Reynolds senior chosen Youth Citizen

Student wants to pursue career as surgeon
by: John Klicker, Ruth Benzar keeps busy with school and volunteer work. Her good works got her recognized as the Youth Citizen of the Year.

Ruth Benzar, 16, a senior at Reynolds High School, doesn't waste any time.

Among her numerous honors and activities, she has been elected prime minister of her school's Young Historian's Club and vice president of the National Honor Society; coordinated the school's most successful blood drive in a decade, for which the Red Cross gave her its Excellence in Service Award; and has received the American Chemical Society's Chemistry Student of the Year Award.

She's active in the Romanian Baptist Church of Portland, has volunteered with the Oregon Symphony and the Portland Children's Museum and uses her skills in English, Spanish and Romanian to translate for patients at the Wallace Medical Concern free clinic.

It would take several more paragraphs to list the accomplished pianist and violinist's achievements, but one honor points to all the others - The Gresham Area 2008 Youth Citizen of the Year.

The East Metro Association of REALTORS, in partnership with The Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, sponsors the award, which Ruth says was unexpected.

'At first I was very surprised, but I'm happy that my achievements have brought fruit.'

When asked why she's so willing to spend time both in and out of school working on behalf of others, Ruth points to the experience of her parents, who fled religious persecution in Romania to start a new life in America.

'If I was doing less than my personal best, I would be making my parents' sacrifice less.'

As she honors her parents, she has gained the admiration of her teachers, including Courtney Peterson, chairwoman of the Reynolds language arts department, who wrote these words in a letter of recommendation to the committee that honored Ruth.

'In my 10 years of teaching, I have known very few students who match the academic ability and performance of Ruth Benzar,' Peterson wrote, adding that the student is 'unerringly diligent and motivated,' 'a highly skilled writer and thinker' and 'among the best creative writers I have ever known in my classroom.'

'Finally and most importantly, Ruth is a kind human being,' Peterson concludes. 'She is respectful of others and compassionate. She exudes integrity and positivity.'

Michael Interian, volunteer manager at Wallace Medical Concern, wrote that Ruth, an intake volunteer, 'is a huge asset' and 'is very respectful of volunteers and patients.'

'Ruth has a wonderful attitude and willingly assists with all projects no matter how big or small they may be.'

Ruth, however, seems more focused on the patients than any kudos she's received. She notes that working at Wallace has opened her eyes to the suffering of others and the plight of poor immigrants.

'I've seen what effects offering health care has on them,' she says, noting it's a joy to 'see the gratitude on their faces when they leave.'

It's no accident that she's working at Wallace - Ruth hopes to become a surgeon someday, and she wants to make a music of healing.

'I really love playing the piano. I use my fingers. I draw. I sketch. I think (surgery) is a good use of my abilities.'

She adds that music is her passion for a number of reasons.

'It's exhilarating,' she says. 'The sense of being able to conquer a song or a piece - and it's just beautiful in itself.'

She also notes that the faith her parents fought to preserve is the bedrock of her life.

'God is the one who has empowered me to do everything that I have been able to do.'

East Metro award banquet

The East Metro Association of REALTORS, in partnership with the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, has selected Mark Garber as this year's Gresham Area Citizen of the Year. Garber, a Fairview resident, is vice president/publisher of Community Newspapers, which includes The Gresham Outlook among several other publications.

The 2008 Youth Citizen of the Year is Ruth Benzar, a senior at Reynolds High School.

This is the 19th year of the citizen award and the 17th year for the youth award.

A banquet celebrating the accomplishments of both recipients will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at Persimmon Country Club, 500 S.E. Butler Road.

Tickets are $55 per person. Reservations may be made by calling the association's office at 503-667-1211 or by visiting