2021 Caring Heart Awards

Fourteen Northwest academy students received the $500 Caring Heart Award scholarship made possible through three-way funding from the North Pacific Union Conference, local conferences and academies. Students were selected by their schools for exemplifying the spirit of the Caring Heart — a willingness to serve others. The North American Division provided each student with a plaque and an engraved Bible. The scholarships may be used toward tuition at an Adventist school or on a short-term mission trip.

Kendra Burtch

Amazing Grace Academy

Palmer, Alaska

Kendra Burtch grew up about an hour away from Anchorage, Alaska — far enough out of the city to practice chicken-herding skills on a flock of 14 hens. When she was in sixth grade, she was grateful to have an opportunity to shepherd children, spending an hour a week tutoring third and fourth grade students at Amazing Grace Academy and assisting in kindergarten Sabbath School.

After several years helping fetch, carry and clean up for Camp Tukuskoya work bees, she was thrilled when the camp hosted Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in 2018. Kendra joined the kitchen crew. As campers passed through the cafeteria line, the kitchen volunteers communicated warmth and humor with every burrito or scoop of potatoes.

During Kendra's high school years, she volunteered as an attorney in Youth Court, working with a courthouse team to create redemptive service opportunities for Alaskan youth. As a youth and Growing Young liaison in the Palmer Church, Kendra worked with youth team leaders to plan and produce a special church worship service for the Sabbath of Easter weekend. Kendra looks forward to working at Big Lake Youth Camp and pursuing a career in chaplaincy at Walla Walla University.


Payton Arnett

Auburn Adventist Academy

Auburn, Washington

Payton Arnett stands out as a young person determined to help wherever he can. Payton's passion for serving both his church and school is clearly seen by all who know him. On two occasions, he led a youth group debate through which he revealed a natural zeal and skill as an apologist. In those debates, Payton demonstrated intellectual rigor in defending his faith through reason and the Word. 

Payton led an apologetics club at Auburn Adventist Academy every week. He took the initiative to gather students and organize a time and place for club meetings. Payton believes the Word of God can transform lives. His dedication is admired by both his church and fellow students.

Payton is the sort of student you can count on whenever you need help with a church service or outreach in the community. He is involved in so many church events because of his servant heart. 

"As a natural leader in the Auburn Adventist Academy Church, Payton is a massive support to me as a pastor," said Rome Ulia, pastor. "He is a blessing both in the youth ministry and to his fellow students at the academy."


Abigail Sissons

Columbia Adventist Academy

Battle Ground, Washington

“A living plethora of dichotomies” is a phrase to begin describing the recipient of Columbia Adventist Academy's most recent Caring Heart Award winner. One could say Abigail Sissons is introvertedly outgoing, passively active and quietly outspoken. Her leadership style is one of strength in serving. The sign of Abigail's caring heart doesn’t start with those in her outer circle but with those in her inner circle. It then extends out and beyond.

This care and concern begins with her family and extends to her friends. As the president of both her junior and senior class during pandemic school years, Abigail showed incredible care and concern for her classmates and class sponsors. She took steps to ensure all were encouraged. She buoyed them up with words of support when things seemed to be going poorly.

After spending her first nine years as a missionary kid, Abigail has a deeply embedded love for travel, mission trips, eating new foods and learning about the world around her. She is a dedicated disciple of Christ and cares about others. She has an eye for finding those who need her care, whether it’s a baby, a child, a student or a homeless person.

Abby planned her senior project around that gift of caring. She recognized a need for feminine and hygiene products for single moms and homeless women. As a result, she went on a mission of collecting 75 purses, filling them with hygiene products, lotions, hand sanitizers, dental care items and many other necessities.

The CAA family was blessed to have Abby for four years. They pray God will continue to bless her life with godly characteristics so many lives will receive a clearer picture of the incredible God she serves.


Faith Pepple

Cascade Christian Academy

Wenatchee, Washington 

Throughout Faith Pepple's nine years at CCA, she has demonstrated her desire to be a lifelong learner and citizen of the world. She joined a biennial mission trip to the King’s Children’s Home in Belmopan, Belize. She spoke at local churches for Education Sabbaths, accepted roles in plays, spoke and sang in praise groups for week of worship, and led the girls' volleyball team as captain.

As CCA's yearbook editor, Faith mentored younger students on the yearbook staff and worked alongside the faculty advisor. She maintained her 4.0 GPA while juggling an after-school job, volleyball practices and her role as the senior class president.

Faith's caring heart was revealed most recently by the sincere care and involvement in the lives of two international students. As soon as the students arrived to the U.S., Faith reached out. This was not such an easy task because CCA juniors and seniors had not returned to campus for in-person learning. Nevertheless, Faith developed a fast friendship through social media and helped them transition smoothly to CCA campus life. 

