By Washingtonpost.com (Dara Elasfar)
Maryland teen makes the top 10 list at national award that recognizes volunteers.
Ten kids received national honors Monday for their community service efforts, earning the top prizes at Prudential’s annual Spirit of Community Awards.
Caleb Oh, 14, from Gambrills, Maryland, earned a spot on the top 10 list by spending more than 1,000 hours volunteering, much of it to help people who are homeless.
When he first looked to help out, he said he had trouble finding opportunities.
“There was a fixed mind-set that kids could not help,” Caleb, an eighth-grader at Crofton Middle School, wrote on his application. “Most places require you to be at least 18 to volunteer.”
Caleb launched his own initiative, called “Kid Changemakers.” He recruited kids from his neighborhoods to bag lunches and conduct food drives for their local homeless shelter. Throughout the school year, e clipped coupons for military families and collected toiletries and baby supplies for a local woman’s shelter. Caleb estimated he has collected around $60,000 dollars in grants and donations to support those in need.
“We’re impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference,” Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, said in a statement. “It’s a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future.”
National honorees receive an award of $5,000, an engraved gold medal, a trophy for their school and a $5,000 grant from the Prudential Foundation for the charity of their choice.
Caleb was chosen from 102 kids recognized at the state level. Alexia Ayuk, 17, of Gaithersburg was the other honoree from Maryland. Shayla Young, 13, of Springfield and Justin Hu, 16, of Vienna were recognized from Virginia. Washington residents Skylar Thomas, 17, and Feven Tadele, 13, were also recognized. State honorees received $1,000 at a ceremony Sunday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Skylar, a senior at Ballou Senior High School, worked as a summer youth camp counselor and tutor to help children from low-income neighborhoods. Feven, a seventh-grader at St. Augustine Catholic School, is a dedicated volunteer who provides food for the homeless, teaches Sunday school at her church and travels to Ethiopia to teach English.
“Every time I teach a student, I believe that I am helping prepare that child for the real world and helping them to become great citizens and a great asset to their community,” she wrote.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to recognize young people who devote their time to community service and inspiring others to do the same.