An Extraordinary Global CitizenSweet 16 lights up a successful age for Brittany Amano, an Iolani School sophomore who is arguably the most decorated volunteer student of her time. She is a two-time winner of what is considered the state’s top youth volunteer honor, the Prudential Spirit of Community Award – in both middle school and high school, a feat no one else has accomplished in Hawaii – and The President’s Volunteer Service Award. What sets this teen apart from her peers is that she founded two nonprofit organizations aimed at putting an end to homelessness, hunger and domestic abuse.
It started at age 9 when a downtrodden loved one was forced to embrace frugal innovations to battle financial hardship.
“When my relative became homeless, it broke my heart,” says Amano. “I was so appreciative of all the organizations that helped her, so I decided to do something for them.”
She formed “Hawaii’s Future isn’t Hungry.” The nonprofit focuses on “helping disadvantaged youths by providing them with school supplies, food bags, Christmas presents and tutoring,” says Amano. Funds raised have benefited both her local community and places as far away as Nepal, Cambodia and Africa.
“I’m just a kid out of the 41 million living in America, the most privileged country in the world. If every one of us turns our passions into doing good things for others, our world would be a much better place,” she says.
To date, she has collected more than 42,000 pounds of food and has raised more than $518,000!
Another issue Amano is passionate about is domestic violence.
“I met a woman who was beaten and raped by her husband, and was impressed by how a safe shelter help put her in a better place. After touring another facility, it inspired me to start my second nonprofit, Teens Stopping Domestic Violence,” she explains.
Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten.
“Domestic violence hurts spouses, their families and our economy,” Amano notes. “My goal is to impact as many women as I can. Whether it’s just one person, or all the victims in this world and I have made a difference, then all my efforts have been worth it.”
Amano served as delegate to the Key Club’s District Convention in Anaheim, which focused on a theme she practices daily, “A Million Waves of Service.” She represented Iolani in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp, as well as the Rotary Global Peace Forum held in Honolulu this year. Amano also served on the YWCA Young Women’s Network Board and is a finalist for the Girl Up Teen Advisory Board under the United Nations Foundation.
“I am motivated to achieve my goals, without having anything stand in my way. I take the initiative, assume responsibility and take pride in my work,” she says.
“She works diligently to inspire others and teaches them that no matter how young you are, you are never too young to make a difference,” says mother Risa Lau. Risa states that Amano’s drive stems from adversities and challenges she faced early in life and her ongoing drive to be of service to others.
Prior to attending Iolani, Amano excelled at five private and public schools before being selected for the prestigious Stone Scholarship award as an incoming freshman, which entitled her to a full four-year ride. According to Cathy Lee Chong, Iolani School’s director of communications, “Brittany is a wonderful example of a student who embraces part of the school’s mission, which is to develop a passion to be leaders in local, national and global citizenship. She is making an impact in her community by helping others and by thinking big and thinking great.”
I first met Amano in 2010, when she was honored in the mayor’s office as the middle school recipient of the Prudential award. She was only in the seventh grade at Washington Middle School at the time. I recall as we spoke how impressed I was by her maturity and determination to make a difference. Though she was not even yet a teenager, Amano stood out as someone who was destined for achieving greater goals and objectives for the good of our community. And she is certainly off to a tremendous start!
Michelangelo once said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”
Brittany Amano is on her way in making her mark globally for herself and for Hawaii by serving others with her heart and her hands. mufi@ mufihannemann.com