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Youth Citizen of the Year: Jeremiah Jones

HAWLEY — At 6:30 a.m. on school days, teachers and students would often see Jeremiah Jones and his teammates painting the hallways, fixing the trophy cases and cleaning classrooms of Mohawk Trail Regional High School.

The 18-year-old three-sport athlete has helped create a culture of civic and community responsibility at Mohawk Trail Regional High School over the past four years.

At graduation this year, at times it seemed he was stealing the show, receiving repeated accolades.

This year, the Hawley native has been chosen as The Recorder’s 8th annual Youth Citizen of the Year, an honor awarded to outstanding students who contribute to the community.

An award ceremony will be held at the high school on Ashfield Road in Buckland today. Weather permitting, the event will be held outside in the school court yard. If it rains, it will be held inside the school cafeteria by a vivid mural Jones helped to paint.

Principal Lynn Dole, Assistant Principal Joey Kotright-Clark and Athletic Director Fred Redeker nominated the graduate.

“Truly, he’s an extraordinary young person and young citizen,” said Dole. “I’ve worked in education since 1997 and worked with many amazing students. I think Jeremiah is just extraordinary in his citizenship and leadership.”

Dole’s sentiment is expressed by many Mohawk staff and students.

The modest young leader has also been awarded the 2013 Peacemaker Award through the Interfaith Council and Traprock Peace Center, a Massachusetts Student Athlete Citizenship Award and a McDonald’s McScholar Athlete Award.

While many students spend their high school days cramming in study time and gossiping in the hallways, Jones became a leader spearheading many projects to improve the school.

From polishing the athletic trophy cases in the front foyer and painting the cafeteria, locker rooms and hallways with school-spirited murals, Jones organized student volunteers to work in the early morning and afternoons to make the regional high school better for fellow students.

“I think it’s part of school. You should be able to help out and better the community,” Jones said. “I always try to find what I can add to improve the community.”

Jones is most admired for his leadership in the Varsity M Club. This past year, Jones coordinated the club — made up of varsity athletes — to serve as mentors for Mohawk elementary school students in a reading buddy program.

Jones got the idea from the National Honor Society of which he is a member.

Jones and his fellow club members would visit the schools several times a month to support younger students by reading, supporting outdoor winter sports activities and playing positive role models in the children’s lives.

“It’s really great,” said Jones. “A lot of the kids are funny. The elementary schools are so small you get to know the students well.”

On top of serving as president of Varsity M, Jones was the class secretary and a member of Student Council, where he helped with spirit week and staff breakfast. Halfway through the year, Jones was elected to the Western Mass. Student Council.

For four years, he also played fullback on the football team and ran indoor and outdoor track. For the outdoor track team, he does the hurdles and shot put and discus.

This year, he was on the team that lead Mohawk to its first championship in outdoor track in nine years.

Jones doesn’t take all the credit for his volunteer work.

“A lot of (classmates) have helped me along the way. They share a role,” said Jones.

Jones will head to Husson University in Bangor, Maine to study occupational therapy where he can continue to help others. At Husson, Jones will continue to play football.

“I’m looking forward to furthering my education and continuing to play sports,” Jones said. “I feel lucky I get to continue my education and keep doing what I like to do.”

As Jones moves on to college, he leaves a legacy of student leadership and commitment behind.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Jones. “I like this community, but I know it’ll be a new and exciting experience.”

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