While Faith’s talents and interests are many, she's decided she wants to serve God and make a difference in the lives of people.

Faith plans to pursue a double major in political science and journalism at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee — her first destination in finding her niche in the world.  


Ely Ingraham

Gem State Adventist Academy

Caldwell, Idaho

Ely Ingraham is a junior at Gem State Adventist Academy. His infectious smile and welcoming personality are well-known and appreciated around campus. Ely is a friend to all and offers kindness to anyone who crosses his path. He is the first to volunteer when assistance is needed and genuinely shines with a positive outlook on life.

“I have appreciated watching Ely instantly befriend guests who have come to campus, drawing them in right away to be involved in an activity and making them feel welcome,” said one GSAA staff member. “He has a big heart.”

Ely has also taken his gifts of service to summer camp. Camp Ida-Haven staff observe that “he brings a willingness to teach others and is excited about the ministry he provides to kids.”

No matter where life’s journey may take him, Ely’s friendliness, willingness to help and optimistic attitude will bless those with whom he comes in contact. God will continue to be able to use his heart of service in untold ways.


Bianca Franco-Godoy

Livingstone Adventist Academy

Salem, Oregon

Bianca has been blessing LAA since she was in the second grade. She is a light that shines Christ's love to everyone with whom she comes in contact. She reaches out and connects with other students regardless of their age, grade or gender.

Bianca is a spiritual and social leader in her class and her school. She's been actively involved in ministry throughout her high school years, organizing and participating in Bible studies and regularly sharing her beautiful voice as a worship leader to bring the LAA school family to Christ.

Bianca brings excitement and enthusiasm to LAA sports programs, especially while playing volleyball and basketball.

Bianca has a passion for ministry and has been such a blessing to the LAA community and beyond. In addition to her leadership at LAA, Bianca organizes and leads youth worship at REVIVE Church in Keizer, Oregon, where she shares a strong presence in her home church. 

The LAA school family is excited to see the amazing things God will do through Bianca. They know her compassion and love for others will continue to be a beacon of light shining for all to see the love of God.


Kaitlin Walters

Milo Adventist Academy

Days Creek, Oregon

During Kaitlin's four years at Milo Adventist Academy, she maintained a 4.0 GPA. Not only is she academically gifted, she aspires to live her life for Jesus.

Kaitlin's leadership skills developed while serving as a junior class executive vice president, girls’ dorm resident assistant and student chaplain. She also participated in a mission trip to Louisiana and spent a summer working for Youth Rush, a literature evangelism ministry.

Most notably, Kaitlin spent two years as a student coordinator for Red Cross blood drives. The total number of units donated under her coordination was so impressive she was awarded a scholarship. 

Kaitlin’s compassion is evident to those blessed by her random drop-ins. She's known for checking on others to see how they are doing mentally and emotionally, especially during the pandemic.

Kaitlin's positive and resilient attitude stands out.  She looks for the good in others, finds ways to turn lemons into lemonade then she shares the results with those around her.

Because of these qualities, teachers and staff chose Kaitlin to receive this year’s Caring Heart Award as a representative of the many caring hearts that fill Milo’s campus.

Kaitlin plans to attend Walla Walla University this fall and major in biology. She is the daughter of Karen Walters from Gold Hill, Oregon.


Samuel DePaula

Mount Ellis Academy

Bozeman, Montana 

Throughout his four years at MEA, Samuel has shown a love for Christ and a passion for all of the endeavors he has chosen to pursue. He is a dedicated resident hall advisor in the King Hall dormitory and a true leader in every aspect of MEA life. 

Samuel's faithful work as a worship leader has blessed MEA over the years. His responsible leadership as a go-to sound booth operator served both the church and school.

For his senior project, Samuel chose to remodel the sound booth to make it more user-friendly for future sound operators. It was an enormous task to complete. But as a musician and frequent user of the sound booth, he understood the need.

Samuel was chosen to receive the Caring Heart Award because he faithfully demonstrates care and service to his MEA community. The MEA school family looks forward to seeing how Samuel will continue to honor the gospel commission of service to others.  


Ulani Brown

Portland Adventist Academy

Portland, Oregon

Ulani Brown is the kind of person everyone wants to be near. Her infectious laughter energizes PAA hallways and classrooms and her can-do and collaborative spirit leads her peers through thick and thin.

Teachers say Ulani is the kind of student who volunteers for tasks not tied to a grade or reward. She has a sincere desire to help others.

That spirit shined brightest during PAA mission trips and downtown service projects as Ulani connected with the most vulnerable people in the community. She engaged houseless people as friends and served them with the kind of dignity Jesus wants for all.

Seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus is how Ulani is able to deal with injustices in the world. With moral courage, she works to "be the change she wants to see" in her school, church and world. She inspires her fellow students, coaches, pastors and teachers to follow the Micah 6:8's call to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.

Ulani Brown graduates from PAA with the Christ-centered and character-driven values her teachers, pastors and coaches strive to inspire. Her PAA family celebrates her courageous spirit and her ever-faithful, caring heart.


Bauer Meeks

Puget Sound Adventist Academy

Kirkland, Washington

Bauer Meeks was selected by the staff of PSAA to receive the Caring Heart Award because of his helpfulness and his keen sense and ability to connect with others.

Bauer is eager to serve in various ways. He would often ask teachers how he could be helpful with school programs and events. With a servant-style leadership, he took initiative to help fellow students with homework or any challenge they face. He was especially gifted at reaching those who experience loneliness.   

Bauer also served as the student body spiritual vice president, giving several devotional talks to his peers as well as the younger children at Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School. 

These traits set Bauer apart as a student who truly cares about his school and community. Bauer has made a noticeable impact on the PSAA school community. His school family is certain he will continue to do so wherever God leads. 


Madelyn Bennett

Rogue Valley Adventist Academy

Medford, Oregon

This year's Rogue Valley Adventist Academy Caring Heart recipient is Madelyn Bennett. Madelyn is the daughter of Brad and Yasmin Bennett, and the big sister to Keslyn and Lauryn. She began attending RVAA as a first grade student but roamed campus long before she was a student because her father is a teacher.

Madelyn has a love for music. She plays an important role as the main accompanist for the high school and elementary choirs. She also actively participates in the music programs at her home church in Medford.

Through her high school years, Madelyn was involved in mission trips to places like Costa Rica and Paradise, California. She also looked forward to the community service days when she could interact with her local community. Madelyn has a sincere passion for helping others, and her RVAA community will miss her as she heads to college.


Katie Szabo

Skagit Adventist Academy

Burlington, Washington

Skagit Adventist Academy is pleased to nominate one of its juniors, Katie Szabo, as this year’s Caring Heart Award recipient. Katie consistently demonstrates great leadership on campus and recently served as the student body secretary/treasurer. Katie has a strong sense of leadership and spiritual maturity. It has led her to be involved in feeding the local homeless through Skagit County Friendship House as well as participating in various outreach activities at church.   

Katie’s artistic talent blesses SAA. She personalized the high school commons with a full-sized mural. In addition to sharing her gifts, she has demonstrated quiet leadership working on classroom projects, leading drama for week of worship and assisting faculty families.

Katie’s plans for the future include attending college. She’s not set on a specific major but has expressed an interest in business and marketing. 


Richard Scott

Upper Columbia Academy

Spangle, Washington

If you want to see Christ shining through someone, meet Richard Scott. Richard exudes positivity, humility and love in his generous involvement at UCA.

Richard served as a resident assistant at UCA, demonstrating his dependability and care for others. While holding a role as UCA's student body vice president, he was an engaging leader while remaining humble in his work. He joined his voice with UCA's Choraliers and has spent two years at his summer home, Camp MiVoden.

It is not uncommon for Richard to volunteer to help clean up after events or be spotted opening the door for others and saying “hi” to everyone he comes in contact with. Even in the midst of tough times, he faithfully chooses to find light in the darkness. His optimism shines at UCA and creates an atmosphere of contagious positivity. 

Richard is a person who exudes humility, love and a positive attitude in everything he does. It is for these reasons he was chosen as this year's recipient of the Caring Heart Award.


Zoey Brenes

Walla Walla Valley Academy

College Place, Washington

Zoey Brenes discovered the joy of service in eighth grade. That year, she was part of a group that wrote grant proposals and conducted fundraising for a community playground. She was hooked.

Zoey’s service activities often support sports teams. She worked as a baseball team manager all four years of high school and she helped as a line judge for volleyball games. That service extended beyond local school teams when she volunteered for regional tournaments, such as Walla Walla University’s annual Fall Classic.  

Although COVID-19 limited tournaments, it didn't keep Zoey from finding new ways to serve.

Early in the pandemic, she quietly helped organize birthday drive-bys to help fellow students feel connected. As her church resumed in-person worship services, she stepped in to help greet people. Then she volunteered to help at a vaccination drive.

As a lifelong Walla Walla resident, Zoey is a four-year participant in orchestra and drama at WWVA. In the past year, she met her biological parents for the first time, which she counts as the most significant event of her life so far.

Next year, Zoey plans to attend Kettering College in Ohio, where she will study human biology in preparation for medical school and a lifetime of service.

Featured in: July/August 2021