Local students honored with Young Heroes Awards

Three local students were recognized for starting a Gay-Straight Alliance, creating a photography exhibition and advocating for religious equality.

Well-deserved: Erika Rivera (left), Nasihah Thompson-King and Ryan Snyder (below) were honored at the 18th annual TD Bank Young Heroes Awards last week. The honorees were recognized for starting a Gay-Straight Alliance, creating a photography exhibition and advocating for religious equality.

The National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut St., celebrated its 18th annual TD Bank Young Heroes Awards last week, and three local students were honored.

In all, the ceremony honored 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 was emceed by NBC10’s Vai Sikahema. Danielle Torres, a 2007 Young Heroes Award Winner, was the keynote speaker.

Each honoree was 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.

Local honorees were:

• 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 Sen. Vincent Hughes, working with constituents and helping to plan community events and programs. ••