Some of the youngest activists against homelessness and domestic violence in the District of Columbia spent an afternoon in the spotlight as crusaders for the disadvantaged.

Washington, D.C.’s Xi Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., held its annual Youth Service Awards June 10, 2012 at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus in Southeast to highlight the achievements of four outstanding teens and two local non-profit organizations that have demonstrated tremendous community service and leadership.

First Vice President Alicia Johnson told the crowd “these are teens and non-profit organizations who perform extraordinary acts of service with reliability and commitment, but who seldom receive recognition. Today we say thank you to those who have picked up the mantle of leadership in community action”.

RyShanik Chisholm, 18, who attends Chesapeake High School in Baltimore, MD, slept outside in a cardboard box in the January winter with the homeless to bring awareness to their plight. The next day, she served them meals that she prepared. She said the experience allowed her to see them as real people. Chisholm was the first student recognized with a plaque highlighting her advocacy and a monetary award of $150. Nichita Mason, 17, a student at Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High School in the District was honored for leading her community against domestic violence. She has focused on unhealthy relationships among teens and helped to organize forums so her peers can better identify signs of abuse. Two other students, Chinenye Amadi, a 16 year old student at Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter HS in Washington received recognition for distributing food to homeless families. Mya Harris, 14, who attends Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, MD, traveled to New Orleans to support efforts in the post Hurricane Katrina restoration.

The program also recognized two nonprofit organizations for their work in the community. My Sister’s Place, is the largest and oldest organization in the District that exclusively serves battered women and their children. Agatha Thomasik accepted a plaque and monetary support from the sorority and welcomed Xi Zeta Omega as a new partner in the effort to empower battered women to take control of their lives. The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project also received a youth service award for providing more than 120 youngsters with vital activities and healthy snacks as part of an effort to reduce the traumatic effects of being in temporary housing.

All of the student honorees said they are forever changed by their experiences and vowed to always fight for their causes. Christopher Bradshaw, the program’s keynote speaker, encouraged the young advocates to never stop because “this is about humanizing the plight of the less fortunate,” Bradshaw is founder of Dreaming Out Loud, Inc., an organization dedicated to bringing attention to underserved children and families around the world.