive.
The RAYA awarding ceremony was scheduled to be held on March 24 but was indefinitely postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. Jeanelle’s certificate was hand-delivered by the board of directors last May 2020.
“I was astonished to receive the award, but I am delighted to be able to have the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives in my own way. The award itself allowed me to have a tangible reflection of the collective achievements made as a community to help others, but the smile on their faces is more than enough to fill my heart with content,” she told the Philippine News Agency.
She offered her achievement to her parents and to her aunt, Shirley Mapili, who took care of her and her brother in the Philippines but already passed away in Ontario, Canada in November 2019.
Aside from the “Dora Backpack Drive,” Jeanelle had also participated in various outreach programs in the Philippines with the support of her family, particularly her mother, Sarah, who herself also led donation drive back in 2012.
“The only way I was able to complete my studies in physical therapy was through a full scholarship by the Philippine government. It has been my legacy to give back to our community who needed the most. I know how it feels to be in that situation and I’m glad that through our kids, the legacy of giving back to the community lives on,” Sarah said.
Brigido Mapili Jr., Jeanelle’s father, likewise expressed his pride and joy with the recognition her daughter received.
“We are blessed with what she has grown into and we support her in whatever she will become. We know that she will always have a big heart for community service. Jeanelle is a part of a generation that actively makes change in the present in order for a better future tomorrow,” he said.
The RAYA award honors deserving youth who endeavor to overcome major obstacles to reach their goals and “demonstrate perseverance beyond the ordinary”. (Joyce Ann Rocamora, PNA)