Two women of the year will receive for a change

Honorees getting awards for giving to many causes


At the last minute, her friend couldn't come along. But Sarah Koteen went ahead with her plans - even if the idea of heading off by herself for several weeks to volunteer at a camp for underprivileged children from New York was a little bit intimidating.

That experience last summer is just one item on a resume that includes hundreds of hours of volunteer work, participation on her school's track, soccer and softball teams, and a 3.63 grade-point average. Now Koteen, a 16-year-old junior at Owings Mills High School, has been named Baltimore County's Young Woman of the Year.

The award, given annually by the Baltimore County Commission for Women, is to be presented tomorrow in Towson. Also scheduled to be honored is the commission's Baltimore County Woman of the Year, Lone Azola, whose endeavors include running an annual toy drive through the Towson University Alumni Association.

"They were so exceptional in community service in their time given and their responsiveness, not just to a project, but to getting other people involved in activities," commission President LaFrance Muldrow said of the winners.

The award is meant to highlight women who promote, help or support women and families, particularly through volunteer work, said Jackie Wilson, commission staff member and liaison for the Baltimore County executive.

Azola, of Devon Hill, is president of the Towson University Alumni Association. She is a former parent volunteer of the year at Towson High. Azola, 59, also worked one year with a committee for the Gala for United Cerebral Palsy and has, through her family real estate business, Azola Building Services, helped renovate the Hopewell Cancer Support Center of Lutherville. She said she donates money every year and this year hopes to support the center by walking in the Reach Out and Run 5K Race/Walk in April. "It's all very flattering," Azola said. "I've never done any of this in hopes of receiving an award. That's just who I am. ... It's an honor to be No. 1, but I'd like to think I represent a lot of women in Baltimore County."

Muldrow, the commission president, said Koteen was chosen for keeping up her volunteer work, on top of all of her school activities.

Koteen's first volunteer project was in seventh grade. She volunteered as a junior counselor for a children's camp, and she hasn't stopped volunteering.

"I like to help out underprivileged kids, seniors and the homeless," she said.

In middle school, she helped co-found the Teen Leadership Club. She said she enjoys the club because she gets to "spend time with friends while helping out in the community."

At school, Koteen's course load includes two Advanced Placement courses and college algebra. She also takes part in varsity softball in the spring, track in the winter and soccer in the fall. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Students Against Destructive Decisions and the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization.

Her parents, Marcie and Doug Koteen, said they are proud of their daughter not just for her accomplishments but for being, as her mother said, "a good person who cares about a lot of people and spends a lot of time caring from her heart."

Sarah Koteen said she looks forward to sharing the excitement of receiving her award with her family and close friends. The commission's 24th annual award ceremony is scheduled in the Baltimore County Council chambers in the Old Courthouse in Towson.

"The award definitely motivates me to continue," she said. "I'm going to complete more programs."

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