Perhaps the first thing you will notice about Kamiah High School
senior Thomas Moss-Mozley is that he is very busy, a personal choice for Thomas that he says keeps him out of trouble. "Almost since freshman year I've had three jobs, it gives me stuff to do," said the motivated teen who recently accepted the honor of being chosen for the Idaho's Brightest Star Award.
This year 69 outstanding volunteers from throughout the state were honored at Idaho's Brightest Stars Ceremony last Wednesday in Boise. The annual event is organized by Serve Idaho, the Governor's Commission on Service and Volunteerism.
"Volunteerism is a gift that benefits citizens and addresses needs in communities throughout our state," said Governor Brad Little. "These men and women are not seeking recognition, but it is important to acknowledge these Brightest Star recipients and their generous commitment to giving to others and ensuring a bright future for all citizens."
The volunteers were nominated for their contributions in seven categories - Business, Individual, Nonprofit/Civic Organization, Senior Citizen, Student, Teacher/Professor and Veteran. Idahoans nominated "brightest stars" throughout the state, and a panel of community reviewers made the final selection.
All nominees were recognized as stars in their communities, and one Brightest Star Volunteer of the Year was chosen in each category.
Thomas got involved with Kamiah's chapter of the Youth Advisory Board when he was a sophomore. "There are a lot of kids afraid to step out of their comfort zone," said Thomas. "I've had to step out of my comfort zone a lot with our events, having to present everything, having to introduce people, it's a little nerve wracking," he added with a half-smile.
"Thomas is one of the five founding members of the Upriver Youth Leadership Council Youth Advisory Board where he presides as president," said UYLC President Sharlene Johnson. "He leads by example, and our YAB members look to him for guidance. In July Thomas attended the National Youth Leadership Institute with his YAB counterparts. NYLI is a highly interactive and collaborative training that goes through the Strategic Prevention Framework which is a proven model for community change that increases leadership capacities, civic and political engagement, and problem-solving among youth. Thomas led his group to develop a very detailed strategic plan to combat youth marijuana use. Oftentimes the facilitators of the training referred to them as the "rock stars" of the training. Speaking out against alcohol and drug use is difficult, and change is hard. But Thomas continues to speak up and speak out to his peers. He is a leading example of living a positive drug free lifestyle. In 2018, Thomas had 238 hours of volunteer service in YAB alone."
When asked what he thought was the key to his success, Thomas pondered
briefly before answering, "I think it's mainly who you surround yourself with at school. For a while I didn't surround myself with the greatest people and I changed that. I got other people involved in this group (Youth Advisory Board). It was kind of weird at first, we were all strangers coming together, we're pretty much one big ol' family now, we're super close. It's kind of nice having those people that you know really well to help you, you know they're by your side when you're planning these events because it's really hard to do by yourself. With all of us working together, it makes it super easy."
Furthering his quest to help people, Thomas plans to attend college and study psychology and criminal justice to be a clinician in prisons. "I do my job shadowing every other Friday in Orofino," said Thomas who is pleased that his recent achievement will help him attain his goals.
Along with surrounding himself with the right people and keeping busy throughout his formative years, Thomas credits his parents for giving him a firm foundation. "My parents are really strict," said Thomas. "You know...I had certain things I could and couldn't do, I knew right from wrong, I knew my boundaries. Everyone needs boundaries."
"I had the honor of nominating Thomas for the Brightest Star award," said KHS secretary Terry Law. "What a great kid. I am so proud of him. He quietly does so much for all the students at Kamiah High School that it almost goes unnoticed."
Completely surprised at being nominated for such an honor, Thomas didn't feel he met the stringent criteria. "When we walked into the room for the award ceremony, the nominee's bios were running on a large screen," said Law. "When it came to the student category, Thomas stood there and read the 10 bios and then turned to me and said, 'They are so much better than I am, I will never win.' After he won and received his award, he walked back to our row and a woman sitting in front of us turned and introduced herself as a Boise councilperson, congratulated him and told him she was proud of him for making a difference. He thanked her and later asked me, "Why did she say that?" Thomas was extremely happy about receiving this award, but he truly doesn't see what a wonderful, caring and talented young man he is."
"I received an email regarding the Idaho Brightest Star Award and almost ignored it because it was from the library community and was due the next day," said KHS Librarian Mona Farmer. "Then I thought about our students and what a wonderful group we have. Thomas stands out in his giving to this school and community, and now we know he stands out in the state of Idaho. He is generous with his time, talents, and concern."
According to Farmer, Thomas was quite humbled when he was notified of his nomination.
"Why would anyone nominate him for such a thing? He didn't think he deserved this kind of recognition. He didn't think he was doing anything special," said Farmer.
"When we all got to Boise, he was so very nervous. He still wasn't sure he belonged there. When he read about the other students he knew he wouldn't win. They had more hours, or more years, or more something.
"I think he won because he is involved with all ages of kids through the YAB and UYLC and because he is a leader. He doesn't just go along and put in hours. He plans and implements programs that have a positive impact on this whole community," added Farmer.
Giving hundreds of volunteer hours to the community, Thomas was a shoe-in for the nomination. "Most teenagers don't give of themselves like he does," said Law. "But what makes him so special is that he's a leader as well."
"I am going to miss Thomas next year, he is a great kid. He has wonderful dreams of going to college and helping people; I hope this is one step that will support his dreams, he is so deserving," added Farmer.
In the student category for Idaho's Brightest Star there were a total of 10 nominees; Thomas was the only nominee from Northern Idaho.
Utilizing a culmination of the past two years' experiences on Kamiah's YAB, Thomas mustered his courage to accept the award in Boise. "It was scary in front of all those people," said Thomas, "I was really nervous!"
"I have said it before when I talk about our HOSA students," said Law, "but I will say it again; Kamiah High School has amazing, talented, caring kids that deserve to be recognized!"