BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — On April 19, Shenendehowa freshman Zachary Dahoda was presented with the Programs of Religious Activities with Youth’s prestigious Four Star award at the Shenendehowa United Methodist Church.
The mission of PRAY is to “foster the Christian growth of children, youth and families through churches and youth-serving agencies,” according to its website. It is best known for its religious awards program.
The site explains: “The PRAY program helps young people to develop a deeper relationship with God and to understand how God is active in their lives and in the world around them. It is a Christian Education resource that uses Bible lessons paired with service projects to help young people not only to grow in Christian faith but to also express their faith by reaching out in love and in service to others.”
To be eligible to receive the Four Star award, youths must begin the process in first, second or third grade and continue until they’ve earned all four levels of the PRAY series: God and Me, God and Family, God and Church and God and Life.
God and Me is for grades 1 through 3; God and Family is done during grades 4 and 5; God and Church is during middle school years; and God and Life is completed during high school.
“The most recent one — God and Life — focused on my life, what God wants me to do, my purpose and the journey that I will go through,” Dahoda said.
Completion is no easy feat; in fact, less than 1 percent of the PRAY participants in any one year receive the Four Star award.
A Clifton Park resident for his entire life, Dahoda lives at his grandparents’ home with his mother, Joline, who works at the Daughters of Charity as a chef.
He spends his spare time rowing for Shen’s crew team; being very active within his church, where he plays bells as well as sings in the choir, ushers and reads at liturgies; serving as the chaplain of Boy Scout Troop 45, which he has been doing for the past three years, as well as patrol leader; performing community service; and working on his Eagle Scout project, which is to refurbish the kitchen of the VFW Post 1498, which will entail painting the walls, laying down new flooring, and installing cabinets, countertops and plumbing. All the while, he will be gathering donations to pay for the work.
“My grandmother and aunt [his godmother] have influenced me the most,” Dahoda said. “My grandmother got me involved in the church and she teaches me new things every day about religion. My aunt got me involved in Scouts, which has played a really big role in my life; I wouldn’t be here right now if I hadn’t.”
Six questions for Zachary Dahoda
Q: If you could pick one superpower, what would it be?
A: To manipulate time, slow it down, speed it up or rewind it.
Q: If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be?
Q: What was the best Halloween costume you ever wore?
A: I was a pumpkin; I think everyone was a pumpkin at some point.
Q: If you could binge on one food item, what would it be?
A: Mac and cheese; any type of pasta.
Q: What’s something that you’ve never done, but you want to try in the future?
A: I want to hike Mount Marcy.
Q: What do you want to do for a career down the road?
A: Something that makes a lot of money.