For the second year, Brightspot is proud to sponsor the D.C. United Community Star, presented by Brightspot. This program recognizes young people who have given their time, talent and energy to make a significant positive impact in the Washington Metro area.
Learn more about the 2018 recipients:
October 21 - Connor Ickes
Connor Ickes, from Sharpsburg, MD, founded Connor's Penny Project - a foundation that helps pay respect to fallen US veterans. A penny on a tombstone represents a visitor's gratitude towards military service, and Connor's project aims to make sure all veterans receive this recognition with the help from donated pennies. With the leftover pennies collected through his non-profit, Connor gives back to the Antietam National Park to help maintain the veteran’s graves. Connor started this project on his own accord, with the hope to have as many fallen veterans visited and respected as the heroes they are.
October 17 - Maycol Rivas
Maycol Rivas, from Hyattsville, MD, volunteers his time as an after-school leadership member through the CASA Mi Espacio program, where he tutors other students on the English language. Maycol had to overcome the hardships of learning the English language having lived a portion of his childhood outside of the United States. But he was adamant to learn as much as possible, as fast as possible. It is because of that work ethic that his fellow students connect with and learn from him at such a quick rate.
October 13 - Christian Allen
Christian Allen is a camp counselor and volunteer for D.C. United’s charitable partner, DC SCORES. As a former program participant, Christian uses the meaningful lessons acquired from DC SCORES to inspire youth through his passion of giving back. On game days at Audi Field, Christian facilitates the fan experience for DC SCORES families, continuing to help the organization and the community. While furthering his education, Christian still remains dedicated to serving youth by volunteering his time to make an impact on the lives of local youth.
September 29 - Eddie Pangelinan
Eddie Pangelinan is from Washington, DC. Eddie participates in the Playworks Junior Coach Leadership Program at Bancroft Elementary. As a Junior Coach, Eddie helps teach leadership, conflict resolution, and inclusion to the community he serves. Through his work, Eddie has helped make the Bancroft school community a better place for himself and his classmates. He hopes to continue with his community work as he moves into Junior High and eventually High School.
September 12 - Cristian Benitez
The Community Star for D.C. United’s Armed Forces Night on September 12th was Cristian Benitez of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Cristian has spent the past 4 years mentoring youth through the YMCA’s Youth Links program. As a mentor, Cristian helps provide guidance to youth who have been affected by traumatic experiences. In his spare time, Cristian also helps to look after his two younger sisters who are developmentally delayed, and helps walk several younger neighborhood children to school.
September 2 - Mamie Johnson Little League
The Mamie Johnson Little League team is Washington, DC’s first predominately African American team to advance to the Little League World Series Regional's in Bristol, Ct. Through hard work and determination, the team advanced their way through local tournaments looking for a chance to play in the World Series. While the team did not advance all the way, the players made history on both a local and national level. The team hopes their performance can inspire other young athletes of color to try their best at all times and strive for greatness. Read more about the team's historic accomplishment on The Washington Post.
August 29 - Vaughan Merrick
Vaughan is a teacher at Paul Public Charter School in Washington, DC. With a passion for teaching and helping others, Vaughan has dedicated his work to helping local underserved students adjust to life here in the US. Vaughn’s goal is to develop all his students by putting them on a diploma track and the road to success. He aims to teach his kids not just within the classroom, but also life lessons that will allow them to succeed after they head off to college.
August 19 - Lydia Goff
Lydia, a student at Herndon High School, is an active member of Best Buddies, a program that matches students with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. Lydia's leadership and dedication with Best Buddies has created a more inclusive environment in her high school community, which has helped grow their special needs program. She has been paired with her buddy for the past two years and will continue with them until heading off to college.
August 15 - Ana Galeas Martinez
Ana is a former DC SCORES poet-athlete at Raymond Elementary School. Ana became an active participant in DC SCORES during middle school, and remains involved with the organization as an alumna -- she now works for DC SCORES as a summer camp counselor, assistant coach, and as a referee for elementary school soccer games. This summer, Ana was selected to attend a Young Leaders Summit sponsored by The Manchester City Football Club. It was Ana's first trip abroad, and she dazzled the staff with her hard work, dedication, and inspirational personal journey from childhood to young adulthood.
August 12 - Winston Wardlaw
Winston, a freshman at District of Columbia International School, has used his experience with ulcerative colitis to bring comfort and support to others with inflammatory bowel diseases, by sharing his story with kids facing the same surgeries he’s had. Through his efforts, Winston has raised nearly $12,000 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Winston is determined to help others benefit from the lessons he learned after three major surgeries, in hopes of helping them feel less alone. He believes that a string support system and community are the best ways to help people overcome any obstacle that may fall in their path.
July 28 - Jake Arbeen
Jake has been a part of the nonprofit, Dreams For Kids DC, for the past 8 years. Over this time, he has evolved from participant to volunteer. Over the last 3 years he has organized collection campaigns in the community to help gather purses for Dress4Success and backpacks/school supplies for Kids In Need of Defense. Jake has also volunteered with Comfort Cases, including organizing donation collections in Fairfax County, VA. He has also volunteered a number of times with the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation (MSE Foundation) in their Ft. Dupont Ice Arena clean-up day and with MSE Foundation/Playworks for the MLK Jr Day of Service. Despite his autism, he is making a huge impact in the community!
July 25 - Takeya Ball
Takeya is a 20 year-old native Washingtonian who graduated from Friendship Collegiate Academy in 2015. She has worked for many years serving her home communities. In high school, Takeya regularly volunteered with the UDC Health Department running Nutrition Education classes at local daycares in Washington, DC. Now, as a college student at Tennessee State University she serves as a Community Service Chair and leads volunteer projects for her classmates at food pantries, the local food bank, and at nursing homes near her campus. She also develops nutrition based programs for teenagers and adults in low income communities in Nashville, TN. This summer, the Capital Area Food Bank is proud to host Takeya as our “Summer Feeding Associate” in DC. In this role Takeya helps bring free meals to children across the region throughout the summer.
July 14 - USA Street Child World Cup Team
The USA's Street Child World Cup Team traveled to Moscow in May to compete against soccer teams from around the world in the Street Child World Cup. The USA team, which included residents of DC, was comprised entirely of children who have experienced or been at-risk of experiencing homelessness. The USA team finished fifth, highlighted by a dramatic victory over the host nation, Russia, in a shootout!
Is someone you know making a difference in the Washington Metro community? The Community Star is open to any individuals or groups of young people between the ages of 10-22 who reside in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia.
Winners receive eight tickets to the Brightspot dedicated section at Audi Field, free parking, a fan pack including D.C. United promotional items, and an in-game recognition for their community contributions.