Missouri's top two youth volunteers of 2013 were named last week by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.
The state's 2013 youth volunteer awardees are:
- Sophia Greenwalt, Reeds Spring Middle School, Reeds Spring R-VI School District
- Sarah Sutherlin, Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School, St. Louis
Greenwalt started her own organization called "Helping Hats" in 2010. The program allows students to wear a hat to school the first Friday of each month in exchange for a $1 donation. Greenwalt shared that recently nine local business owners pledged to match the funds generated. So far, Helping Hats has raised $20,000 for more than 15 nonprofits.
Sutherlin has raised more than $10,000 in the past eight years through an American Cancer Society Relay for Life team. Her involvement began as a participant and in recent years she became the team's co-chair. In 2012, Sutherlin arranged for her high school to be the host of the area's event, which drew in more than 400 participants.
Missouri's two awardees will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., in May where they will join the top two honorees from each state - one middle level and one high school student - and the District of Columbia for national recognition events. As part of the trip, 10 students will be named America's top youth volunteers of 2013.
"The selfless contribution to ones local community is a gift," said Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro. "You don't always learn about the importance of 'giving back' inside the classroom. These students have gone above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of others and their communities."
Six Missouri students were also named as distinguished finalists for their impressive community service activities. Missouri's 2013 distinguished finalists are:
- Sophie Bernstein, Wydown Middle School, Clayton School District
- Slava Butkovich, Blue Springs High School, Blue Springs R-IV School District
- Sarah Casteel, Clayton High School, Clayton School District
- August Clark, Marquette Sr. High School, Rockwood R-VI School District, Eureka
- Nancy Fairbank, Central High School, Springfield R-XII School District
- Ryan Schweitzer, Hillsboro High School, Hillsboro R-III School District
Each of the distinguished finalists will receive an engraved bronze medallion to be awarded at local ceremonies.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards are sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Created in 1995, this is the United States' largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. For more information about the awards program, visit www.spirit.prudential.com.