Local students to be honored with Young Heroes Awards

Three honorees from the Northeast are being recognized for starting a Gay-Straight Alliance, creating a photography exhibition and advocating for religious equality.

Ryan Snyder started the Gay-Straight Alliance at Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush in 2016 and has helped start chapters at other schools.

The National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut St., will celebrate its 18th annual TD Bank Young Heroes Awards on Thursday, Aug. 9, and three local students will be honored.

In all, the ceremony will honor 14 young people, ages 18 and under.

This year’s TD Bank Young Heroes were chosen from among 67 national and international nominations, submitted by friends, teachers and community members.

The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m., and will be emceed by NBC10’s Vai Sikahema. Danielle Torres, a 2007 Young Heroes Award Winner, will be the keynote speaker.

“These winners truly represent what we at the National Liberty Museum strive for every day — encouraging people of all ages to find their own place in the story of liberty,” said Gwen Borowsky, executive director of the museum. “The quality of nominations this year was incredible, and selecting these finalists was a difficult and humbling experience. We feel they are all a great representation of what it means to be a TD Bank Young Hero. It is an honor to be able to recognize these young individuals for the tremendous work they have done.”

Each honoree will be presented with a medal and certificate. Additionally, a plaque featuring the winners’ stories will be displayed for a year in the museum’s Young Heroes Exhibit.

During the ceremony, one winner will be surprised with a $2,000 scholarship.

Local honorees will be:

• Ryan Snyder, 17, started the Gay-Straight Alliance at Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush in 2016 and has helped start chapters at other schools. Through fundraisers since his freshman year, he has also raised around $2,000 for the Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youths.

• Erika Rivera, also from the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, used her struggle with bipolar disorder and her artistic talents to create an exhibit showcased at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. Titled “More Than Your Words,” she featured photographs of people with similar struggles to highlight the harmful words that her peers hear about their identities. She has also been active in starting several advocacy campaigns through her social media and her work to raise awareness about the stereotypes of homeless women and youth.

• Nasihah Thompson-King, a Northeast resident and student at Mastery Shoemaker Charter School, was benched during a Public League basketball game for refusing to remove her Muslim hijab (headscarf). She successfully advocated for the PIAA to amend its rule that required a waiver for children to wear “headgear” and other attire due to religious reasons. She is continuing her advocacy work this summer as an intern for state Senator Vincent Hughes, working with constituents and helping to plan community events and programs. ••