By Gary Lloyd
Hewitt-Trussville High School students Kristen Ashley and Eli Nafziger last week were presented with engraved medallions to recognize their selection as two of Alabama’s top youth volunteers for 2013 in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program.
Ashley, a senior, was named a state honoree and received a silver medallion. She is being honored for founding a service club at her school and then leading its 48 members in raising more than $14,000 to provide elementary students from low-income homes with food to eat on weekends.
“The lunchroom workers told me stories about the children who come in each Monday, piling their plates full of food and cherishing every bite because they have not had enough to eat,” Ashley said earlier this year.
For five months, she and her club members sought support from civic groups, churches and businesses; attended city council and chamber of commerce meetings; applied for grants; and sold “Trussville Against Hunger” T-shirts. The money they raised now funds Ashley’s “Weekend Bookbag Program” — each Friday during recess, school officials discreetly place in each student’s backpack a bag filled with two breakfast items, two lunches, two fruits, two snacks and a treat “to supplement the meals these children are not receiving at home,” Ashley said
To raise additional funds, Ashley’s club hosted a “turkey fixins cook-off” with music and a running race Nov. 17, a day officially proclaimed “Trussville Against Hunger Day” by the Trussville City Council.
As a state honoree, Ashley also received $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip this month to Washington, D.C., where she will join 101 other top honorees from across the country for several days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 of them will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2013.
Nafziger, a freshman, was named a distinguished finalist and received a bronze medallion. He was honored for starting a garden at his middle school to provide experiential learning opportunities for special education students.
He raised $2,000, gathered and supervised 20 volunteers, installed a shed and stocked it with new garden tools, and built a wheelchair-friendly garden path.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, represent the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.