Youth Spotlight

I enjoy watching young people grow up and find their path; it’s wonderful seeing all of the good things that they accomplish. I’ve always liked recognizing youth that are trying to make the world a better place by their actions. I realized that in my mission of Creating Responsible Kids on Smartphones, I had created an excellent platform to recognize youth that are out there doing some great things. Check out the articles below to see kids doing some amazing things.

~ Ryan

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Kind at Heart: Wesley Westerman
Meet Wesley Westerman, a young man who has made it his mission to help veterans on Thanksgiving. This year he collected 40 turkeys to donate to local veterans around Allegheny County. He plans to continue to collect and donate turkeys every year.  Read the article for more details on his work.  We need more Wesley Westermans in the world!!
Thank you Wesley for all of your hard work and kindness to others!!
~ Ryan
Bio: Hi my name is Wesley Westerman I am in 9th grade at Highlands High School but I do cyber through them. I play hockey for the Vipers 16u team. I love to hunt & ride my dirt bike. ~Wesley

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A Future Writer: Rebecca Havko

If you read any of the blog posts on this website and they are grammatically correct, it’s because Rebecca Havko edited the content. I’ve known Rebecca since she was twelve. As she grew older and her love of English became apparent, it was clear that she would some day be a great writer. I’ve read many of her short stories, and she has an amazing talent for fiction. I also discovered she knows her grammar much better than I ever did. With the blessing of her mother, a teacher, Rebecca consulted with Shape The Sky in the form of making my horrible grammar digestible. If there are errors in this paragraph, it’s because she has not edited it yet. If this blurb is well written, she has. Shape’s mission is to create responsible kids on smartphones. During this mission, if there is any way to onboard youth perspective and talent, I will do so. Rebecca is a great consultant to the Shape The Sky organization and well appreciated. I look forward to following Rebecca’s college journey and her career as a writer beyond college. ~Ryan

Bio: Hi there! My name is Becca Havko, and I’m a freshman at Seton Hill University. I’m studying English on the Creative Writing track with the hopes of becoming an author. I started reading in kindergarten and writing in second grade, and I’ve loved it ever since. My favorite part of writing is playing with words, and for that reason I love jokes. So I’ll leave you with a short little joke. What’s E.T. short for? Because he’s got little legs!

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A Filmmaker: Liv McNeil

I stumbled upon the video Numb posted above. This video amazingly captures how youth may be feeling during this difficult time of forced virtual schooling. Then I learned that Numb was made by a 15 year old kiddo! I wanted to learn more about this film and the inspiration behind it. Watch Numb and then read my interview with the very talented Liv McNeil below. ~Ryan

Q: What inspired you to create Numb?
Liv: It was the last project of the year for my arts course in grade 9, and because it was the end of the year, it was pretty open ended, and my teacher let us have some fun with it. I took that opportunity and decided to make some more quarantine inspired art, specifically how isolation affects mental health, and what kids are going through right now with online school. I have already been making alot of art inspired by quarantine. right now is obviously an awful time, but I can’t do much about it, so might as well take away from this experience and turn it into art.

Q: How do you feel Numb will relate to other kids in the country?
Liv: I think kids everywhere right now can relate to this, no one is REALLY enjoying online school. wherever you are, we are all going through the same thing. I have had a couple kids my age reach out to me and say that they feel the same way and are glad their feelings have been shown so accurately. I am so thankful and happy I have all this support and all these people that relate to me.

Q: Do you feel Numb will help parents relate to how kids are feeling about the current shutdown of the country?
Liv: I think the teachers and parents that have already seen it are feeling a bit guilty… not that they should, I mean we are all feeling quite helpless right now, but they see how their kids are feeling and there’s not that much they can do. I just hope that they can realize what kids are going through right now and go a bit easy on them.

Q: What impact do you hope Numb will have to anyone who watches it?
Liv: It’s really cheesy but I just hope anyone who watches it knows that you are not alone, we are all going through the same thing. this seems like it’s been going on for forever and it will continue for forever but it won’t. This is just a moment in our lives that will pass soon and we will see the light on the other side of the tunnel.


My name is Liv McNeil, I’m 15, going into grade 10 at Etobicoke School of the Arts. I major in visual arts, I love art and I’ve been doing it my whole life. I have especially been making lots of art during the quarantine. I also do film outside of school with my brother. We make little music videos and small stories. I have always made art as a way to pass time and express myself (it’s also just fun). I might see something or think of a concept, then I just like to draw it and make art to get my ideas out. Some more things I do include skateboarding, snowboarding, sewing, gardening, listening to music, and biking around my city.

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An Artist: Hannah Duckett

I want to introduce Hannah Duckett. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Hannah over the past three years. She continues to amaze me. I initially learned that she has wonderful skills working with children and a compassion for teaching them life skills. Then I discovered her amazing talents for singing, dance, acting and art. There is nothing she can’t do!! Check out some of her art!!



My name is Hannah Duckett, I’m a Junior in high school, and I’m home-schooled. Being home-schooled has allowed me the amazing opportunity of molding my education around what I love most: Art. I believe I’m an artist at heart.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a passion to create, and to share those creations. Whether it is on the stage, through writing, or through my studio art, I always strive to connect with people through what I have made. I believe that art can be used as a beautiful, healing tool, and nothing makes me happier than to know that my creations have helped others. I’ve learned, through my art, that something as simple as drawing a portrait of a loved one who has passed away can have a profound impact on a person, and help them to heal during a grieving process.

