Saline High School junior Aidan Carichner is the 2016 Youth of the Year.
Somehow, Carichner finds time to be a shining example of volunteerism despite maintaining good grades, performing in Saline High School bands, and running track and cross country at Saline High School.
Carichner was presented his award at the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce Saline Salutes Banquet April 22 at the Senior Center. While accepting his award, Carichner spoke about why he volunteers, citing the advice given at a youth group meeting by friend and Saline High School graduate Anthony Lamus.
“He challenged us. He said ‘I want you to go out there and live the uncommon life and be the uncommon man,’” Carichner said. “That stuck for me. I think about that every day. It motivates me to be excellent in everything I do and motivates me to make the people around me happy. And it motivates me to try to make a difference in the world.”
Carichner challenged everyone in the room to be the uncommon men and women who make a difference in the community and the world.
His volunteerism resume is impressive. Carichner initiated a shoe drive and collected and donated 100 pairs of used running shoes to the Nike Better World ReUse A Shoe project. Those shoes were used to make tracks and play surfaces instead of dumped in a landfill. Carichner has also volunteered with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s Run, Walk & Roll 5K and fun run for the High Point School’s barrier free playground, which are designed to be used by all children, regardless of their ability. As a freshman, when Carichner could not run while recovering from surgery, he cheered on students with special needs at the event. The next year he decided to help with publicity, distributing flyers and adding the event to online calendars.
Carichner also volunteers his musical talents. He plays guitar at the St. Andrew’s mass every Sunday and joins friends in playing Christmas music at a local senior citizens' home every year.
“It’s a wonderful experience. You see a ton of smiles,” Carichner said.
Carichner said he didn’t always understand the purpose of volunteering.
“As I got older I realized I should be getting something more. I began to understand that doing good feels good,” Carichner said. “Being able to say, ‘hey, I helped someone today,’ really evokes a deep feeling of happiness.”
Carl Spina, who coaches cross country and track at Saline High School, knows Carichner mostly as an athlete.
“He follows our number one rule which is to be a great teammate. He looks out for other kids and takes care of his teammates,” Spina said.
Carichner will be a captain of the cross country team next year.
“When I first met Aidan he was a quiet kid who worked hard and seemed to have a lot of friends. Over the past couple years he’s gotten faster and I’ve worked more closely with him,” Spina said. “Like all runners he faces challenges in his training and his running. I’m impressed with how he manages them and how he bounces back from setbacks.”
On moment that stands out to Spina is the regional championship last fall. Carichner was struggling.
“He was falling out the back. I spoke to him in the middle of the race and he really turned things around. It’s difficult to be falling backwards in a race and then turn that around into moving forward and helping the team,” Spina said.
County Commissioner Alicia Ping, who helped start the Youth of the Year program when she was on Saline City Council, was impressed with Carichner’s resume.
“I remember when we started award I thought, ‘What could these young people have accomplished that we would have to talk about?’” Ping said. “Aidan has accomplished a lot for someone who is a junior in high school.”