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State Honoree

Rylee Brooke Kamahele

Mililani, Hawaii

Rylee Brooke Kamahele, 12, of Mililani, Hawaii, a seventh-grader at Mililani Middle School, launched initiatives that organize Christmas celebrations for children in need, facilitate a variety of volunteer opportunities for young people, and educate youth around the world about the effects of humans on the planet. Rylee grew up volunteering with her parents in a program for at-risk youth, but by age 8 wanted to start making an impact on her own. “We had to fight for me to get involved,” she said, “because programs didn’t want to babysit kids during community service.” But with a lot of persistence and hard work, she gradually persuaded charitable organizations to let her volunteer with them and recruit other young people to join her.

From there, Rylee started an organization called “Love Is A Verb” that has organized numerous youth-run projects, including annual beach cleanups, working to protect animals, providing Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless, entertaining kids at shelters and engaging in other community service activities. Rylee also co-founded a “Secret Santa Project” to make Christmas brighter for children in need of holiday cheer. To do that, she held a donation drive and raised money to provide gifts for children staying in a shelter, and then began hosting holiday parties for them. This project has since expanded to include three shelters and one youth program, treating more than 300 kids to a memorable day with food, gifts, games, shave-ice trucks and slush machines. Rylee also co-founded “Promise To Our Keiki (PTOK)” an initiative that cultivates young leaders and raises awareness about the impact humans have on the planet. All of her initiatives are under the umbrella of “The Catalyst Club,” an organization she founded to equip young people to be agents of change.