Through the theater company Stage Right in Greensburg, I’ve been granted the opportunity to take that mentality to the stage. All artists are story tellers in many different forms, and I am so grateful to be able to reach more people through theater. Art, in all its forms, is a powerful force, and I hope to use those gifts to make the world a more beautiful place.

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An Author: Maddie Kopecki

I discovered Maddie through a 2020 Senior Adoption Facebook page. I was really excited to “adopt” a fellow author. She has a wonderful article on Medium about being in the senior class of 2020. It’s wonderfully written and a must read for every senior and parent of a senior!! She also wrote a book, Nowhereland, which will soon be shipped to my house. I can’t wait to read it! Congratulations to Maddie for her early career as a writer. I’m proud to adopt this kiddo and see where her career in writing takes her!



Maddie Kopecki is a California native, avid reader, and a proud Ravenclaw. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found with her nose in a book, jittery from her last cup of coffee. Currently, she’s studying English at the University of San Francisco.

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Raising Awareness: Bekah Gerace

I was recently lucky to attend a talk by Bekah Gerace. She spoke so clearly on a subject that is very important to me. She flawlessly presented (to a room of 500 professionals) about taking care of those struggling with mental health issues with as much importance as we do those struggling with health issues. This kid amazed me at her ability to engage the room and refocus us on the stark differences in school between a student returning from a concussion protocol vs. a student returning from a psychiatric inpatient hospitalization. She has a wonderful message and I hope to continue to work with her and support her mission in raising awareness to this stark difference in schools. Watch her Ted Talk and be amazed!! Thank you Bekah!



Bekah Gerace,18, was born and raised in Lancaster County. She recently graduated from Manheim Township High School in 2019 where she participated in cross country and the suicide prevention and awareness club, Aevidum. While at Manheim Township, she participated in the Spanish Immersion program from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Through her high school years, she has faced cancer and many mental health challenges, which have helped shape her into the person she is today. Bekah enjoys writing poetry, photography, listening to music, spending time with her friends, and a number of outdoor activities, such as hiking and canoeing. Bekah will be attending Penn State Berks in the fall to pursue a communication arts and sciences major to begin a career as an author. Through her personal experiences, she is aware of the growing need for not only a change in attitude and perception, but also in the quality of care in the mental health community.

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Fitting In: Emma Kobelenske
Meet Emma Kobelenske, a young lady trying to help other kids feel welcomed. She has set a mission to help kids that feel like they don’t fit in or who have been bullied.

I asked Emma to provide an introduction of herself for the Youth Spotlight.

“My name is Emma. I’m a Senior at Burrell High School, Co-Captain of Burrell Swim Team, love music, painting, drawing and a good comedy.  My passion is my non-profit (Xo,E) helping others know they have a friend in me even if they feel sad at the moment.  No one should feel alone, sad, or bullied.”

Read the article below to learn more about Emma and her mission with Xo,E, her non-profit.

Follow her Facebook page to help spread her mission.
Thank you Emma for all of your hard work and inspiration!!
~ Ryan

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Seeing a Snapchat Red-Flag: Gabe

I’ve been discussing the positives of social media since I started talking in public about youth and technology. Mental health red-flags online are sometimes easier to see than offline. If a young person sees someone struggling through social media or text messages, and they let an adult know, they open a new link to getting help. There are more eyes on the ball, so to speak, around individuals struggling with mental health issues when they post their struggles online. This can lead others to reach out to them just as Gabe Rongier did.

I’ve discussed Gabe’s story at my trainings. In May 2019, after discussing his story at a training, a parent in the audience raised her hand and said, “That’s my son.” We had a very nice conversation afterwards and she was more than happy to have me share Gabe’s story as a role model for doing the right thing. Check out his story below.

Way to go, Gabe!!!

~ Ryan

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Suicide Prevention: Livia

I love seeing youth take on prevention efforts.

Check out Livia Bookwood’s PSA on suicide prevention!!!

~ Ryan

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Honoring Our Veterans: Megan

I saw this in the news and thought it was a wonderful story. Megan McCafferty, took the time to meet with local veterans to hear their stories and honor them through a book she wrote. The book is entitled “Freedom is Not Free, a Compilation of Veterans’ Stories.”  We need more kids like Megan out there.

Awesome work, Megan!!!

~ Ryan

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Arnez Logan

A Sidewalk Hero: Arnez

This is an amazing story of bravery and doing what had to be done. Arnez Logan saved a kindergartner from being hit by a car. He is one of only four students in the country awarded the AAA Safety Patrol Lifesaving Medal for his heroism.

You are a role model to our community, Arnez!!!

~ Ryan

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A True Artist: Aubrey

I saw Aubrey perform at a Winter Guard competition that my daughter was also participating in and was amazed at her vocal talent. She made it to Hollywood on American Idol in 2018 with Lionel Richie calling her “an artist.”   Aubrey recently graduated from high school and is performing at a variety of events listed on her Facebook page. Currently she has four singles released. Go download them, you will not be disappointed. She has an amazing talent.

Follow your dreams Aubrey!

~ Ryan

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