It was a mild summer night in the Wende Museum Garden as Culver City families gathered in formal dress not to honor elected officials or local activists, but instead to recognize some of the youngest bright minds in the community.

Inspired by the Forbes program with a similar name, members of the Culver City and Los Angeles community celebrated some of the brightest young minds in the Westside city through the inaugural “23 Under 20” awards.

Each of the 23 winners were recognized at the ceremony Sunday evening. Elected officials and their representatives with jurisdictions covering Culver City were in attendance for the event, including Culver City Mayor Albert Vera, Culver City Councilmembers Dan O’Brien and Freddy Puza, and Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffery Prang.

Originally advertised as 20 Under 20 when the award nominations were opened last month, Culver City School Board Member Triston Ezidore — who was the driving force behind these awards — was prompted to expand the awardees by three. He reflected on his inspiration for the event before the awards were officially handed out.

“I asked myself to just sit and think of where we would be as a community and a society if for one day, we had to live in a world without the many contributions and assets young people have brought,” Ezidore said in his opening remarks at the event. “That I think is what this event is about.”

All nominees were required to be 19 years old or younger and attend a school in the Culver City Unified School District (CCUSD) system, and the winners were as old as 18 and as young as just 7 years old.

Nominees could be self-submitted or on behalf of another, but most of the nominations were from teachers, counselors, and other members of staff and faculty across CCUSD, and were nominated for demonstrating leadership and passion for achieving their goals and making the world a better place.

“We have students in the room who are planting thousands of trees, we have students in the room who are bringing forth mental health curriculum, we have people who are organizing and agonizing,” Ezidore said, “and I sat with myself and honestly wondered why we haven’t honored these kids.”

As each of the awardees were brought up to a stage to receive a trophy and certificates of recognition, presenters told the crowd what was said about them on the submissions on their behalf.

Descriptions like “influential, organized, and leads with his heart,” and “faith-centric, unwavering, and an advocate” were given of the kids by those who submitted applications on their behalf as people showed appreciation to those Ezidore says are not recognized enough.

In addition, the award winners submitted their own pieces on themselves, each with a particular moment in life that had a profound impact on them, as well as their hopes and dreams for their future. These were read out by elected officials as each winner officially received their award.

“I want to be able to give my parents a stable and relaxing life they deserve for all of the hard work they have done to give me and my siblings a successful future,” is what award winner Fernanda Vides, 18, submitted when asked about her hopes.

Even the youngest awardees in the audience had altruistic wishes for the future. “I hope all of our homeless neighbors find homes, and are treated with respect,” Camila Murphy, 7 wrote as her wish.

The winners of the award were:

  • Camila Murphy, 7
  • Prem Shah, 7
  • Aubrey Johnson, 8
  • Uma Dixit, 10
  • Vera Evans, 10
  • Dean Ethnasios, 11
  • Stella Pelletier De Chambure, 11
  • Amelia Warren, 11
  • Martin Gonzalez, 12
  • Gabriella Camara, 14
  • Lila Bragard, 17
  • Octavia Douglas, 17
  • Miguel Robledo Escobedo, 17
  • Gianna Machera, 17
  • Keira Mohammed, 17
  • Emi Sakamoto, 17
  • Mateo Torres, 17
  • Chukwuka Anuloha, 18
  • Raven Bradley, 18
  • Logan Henry, 18
  • Ada Meighan-Thiel, 18
  • Anthony Prieto, 18
  • Fernanda Vides, 18

Photo taken by the author. 

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